Secondary Speaks: Book Recommendations for Teachers!

Thirty-five secondary teachers have come together to join in the Secondary Speaks roundtable, and in this first post, they're discussing two questions: the best teacher book they've ever read and the best non-fiction book they read or taught last year. Click through to read all of their responses!
Welcome to the first blog post in a series called "Secondary Speaks", where 35 middle and high school teachers from across the curriculum will answer a variety of questions to give you our collective ideas of what's exciting in education!

Join Us: These posts will appear regularly between now and December; starting around Halloween, there will be a new survey of questions if you want to appear in next semester's posts!

Interact: Leave comments on the posts if you have additional suggestions or remarks, and click on all of our links to see what we have to offer on Teachers Pay Teachers (or, in some cases, our blogs and social media).

Round 1: Our first two questions are all about reading as we try to figure out what teachers should read before the next school year (and thus decide what to bring to our students).

Summer is a great time to not only "recharge" with new ideas and books, but to meet new people! Get to know us by clicking on our links below.

Get your library cards ready!

Question #1: What's the best "teacher book" that we should all read?

  • All of Kelly Gallagher's books have had a dramatic impact on how I teach reading! (Secondary Sara)
  • I Read It But I Don't Get It by Chris Tovani. Fantastic exploration of issues with comprehension, how meaning is constructed, and how we as educators can work with students to make readings, stories, and poems "make sense." A real eye opener. (Gina Perfetto)
  • The End of Molasses Classes by Ron Clark - I seriously could NOT put it down! (Science Chick)
  • Penny Kittle's Book Love and Write Beside Them. I love her workshop approach! I've dabbled a bit in the last year and plan to dive right in next fall. (Room 213)
  • I really loved Feedback: The Hinge That Joins Teaching and Learning by Jane E Pollock. I read it a couple of years ago in a teacher book club and it really changed the way I thought about assessment. It's a short book that gets to the point and is packed with useful information you can implement in the classroom immediately. (Allyson's Creative Corner)
  • Understanding Poverty (Scipi)
  • Cooperative Learning by Jim Howden. It's filled with great ways to get students working together in different ways. (Creative Couple)
  • I keep going back to what I've learned in Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning by Jan Chappuis. It is really essential that our middle schoolers own their learning process, and this book breaks it down well. (Mrs. M)
  • I really liked Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov. Most "teacher books" like to discuss fluffy teaching theory. However, this book actually gives concrete examples that can be used in your class the next day. Also, each technique within the book is short, sort of like an online article (great for the 5 minutes before you fall asleep in bed). Teach Like a Champion is where I learned about different informal assessment techniques that I mention a lot on my blog. (Mrs. E Teaches Math)
  • The best "teacher book" I ever read was the teacher's guide to a textbook that I used to teach immigrant students who arrived at my school knowing no English. It was called Where is Taro? Teacher's Kit and the textbook has been renamed The New Boy is Lost. both are by Elizabeth Claire. These books let me take beginning-level students and bring them to a point where they could communicate at a basic proficiency level in a remarkably short amount of time. The teacher's guide contains a wealth of activities that teach reading, writing, speaking, listening, grammar, and vocabulary and do so in a fun manner for the students. I love these two books! (The ESL Nexus)
  • I like Daily 5. Although I do not agree with every aspect of it, and it is geared toward primary grades, their management system of instruction is great and even works with 6th graders. Also, anything by Ron Clark is very motivating. (Larissa McMahan)
  • What's Math Got to Do with It?: How Teachers and Parents Can Transform Mathematics Learning and Inspire Success by Jo Boaler (Weatherly)
  • I loved Harry Wong's First Day of School. I started teaching before I ever took any education classes, and this book saved me. It is all very practical, and as a veteran teacher, so many things seem natural, but they aren't! (example: I want my students to hear me, but they are talking, so I will just have to talk louder. What new teacher hasn't done this? Does it work? No!) (Mme R's French Resources)
  •  RICK WORMELI'S DIFFERENTIATION: FROM PLANNING TO PRACTICE GRADES 6-12: I wrote about it last summer. It changed me and my classroom. (Sarah from Kovescence of the Mind)
  • The best "teacher book" I've read isn't really a teacher book, but it is just a book that really opened up my eyes: The Glass Castle. Coming from a middle class family and growing up in a middle class neighborhood, this book really helped me open my eyes and understand where some of my students may be coming from. Learning to have more compassion and understanding is always helpful when you teach in a low SES area. (The Daring English Teacher)
  • Teaching for Joy & Justice by Linda Christensen (Brynn Allison)
  • The Courage to Teach - Parker Palmer (David Rickert)
  • Discipline in the Secondary Classroom: A Positive Approach to Behavior Management by Randall S. Sprick. It is a practical book with hands on ideas, techniques and methods to be proactive instead of reactive to issues that arise in the secondary classroom. (SecondaryMathShop)
  • The Last Lecture (Brian Dalton)
  • Anything by Rick Wormeli! (Literary Sherri)
  • Room 109 (Betsy Potash)
  • I love Tribes and many of the Responsive Classroom books like The First 6 weeks of School, The Power of Our Words, and Energizers. I also like the Kagan Strategies book and this great anchor chart book: Chart Sense. (Lisa @ Mrs. Spangler in the Middle)

Question #2: What's the best non-fiction book that you TAUGHT or READ in the last year?
  • My current favorite by FAR is Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo! (Secondary Sara)
  • I still love The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. It really lays out for students in a clear and concise way what they need to develop or continue in order to be successful. When I teach this book I assign each chapter to a different group and they need to find a creative way to present the material to the class. (Kristy from 2 Peas and a Dog)
  • Dan Pink's Drive made a huge impact in how I teach. His research suggests that people are motivated by autonomy, mastery and purpose, far more than they are by money. While most of his book focuses on the business world, he makes excellent connections to education. (Room 213)
  • The Brain that Changes Itself, Norman Doidge (MD) (Ellen Weber)   
  • I love a variety of non-fiction books, but here are some of my favorites: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, Fly a Little Higher by Laura Sobiech, and An Hour to Live, An Hour to Love by Richard Carlson (Science Chick)
  • Setting Limits in the Classroom (Scipi)
  • Lost Names by Richard Kim (although it is really classified as a novel and not non-fiction since there are some fictional elements even through the people and events are real). It's set between 1932-1945 and tells of the Japanese occupation of Korea. (History Gal)
  • Into Thin Air - John Krakauer. My high school students love it! I love that I can link it to pictures and news articles that I can find online - makes it more real for the students. (Addie Williams)
  • I really enjoyed a book that I read for pleasure called Frontier Teachers: Stories of the Heroic Women of the Old West, by Chris Enss. It's about twelve women in the second half of the 19th century who were teachers west of the Mississippi. What they went through and endured really brings a different perspective to the travails teachers encounter today! (The ESL Nexus)
  • And oldie but goody, Stephen King On Writing. Yes, non-fiction, part autobiography, filled with funny anecdotes and incredibly useful advice for any writer, or any teacher who is undertaking a class of students who dread writing, or who conversely wan to BE the next Stephen King. (Gina Perfetto)
  •  I just re-read Flourish by Martin Seligman, which I discovered at a second-hand bookstore recently. I was delighted to rediscover this gem of a book for its insights on happiness and well-being.  (Allyson's Creative Corner
  • I just finished reading American Sniper. It is NOT a novel for class however it does give another perspective on the wars going on. (Creative Couple)
  • The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. This is a great read for anyone that loves math and has a heart for people (who doesn't?). (Weatherly)
  • For an English teacher who loves stories, The Lost Colony of Roanoke, by Jean Fritz, had it all! It's full of adventure and mystery with humor sprinkled in to make it a fun read. Told mainly as a narrative, The Lost Colony also includes information about historical research and theories about the mystery of what might have happened to the settlers who disappeared from the Roanoke colony. This would be a great story to follow up with a persuasive writing assignment - students could write about what they think really did happen to the Roanoke colonists and use details from the book to support their opinion. (Classroom in the Middle)
  • I loved the biography about Malala Yousafzai. We did not read it in class, but I got really interested in her when we watched clips and read a short text about her during my children's rights unit. I had received the book as a gift almost a year before I read it, and I just could not ever seem to find the time. Teaching and discussing rights issues each day really gave me the drive to read it, if only so I could update my students daily! (Mme R's French Resources)
  • This year I taught a non-fiction book for the first time in its entirety: Debt Free University. I did this in conjunction with our college application and essay unit at the end of the year for juniors. (Sarah from Kovescence of the Mind)
  • Night by Elie Weisel (Brynn Allison)
  • Night by Elie Wiesel. It's the only non-fiction book that I teach. (David Rickert)
  • The Diary of Anne Frank (Brian Dalton)
  • brown girl dreaming by Jacueline Woodson. It's her childhood story, told in verse. I'm about two-thirds of the way through it and loving it! (Literary Sherri)
  • Into the Wild. My students found this text quite engaging. Especially given that many of them were struggling with high school burnout, seeing the choices one student made to stray from the traditional paths led to lots of interesting discussions. (Betsy Potash)

Do you have an amazing teacher or student-friendly book to share? List or link up your book recommendations in the space below!

Stay tuned for more blog posts from Secondary Speaks! :-)


  1. This was exactly what I needed this summer! I'm going into my second year teaching 9th grade English and I've been trying to figure out how to improve for next year. It's like you read my mind!

  2. These are some awesome books to add to my list of books I want to read!

  3. Definitely going to need to take some time to really look at this list!

  4. Definitely going to need to take some time to really look at this list!


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