Sunday, 23 April 2017

Recommend A Series (KS2)

Recently, my student teacher asked me to send her some of the series I recommend to children when they ask what they should try for their next independent book.  A series of books is powerful because it can hook a child in and encourage them to get lost in a group of characters or a particular setting.  These are the ones I recommend to children in my class, organised by estimated reading age - it's all guess work and very 'ish' so please don't get hung up on the year groups.  All these series have proved popular with different readers in my Y4 classes in the last few years and the school has often had to buy the rest of the books in the series when we've previously only had one or two random ones.   I accept, not all of them are the highest of quality writing and there are plenty missing (leave a comment to say which ones) and obviously lots of fantastic stand-alone books which don't get a mention here.  These are just the series I recommend to Y4 kids and which they recommend to each other!  I love hearing them say, "You can read the next one after me," and knowing that they are enjoying reading. 

Approx Y3 reading age:
Daisy series by Kes Gray
Harry Hammer series by Davy Ocean and Aaron Blecha
Jack Stalwart series by Elizabeth Singer Hunt
Sophie series by Dick King Smith

Approx Y4 reading age:
Ottoline series by Chris Riddell
Sniff series by Ian Whybrow
Hank Zipzer series by Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler (YES! Happy Days!)
Warrior Heroes series by Benjamin Hulme-Cross
Time Hunters series by Chris Blake
Football Academy series by Tom Palmer
I Was There series by various authors

Approx Y5 reading age:
The Roman Mysteries series (Books 1-10) by Caroline Lawrence
The My Story series by various authors. 
Muddle Earth series by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
Barnaby Grimes series by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
Harry Potter series by J.K.Rowling

Approx Y6 reading age:
The Edge Chronicles by (yes, it's them again!) Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
P.K.Pinkerton series by Caroline Lawrence
The 39 Clues series by various authors (including Rick Riordan and David Baldacci)
Percy Jackson series (and other books) by Rick Riordan

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

6 Must-Read Education Books

The "Keep" Shelf

In preparing to pack for moving house, I have recently had a cull of my education bookshelf.  The criteria for "Keep" was very simply two questions.
1) Have I looked at this book since moving to this house? (4 years ago, the summer after my NQT year)
2) Have I used an idea or the suggestions in this book in my classroom?
This left the "Cull" pile unfortunately filled with books from the University reading lists from my BA(Hons) and my husband's PGCE.


The "Cull" Pile
The educational book market is saturated with texts claiming to make a difference in the classroom and there are far more than just these six on my "Keep" shelf.  However, those mentioned below are the ones I flick through time and again to remind myself of strategies, refresh my thinking and reignite my passion.  Generally, they are not deep, philosophical or theoretical books - they are simply about enhancing teaching in the classroom.  If you are a teacher, particularly in a primary school, I'd highly recommend them all and I've tried to give a bit of information about why in this post.

Click on a title to open in a new window on Amazon.  

After a busy NQT year in a one-form entry school, this book helped to spark something new for my second year of teaching.  Since then, I've referred to this book often, having saved so many sections of it in my Kindle Snippets (a great tool, by the way!).  One of the biggest strategies which I transferred to my classroom was giving learning a real-life purpose as much as possible and moving away from contrived, fake scenarios.  I wrote a little about this on the blog post you can find by clicking here

This book is jam-packed full of ideas which can help teachers work smarter rather than harder.  The "Lazy" in the title isn't about reducing the effectiveness of teachers.  Instead, the ideas in this book are acutely focused on learning and suggests quicker, easier and more efficient ways of reaching the same goal: progress for our pupils.  

Without fail, this is my go-to behaviour guide for the classroom.  Every summer, after perusing my new class list, I turn to this book - certain chapters and sections - to refill my bank of behaviour management strategies.  This is simply a must-read for anyone in the classroom.  

Mindset by Carol Dweck
After hearing about Growth Mindset during my training and again when I started at a new school, I decided to delve deeper and read what the woman who named it actually has to say about it herself.  There are lots of rumours and myths floating around about Growth Mindset but this book contains none of those.  The chapter especially written for teachers is particularly good.  If you're beginning to think about Growth Mindset in your classroom, there are plenty of blogs out there about Growth Mindset (including mine) but I'd recommend you start with Carol Dweck and her words. 

Reading Reconsidered by Doug Lemov, Coleen Driggs and Erica Woolway
After moving away from Guided Reading and towards whole-class lessons (read about that here), this book, along with Nick Hart's blog, has inspired some new strategies for teaching reading.  There are strategies which can be chosen, tweaked and easily slotted into normal practice.  Doug and his team speak a huge amount of sense about text selection and their suggestions link well with Dweck's research into Growth Mindset. 

Making Every Lesson Count by Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby
Finally, I must mention this book which has been a real focus for the last year, both for my school team and personally.  Written by two secondary teachers, it helps to bring class teaching away from the fads of recent years and towards simple, plain, great teaching.  Hardly a lesson is planned without me considering the six principles suggested in this book.  Keep an eye out later in 2017 because there are subject specific books coming out following the same principles for secondary teachers as well as a primary version, which a colleague and I have been working on recently.

I'd be really interested to hear about what would be your top edu-related reads.