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Posts from the ‘Books on the Blog’ Category

Book Review: Being the Change by Sara Ahmed

Written by Danielle Agan and Karen Friel

Sara K. Ahmed offers an equitable approach to fostering social comprehension in the classroom through her book, Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension. Ahmed offers a personal approach to teaching social comprehension through the lens of a Muslim American identity. The introduction of this text is not one to be skimmed over. Ahmed gets the reader ready to face their own social comprehension and the work ahead by providing essential questions and guiding principles to reflect upon. As she states, “we have an obligation to make kids feel visible” (2). Now, more than ever, we have an obligation to create a space that feels safe and accepting for all of our students, which is the focal point of this text. The text guides a teacher and class through an entire school year, offering the progression of teaching social comprehension, while providing detailed lesson plans and mentor texts as resources in chapters one through five. In chapter six, the text is concluded with thoughtful reflection and reminders with how to proceed into the future and the importance of celebrating identity. 

Ahmed’s personal voice is strong and passionate about the topic in this easy to read book. She offers several mentor texts and resources to get a teacher started with incorporating lessons on identity into the classroom. This is a great tool for a beginning teacher, or a veteran teacher who is looking to incorporate social comprehension into their curriculum. Ahmed does not fall short in offering a plethora of resources including: picture books, poetry, short stories, short story anthologies, novels, nonfiction, and videos. All of these resources are equipped with appropriate lessons that are detailed and spelled out for the educator. The text is embedded with scripted dialog, or “teacher talk,” so if you are someone who would like this as an support, or are not yet comfortable with social comprehension, it is available to you. However, it is easy to skim over due to the different font and color, so if you prefer just to focus on the lesson itself, this can be easily done. 

The versatility of the lessons and mentor texts makes this an appealing read for teachers K-12. As mentioned before, Ahmed leaves no stone unturned, and packs the book with mentor texts for all levels. In chapter one, Ahmed informs the reader how to “affirm our identities” through identity webs. This lesson begins with a mentor text in order to give the students a model of what an identity web is and how to create it. Then, the students are in charge of creating a definition of identity. Together they brainstorm and jot down words that come to mind on a giant piece of chart paper. From there, the work of social comprehension can begin. The goal of an identity web is to get to know your students while also starting to bridge connections between the kids and yourself. It is a way to initiate the process of learning about each other in a safe space. Ahmed thinks of just about everything with her lessons, including a “follow-up” section and an “addressing tensions” section to coach you, the teacher, through difficult situations that may arise in the classroom. 

Overall, Being the Change would be a strong book to add to your collection of professional development books. Ahmed’s passion about social comprehension resonantes through each page and guides any reader through activities that are ready for the classroom. As reviewers, Karen and Danielle are in very different stages in their careers. Danielle is a first year teacher. She teaches 7th grade English Language Arts, and was able to try these activities in her own classroom. She started at chapter one and is now on chapter three, and plans to continue progressing through the lessons until the end of the school year. Her biggest takeaway is that even if you do not follow each lesson exactly, it is about making a safe space for identity and differences. Karen has been teaching for seven years, as a reading specialist. While she teaches small groups and does not have a classroom of her own, she realizes the importance of having ongoing conversations around social comprehension. Karen highly recommends Chapter 2 – Listening with Love. She agrees with Ahmed’s beliefs that by teaching active, empathic listening real communities are built which strengthen real learning.

Book Review: Oh, Yeah?! Putting Arguments to Work Both in School and Out by Amy Ahart

As part of an independent book study for the Reading and Writing Argumentative Texts course, Amy Ahart created the following flyer. The advertisement highlights key parts of the book that directly affect English instruction.

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After checking out some of the key concepts in this book, what do you want to learn more about? What are some of your go-to professional texts for teaching argument writing?

180 Days Book Review

by: Bruning, Cardillo, Clarke, Coladonato, Patton, & Peltier

180 days

Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle’s new book, 180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents, published by Heinemann, is a stimulating read during a time of educational dismay. Gallagher and Kittle disrupt the mold of state-mandated testing as well as tightly bound curriculums and bring educators back to their original teaching philosophies. While many education texts provide quick-fix teaching strategies for a specific skill set, this book, as the title suggests, opens up a discussion on what 180 days in the classroom looks like with engaged and motivated students. Gallagher and Kittle work together on lesson plans and teaching approaches in two very different environments—Gallagher in an urban, California school with a diverse student population and Kittle in a rural, New Hampshire school with a homogenous student population. They base their year of collaboration on research and core beliefs, all in hopes of sharing what they believe is most important: creating student readers and writers that are engaged, inspired, and curious about the world around them. Read more

Book Review: Sparks in the Dark by Travis Crowder and Todd Nesloney

by: Anne Busciacco, Marissa Caldwell, Lauren Foley, Erika Hunsicker, Tom Lang & Dan Lonsdale

sparks in darkNavigating through a maze of students absorbed in their independent reading books, I pause before Ryan. Our second-day-of-school conversation echoes in my mind . . .
“I don’t like to read,” he declared, doubtful seventh grade would change anything.
His friend, Charlie, smirked at him, “That’s because you only read teacher-assigned books.”
Now, four weeks later—after interviewing many texts and abandoning two—Ryan sits nestled in a bean-bag chair, engrossed in Booked by Kwame Alexander. During our last conference, he claimed it as one of the best novels he had ever read.
“ # What child have you seen impacted by a different kind of teaching style?” (79).
In Sparks in the Dark, by Travis Crowder and Todd Nesloney, you will meet a plethora of  students like Ryan whose lives were forever impacted by the power of choice. Read more

Books on the Blog: YA Books to Spark Real Discussions about American Race Relations

by Kelly Virgindear martinIn the first chapter of Dear Martin by Nic Stone Justyce McAllister, an Ivy League bound, black teenager, is handcuffed and detained by the police when they mistakenly assume he is up to something as he attempts to keep his drunk and slightly belligerent ex-girlfriend from driving herself home. This incident is understandably jarring for the teen and he thinks to himself:

Yeah, there are no more “colored” water fountains, and it’s supposed to be illegal to discriminate, but if I can be forced to sit on the concrete in too-tight cuffs when I’ve done nothing wrong, it’s clear there’s an issue. That things aren’t as equal as folks say they are.

In an attempt to come to terms with the experience and to deal with the pressures he feels from the neighborhood he managed to escape and the prep school he doesn’t entirely fit into, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. However, tragedy strikes his life and he starts to question whether Dr. King’s teachings still apply to the world we live in today.  Read more

Books on the Blog: A Book for All Ages: A Book for Today and Tomorrow

By Lynne R. Dorfman

Different languages, different food, different customs. That’s our neighborhood: wild and tangled and colorful. Like the best kind of garden. (p. 54)



Wishtree by Katherine Applegate is an amazing book told from the viewpoint of a red oak tree. Red is a city tree that has lived for 216 years (she has 216 rings). She’s also known as the wishtree, and on the first of May, people of all ages come to tie rags, tags, and even the occasional gym sock to her limbs with wishes scribbled on them. Red is an optimist and has strong opinions about things. Bongo, a pessimistic crow and a loyal friend, are two of the main characters along with Samar, a ten year old Muslim girl.  Red is home to owlets, possums, raccoons and skunks. They talk with one another, but nature has one rule: Don’t talk to people. Read more