Summer is for relaxing, reflecting, connecting and recharging. This precious time away from the classroom and hectic daily lives of teaching also makes it prime time for professional learning. That is why, for the past 2 years, we have facilitated summer professional book studies with teachers from our districts. In the spring, we rally our colleagues to consider joining us in reading and discussing a professional book virtually. We set a suggested schedule for discussing specific chapters and provide them with the books. This professional experience, which can be enjoyed from the comforts of home, has set the stage for some meaningful learning and future professional development.
Selecting the Books
During the last grade level and department meetings of the year, we book talk professional books we’ve selected based on teachers’ interests and curricular and instructional goals. We then send out a google form in which teachers vote on the professional text they’d like to read together. Below are a few of our selections and some outcomes from these book studies.
The Teacher’s Guide to Reading Conferences
By Jennifer Serravalo
We love Jennifer Serravallo! Her work has helped shape how we guide teachers to differentiate reading workshop in their classrooms. One of our districts’ goals is to grow our ability to build on students’ strengths and support their needs during reading conferences. As with other wonderful books from Heinemann’s Classroom Essentials Series, Serravallo’s honors the fact that teachers’ time is limited by packing a tremendous amount of valuable information and stunning videos links into a short text. The K-5 teachers who participated in this book club found that Serravallo’s latest book took a complex instructional format and broke it down into manageable pieces. Using Seesaw as our vehicle for discussion, we took the position of “teacher learner” as we considered Serravallo’s suggestions for tackling logistical challenges in conferences, being more deliberate in our feedback and how we can be more responsive of our students.
180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents
by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle
This past March, Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher came to our area to present on their work together. The entire Middle and High School ELA department along with a few administrators attended which united us in a common framework for considering and designing our Grade 6-12 ELA curriculum! Hence, 180 Days was the natural choice for this summer’s book study. For this group, we used Padlet to reflect on and share our beliefs about instruction and consider how we might take the 42 minutes we have for a period and organize it in ways that Gallagher and Kittle recommend so that reading and writing happen daily. We created a Padlet of suggested resources from the text and book lists for social justice book clubs.
Who’s Doing the Work: How to Say Less so Readers Can Say More
by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris
Several teachers had the honor of seeing Jan Burkins present at a local conference in 2018 and, therefore, selected her book with Kim Yaris for summer book study. This group included classroom and reading teachers in Grades K-5. What resonated was thinking about how we can teach one strategy using different instructional formats: read aloud, shared reading, guided reading and independent reading. We had honest conversations about how often we move too quickly to independent reading before considering ways to scaffold student learning. It also brought awareness to how often we “do the work” for our students! This book study provided a foundation for our thinking during professional development on reading workshop and conferring.
A Novel Approach: Whole Class Novels, Student Centered Teaching and Choice by Kate Roberts
Kate Roberts’ brilliant ideas and beautiful writing style made this book an easy and enjoyable summer read! We read A Novel Approach last summer with a group of middle school teachers and discussed it via Google Community. We all appreciate how Roberts validates the role of the whole class novel and helps us consider ways to use it as a teaching tool for strategies that carry into book clubs. Teachers volunteered to meet and map out a class novel during those precious first professional days back to school! We referred back to A Novel Approach throughout the year and referenced DIY LIteracy: Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor and Independence, Roberts book with her wife, Maggie Beattie Roberts, as we considered ways to teach reading strategies and build student independence. This summer book study generated conversation all year long!
We have found that virtual professional book studies have the power to:
- Connect staff members who do not always have opportunities to work together.
- Create opportunities for collaboration.
- Deepen our understanding and ideas for possibilities of instructional practices.
- Provide hands-on experience using digital tools that teachers can use with their students.
- Guide and inform our professional development work for the upcoming school year.
As a coaches, reading teachers’ responses to these powerful texts enables us to understand their thinking about this work and plan for how best to support them. It also brings together a tribe of teachers within districts who wish to learn and grow together.