BOOK REVIEW, CPD, EDUCATORS, TEACHING

My Top Ten Favourite Edu Books

I’ve recently just completed writing my first book! It has been a long and at times challenging process but also very enjoyable and exciting. Love To Teach: Research and Resources for Every Classroom is due to be published next month with John Catt Education – you can pre-order it on Amazon here. Anyway, this blog post is about reading not writing but a large part of the process of writing my book involved reading and engaging with educational research. Even before I decided to write a book I was reading a lot of books about education, linked to my subject specialism, pedagogy, leadership, literacy and much more. I read a very interesting article in The Guardian by teacher and author Carl Hendrick suggesting ten educational books that he believes all teachers should read. I started to make my way through the list suggested by Carl Hendrick (I have yet to read Daisy Christodoulou 7 Myths and Trivium 21C despite their popularity!). Inspired by this list I have created my own list with my favourite books linked to education. I am very aware there is a lack of diversity amongst the books I have selected. There are many wonderful female authors that I can highly recommend such as Mary Myatt, Jill Berry, Debra Kidd, Sarah Findlater and Nina Jackson. This list was based purely on my favourite books linked to education but I am aware the majority of the books below are written by men. This is the list of my favourite books and I believe every book deserves its place in my top spot list.

In no particular order …

Leadership Matters (2016) Andy Buck 

Leadership Matters: How Leaders At All Levels Can Create Great Schools was the first book I read about leadership in education and I would highly recommend it to any teacher, regardless of the stage in their career. Andy Buck has stated that this book was written for leaders at all levels and he is right. This would be a great read for aspiring leaders in addition to middle and senior leaders. Buck is a former teacher and Headteacher with a lot of experience in the classroom and leading in schools. He now works with other leaders in education to support and develop them as leaders. This book has received a lot of praise online and rightly so – it is simply brilliant. You can read my detailed review of this book here and purchase the latest version of the book on Amazon.

What Does This Look Like In The Classroom? Bridging The Gap Between Research and Practice (2017)

Carl Hendrick and Robin Macpherson

Firstly, the title is fantastic. When I have read and engaged with educational research the question I find myself regularly asking is – what does this look like in the classroom? In my humble opinion, this was the best educational book published in 2017 – it’s the book that teachers needed, combining and blending educational research with classroom practice. This book covers a wide range of areas linked to education from educational myths, literacy, feedback and assessment, technology and more! Each chapter involves an introduction summary from Hendrick or Macpherson which is very interesting and insightful. The rest of the chapter is laid out with questions to some of the world’s leading experts in that field. My favourite chapter is the Feedback and Assessment chapter with Dylan Wiliam and Daisy Christodoulou. I have used this to shape the department feedback policy in place at my current school and it is a chapter I keep referring back to and discussing/sharing with colleagues. I think that is the beauty of this book – it is a great read in addition to being a book that teachers will regularly reference and return to again and again, as I have. I am thrilled to announce that author, senior leader and teacher Robin Macpherson will be writing the foreword to my book too! I feel very lucky and grateful that Robin has agreed to do this because I greatly admire Robin and the work he has done. You can purchase this must-read book here.

Perfect ICT Every Lesson (2013) Mark Anderson

I have read several books linked to technology in education and I think this is the best (the book Learning with e’s: Educational theory and practice in the digital age by Steve Wheeler is also superb!). Despite its publication in 2013, the book is still, if not more, relevant today. Mark Anderson has a wealth of knowledge about how and when to use technology but also has a sensible and realistic approach when it comes to technology in education. Technology won’t solve all of our problems in education, in fact it can be a hassle and hindrance at times but when used carefully, correctly and purposefully technology can have a positive impact on student outcomes and teacher well-being. I first discovered the SAMR model in the book (if you’re not familiar with SAMR then read this book or check out this blog by Anderson for a brief introduction). This is another book I have read more than once because it is easy to do so. The title can be misleading as it is not a book for ICT teachers, it is a book aimed to support all teachers from Primary to Secondary and across subjects. I learned so much from this book and it has had a positive impact on my practice in the classroom. You can read my review of this book here and purchase it here.

Bringing Words to Life. Second Edition: Robust Vocabulary Instruction (2013) 

Isabel L. Beck, Margaret G. McKeown and Linda Kucan.

This was a book that I only discovered by reading The Guardian article above by Hendrick. A great recommendation. I have read a lot of books about literacy ( you can read my review of Geoff Barton’s Don’t Call it Literacy! here). I think Bringing Words to Life is the most useful book a classroom teacher can read to gain an understanding of robust vocabulary instruction. It was this book that first introduced me to Three-Tier model of vocabulary and made me realise the importance of vocabulary instruction in my subject domain. There are useful strategies and advice provided, explained with relevant examples. This is another book that I would urge all teachers to read – so often literacy is considered the responsibility of the Literacy co-ordinator or English department when in fact we all have a duty and responsibility to promote and develop students literacy and vocabulary in our lessons. You can purchase the wonderful book here.

Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (2007)

Chip and Dan Heath.

The Heath brothers have now become my favourite authors. In addition to being New York Times bestsellers, they are becoming increasingly popular with teachers around the globe. Interestingly, their books are not aimed specifically at teachers although there is a chapter dedicated to teachers and resources on their website for teachers which you can check out here. Made To Stick explores how and why some ideas are memorable (sticky) and why other ideas don’t stick. We can apply to this to the classroom as we want knowledge and skills to stick with our students. This book was such an enjoyable and entertaining read. There are many powerful stories told by the Heath brothers that have stuck with me and the Heath brothers are just hilarious! Reading this book then led to me buying two of their other popular books Switch and The Power of Moments. Made To Stick is my personal favourite but the other books are also very good too. You can read my review of Made To Stick here and the excellent book can be purchased here.

The Hidden Lives of Learners (2007)

Graham Nuthall

This is such a special book. Author Graham Nuthall was not a teacher, he was a researcher that worked (alongside his team) with teachers and students to explore what happens in the classroom. Nuthall shone a light on the public conversations that take place in the classroom and also the private conversations between peers which highlighted the importance and impact of peer relationships on learning. This book really is fascinating and insightful. Sadly, Nuthall died before publication but his wife and colleagues were able to ensure the book went to print and it has been very widely read and influential since its publication. I have learned so much from this book. It challenged some of my beliefs about education for example, the discussion linked to engagement in the classroom as Nuthall pointed out that students can be busy and engaged but not learning anything new. Whilst this may appear to be common sense I was trained to be a teacher during an era of engagement, this was viewed as the main priority in the classroom. Engagement is important and we want our students to be happy, enjoy school and more importantly enjoy learning but it’s so important we don’t lose focus on the learning in the name of engagement. For anyone interested in educational research this book would be a great starting point. The research is explained clearly with specific examples from the classroom and Nuthall clearly states he is not trying to tell teachers how to teach but instead share his research findings and understanding of how children learn. You can purchase The Hidden Lives of Learners by Graham Nuthall here.

Why Don’t Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom (2010)

Daniel T Willingham

Daniel T Willingham is highly respected in the educational community – he has been debunking educational myths for over ten years yet they still exist (noticeably learning styles – you can view his well-known Youtube video Learning Styles Don’t Exist here) so clearly more educators need to engage with Willingham and his work. In recent years teachers have developed a greater understanding of cognitive psychology/science which makes so much sense; teachers should have a good understanding of memory and how that can impact learning. Why Don’t Students Like School? explores common misconceptions linked to learning and it provides clear and thorough explanations and analogies making cognitive psychology accessible for all. If you are interested in learning about cognitive psychology and how the brain works in regards to learning (although from my understanding there is still a lot we have to learn about this field) then this is the book for you. I can recommend other books linked to this field such as Psychology in the Classroom: A Teacher’s Guide to What Works by Jonathan Firth and Marc Smith and also the amazing book The Ingredients for Great Teaching by Pedro De Bruyckere (the foreword for this book was written by Daniel T Willingham). I thoroughly enjoy reading the work of Willingham and I am very grateful for everything he has taught me, even when some of the things I have read have challenged my beliefs or own ideas about education. You can purchase Why Don’t Students Like School? here.

An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students (2003)

Ron Berger

If you haven’t read An Ethic of Excellence you may still be familiar with author Ron Berger as he is the teacher in the Youtube sensation video Austin’s Butterfly (if you haven’t watched this short Youtube video or shared it with your students you should because it is so inspiring!). Berger was formerly a carpenter, so he fully understands the time, dedication and commitment required to produce a high quality finished product. As a carpenter, he would continually develop and improve his craft until the quality was of an exceptionally high standard. Berger wanted to apply this attitude and ethic to the classroom with students creating truly masterful pieces of work. Berger has a portfolio of spectacular work created by children, people often don’t believe the work has been created by young school children but it has! Berger explains how this can be achieved with several strategies explored such as model exemplars, peer critique and feedback plus more. The work of Berger and his students is so motivating and inspiring for both teachers and students. You can purchase this ground-breaking book here.

Making Every Lesson Count: Six Principles to Support Great Teaching and Learning (2015) 

Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby

In 2016 I attended The Telegraph Festival of Education at Wellington College and I was fortunate to be able to listen to a presentation delivered by teachers Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby. I enjoyed their presentation so much that the person I was attending the festival with purchased their book as a gift for me – a lovely gift! The book explored the six concepts of great teaching and learning that Allison and Tharby discussed in their presentation. It is a book that is rooted in common sense, classroom experience and educational research. It is also clearly a book written by teachers for teachers which for me is important. I have since suggested this book to many of my colleagues and everyone I know that has read this book have found it to be very helpful with practical examples that can be applied in all classrooms. The series has now developed to Making Every Primary Lesson Count or subject specific lesson count, for example, the History edition by Chris Runeckles will be available soon and I look forward to reading it. A great book for teachers in the classroom and also for middle and senior leaders with responsibility for curriculum, teaching and learning. You can purchase this highly recommended book here.

The Confident Teacher: Developing successful habits of mind, body and pedagogy (2016)

Alex Quigley

This is my favourite book linked to education. I have lovely memories of reading this book in a coffee shop in Berlin on a crisp rainy day. I remember reading this book and feeling so liberated, reassured and more informed about different aspects of teaching. Alex Quigley does so much – at the time of publication of this book he was a senior leader, English teacher, successful author and blogger in addition to being a husband and father. He is someone I greatly admire professionally. When Quigley reflects on his experiences as a teacher with such honesty it’s hard to believe that someone so accomplished could have ever lacked confidence as a teacher. This book would be great for newly or recently qualified teachers but as someone who at the time had been teaching six years, it was still a book that helped me greatly. Teacher confidence can be impacted by so many variables, which are all explored in this book. This was the first book I read that really made reflect on my own practice and my own levels of confidence in different areas. Sadly, I cannot read this book again as it has fallen apart with pages fallen out and lost forever. This could be a publishing issue but more likely due to the fact this book traveled with me from the UK to Abu Dhabi and then Germany! You can read my review of this book here and it can be purchased here.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you do read any of the books I have suggested as a result of this blog post then please do let me know – I really enjoy discussing educational books with other enthusiastic educators. If you have any books linked to education, history or just in general that you would recommend then please do comment and recommend. You can get in touch with me via my contact page or tweet me @87history. 

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