The Best Books About Teaching

When faced with problems my go-to position is to find a book on the issue and read it.  In teaching I have faced a lot of problems and read a lot of books.  Whenever PGCE students come to me in tears there is usually a book waiting.  Here is a list of my favourites:

Teaching Outside the Box – LouAnn Johnson:  I still try to read this at least once a year.  The first half-term as a TeachFirster is an emotional rollercoaster and I spent most of October convinced I would spend the next two years as a mediocre teacher taking abuse from children and ruining their lives.  This book knocked some sense into me through its humour, practical ideas, cleverly crafted inspirational stories and just a down-right telling-to that you will be fine if you just work at becoming a better teacher every singly day.  This book is now battered and worn as I have photocopied so many pages for people and read it on so many holidays.  Without LouAnn I sometimes wonder if I’d have survived that first year at all.

Fred Jones Tools for Teaching Fred Jones: Packed resource full of tips on behaviour, learning, classroom management: you name it, it’s here. There are colourful illustration, there is amusing text, there is even a DVD so you can *see* how to implement ideas. Jones is like a massive brick of help that you can turn to whenever thing is going really wrong but no-one in your school seems to be helping, particularly with behaviour.

Social Studies Graphic Organizers
This book is a tiny collection of fun graphic organisers that help students analyse information before ‘writing-up’ a longer piece.  For some reason the UK haven’t embraced organisers in the way the US have so whenever I have visited the States I’ve picked up books full of them. This one is very thin but it’s cheap and gives explanations of how to use the sheets. Once you get the hang of it you can find hundreds of free organisers online.

Teacher’s Toolkit
– Paul Ginnis: It’s practically the law to own this book if you are a teacher. Always have it to hand when planning. There are parts on learning activities, behaviour, classroom organisation. It’s fantastic. Looks expensive compared to other books but like a coat that you wear for a decade you will definitely get your monies worth on this one.

Cracking the Hard Class: Strategies for Managing the Harder Than Average Class – Bill Rogers:  In the first year of teaching NQTs/PGCEs are always most tired out because the burden of managing behaviour is emotionally and physically difficult.  This book helps them remember that  being in charge of 30 teenage minds 6 hours a day is challenging and requires skill. Rogers gives needed insight into the students’ minds and gives specific things you can do to harness their energies.  He’s a no-nonsense kind of writer, and he’s funny which is always a bonus.

Beyond Room 109: Developing Independent Study Projects
– Richard Kent:  Kent runs a project-based classroom where he teaches students to develop their passions in structured ways.  As someone who taught BTECs it was useful to look at the way someone had successfully had students ‘doing’ throughout most of their lessons but still learning a great deal.  Beyond Room 109 builds on Kent’s first book (Room 109) but has more resources to help you replicate his success (and hopefully avoid his very honestly recounted failures!)

Categories: Randoms

4 replies

  1. Hi Laura, great book list. I wonder what you think about the one I’m suggesting for new Teach First participants, especially with your insight into Americana as two out of these three emerged from across the pond:

    • I have both Teach Like A Champion (Lemov) and Teaching As Leadership (Farr), though both came out after my teachfirst experience so they weren’t the ones I turned to in desperation. Sometimes I find Lemov’s book too American – some of the things he suggests are just ‘too much’ for British people I think (e.g. some of the call and response stuff), so unless you’re super charismatic it is quite hard to pull off. The TAL framework, however, I *love* because it gives gradients – i.e. moving from novice to expert – so you can see how to *improve*. One of the problems of most teaching books is that they only give you tips and suggest that if you ‘do this’ it will work, where – in fact – you have to build up to do doing things really well. Unfortunately I found the TAL book itself a bit cumbersome – however the framework alone is brilliant.

      Willingham I came to after I’d already studied psychology at university and taught it for a while, so it was interesting but not that ‘new’. I have wrote about it beforee here though and do think it’s an interesting read. In a similar vein, but with some challenges to Willingham’s thinking, I would recommend Ellen Langer’s excellent book The Power of Mindful Learning .

      As you find more and more books keep putting them on your site. There’s some real gems out there and it’s hard to keep track of them all so very happy to have someone else who is sifting through them too.


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