I recently read 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann. Mr. Mann talks a lot at the beginning of the book about the lies that he was taught in school, and how he's now dealing with his son being taught the same lies:
- The native population of the Americas was very sparse, when in fact it was not.
- American native cultures were very simple, when in fact they were very complex.
- American native peoples "walked lightly on the land", when in fact they had an enormous impact on the land.
(All of these things I learned long ago, sometimes even as a child, but especially as a teacher, so I thought they were common knowledge. I don't remember seeing these untruths in the textbooks I used, but I didn't use the textbooks very much, so I probably wouldn't have noticed.)
Most of the book was about Central and South America—the Inca and Aztec cultures that could never seem sparse, simple, nor easy on the land! The book primarily discussed the arguments between historians, and other professionals, about the minutiae of each one's theories.
After reading the entire book, studying the images presented (and they were very interesting), and listening to "cat fights" for page after page, I didn't learn anything that I didn't already know.
Reading the book brought a big question to the forefront of my mind—how do we really know what happened in the past? How do historians get to the real truth? How do they prove their theories? How are they held accountable for what they present? Reading the book was worth the thinking it's given me, and a new perspective on looking at the past, and a new direction in curricular design.
Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom by Thomas Armstrong has been a great reference for me. It's a book I keep nearby my desk, so I can refer to it as I plan new units. The book explains, in a simple way, Howard Gardner's theory of intelligence, and includes a section on the criticism of his ideas, which I find interesting. But the most helpful aspect of the book are the numerous charts presented throughout. They make the information very understandable, easy to locate, and simple to implement in daily planning. I particularly use the combination of multiple intelligences and Bloom's Taxonomy chart (page 170). I made a template of it so I can use it quickly. This is one of my "must have" books.
Nonfiction Mentor Texts: Teaching Informational Writing Through Children's Literature, K-8 is an excellent resource of trade books to use as you teach children to write nonfictional pieces. The authors identify specific ways each of the titles can be used in a variety of writing genres. It is easy to read, and the book lists contained at the end of the book make it a great reference. It will help you learn more about effective writing instruction as well as guide you through the vast amount of children's literature as you select titles to try out.
Best practices and lots of educational reform thinking focus on the efficacy of integrating all subject areas. An important instructional area that has long been neglected, or relegated to the role of the "cute" is that of drawing instruction. Brain research has shown that all students have the ability to learn basic drawing skills, enough to be able to communicate with people from other language groups. If you are interested in learning more about how to teach your students basic communication skills through drawing, these are materials that have been around for a long time, but which are tested, and true. They are inexpensive, easy to use, and extremely effective. I have used them with general education students as well as those with special needs and achieved amazing results with everyone! I wish that I had received drawing instruction when I was in school.
If you are looking for a fresh perspective, increased job satisfaction, or greater contentment, Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching is the book for you. Using information gleaned from stress management techniques, cognitive behavior therapy, and spiritual principles, Angela Watson presents clear, step-by-step suggestions to help you eliminate negative thinking, unreasonable expectations, and irrational responses to stress, and replace them with healthy attitudes that promote effective teaching, and living. Angela's engaging style will have you laughing, crying, thinking, and before you know it--changing. Using examples from a teacher's typical day, and in true teacher fashion, she presents suggestions that are easy to implement, remember, and do. I HUGELY recommend this book to teachers at any level. It can truly help you transform your life.
Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching
The Awakened Devotional Study Guide for Christian Educators is an accompanying devotional study which provides Biblical truths, activities, and prayers to help Christian educators change their way of thinking, take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and grow more and more like Jesus. Angela's insightful questions lead you to a deeper look at your current thought processes, and help you apply scriptural truths to typical classroom situations. Bible references and prayers help to solidify changes in the way you think. It is a powerful tool in converting frustration to satisfaction.
These two books are very unique--they are the first "self help" books I've found that are directed specifically at teachers. Using the daily events common to the lives of all teachers, they present simple and effective tools for transforming your life! When you've been through them once, you'll want to go again, and again, so treat yourself to a new life this school year!
Literacy through Art, Science, & Social Studies