Thursday, July 09, 2009

4 Professional Books on Nonfiction/Inquiry

It is funny how fast my pile of to-read professional books is getting lately. I am just finishing TEACHING THE NEW WRITING and will review it soon. I have also just added BLOGS, WIKIS, PODCASTS, AND OTHER POWERFUL TOOLS FOR CLASSROOMS by Will Richardson to my shopping cart. I am on a huge learning curve when it comes to technology and what that means for our elementary classrooms. So I have added a huge new topic to my professional reading life. But I do have a few books that I have ordered and spent some time with that I want to read over the next several weeks. These are the books that I am hoping will help grow my own thinking. I find that much of my professional reading comes from online sources lately. I get lost finding articles and blog posts so I haven't committed the the professional "book" reading that I've done in the past. Thank goodness it is summer so I can catch up on a few. These are the 4 on top of my stack right now. I am looking for ways to create a great library environment next year-one that invites inquiry, collaboration, and student ownership of learning. So my focus for the next few weeks is connected to that specific goal.

I am also excited to read COMPREHENSION AND COLLABORATION: INQUIRY CIRCLES IN ACTION by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels. I am excited to see how the thinking of these two experts have come together when thinking about small-group projects around inquiry. I worry that we have gotten so far away from students' own questions in school. I love that this book is for all levels. Early in the book, the authors say, "This book is for everyone who teaches because the big ideas and processes of education, the really big ones, truly do apply to all learners. From Pre-K to college, we are in the business of teaching thinking. And that's something we are never done with: we don't start children off thinking in the primary grades and then assume we're finished. Nor do we hold off on thinking until middle school, give them a couple good years of instruction, and then shut down, figuring they're now ready for anything." We teach thinking all year, every year: we teach students how to listen, view, read, gather, and engage with information; we make sure students acquire cognitive strategies, weigh ideas, develop judgement, and build knowledge; and just as important, we help them to remember, care choose, and take action." Can't wait to read more!

Another book that is connected a bit to the one above is SCIENCE AS THINKING: THE CONSTANTS AND VARIABLES OF INQUIRY THINKING by Wendy Ward Offer. I was excited to receive this book when I did a workshop with the PEBC in Colorado last week. I learn from every single piece that any of the teachers associated with them write. The work is amazing and has influenced so much of what I do with kids. In the library position, I am thinking hard about kids taking charge of their own learning and creating a place in the library where this is possible. From what I can tell after a pretty lengthy preview, the author uses a workshop model for her science teaching. The blurb on the back hooked me immediately. It says, "Inquiry is how we learn about the world. Every day we ask questions, gather evidence, make observations, and draw conclusions. SCIENCE AS THINKING shows how powerful instruction can connect the natural curiosity students bring to class to the science curriculum. No matter what my content, I have always learned a great deal from science teachers--inquiry is their content and I am excited to learn more from this book.

Finally, I would like to spend more time with NONFICTION MENTOR TEXTS by Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli. I loved the authors' first book, MENTOR TEXTS and was even more excited about this one--focusing on nonfiction. So much of our students' world is filled with information. Nonfiction is such a key to the ways they gather and communicate information. This book focuses on the writing of good nonfiction with the use of good mentor texts. I am thinking that this will help me in several ways. The tie in to 21st Century Skills is key. If we want our kids to be able to synthesize and communicate information, having great models for this type of communication is key. This book is packed--with not only lessons and booklists, but also so much to think about when it comes to communicating information. I can't wait to dig in.

I love the new Lucy Calkins Series "WORKSHOP HELP DESK". I love the size and focus of these little books. I picked up the first four and am amazed at how much they have packed into each one. The one that I am most anxious to read is "A QUICK GUIDE TO BOOSTING ENGLISH ACQUISITION IN CHOICE TIME" by Alison Porcelli and Cheryl Tyler. I have always believed in Choice Time and have seen how much students learn when given time to explore, inquire and discover. I love the idea of this book--the fact that it focus on this time as a way to boost English acquisition. Like I said, I love the focus of these books. A way to look deeply at a very small topic. The photos throughout the book were the first things to draw me to this book. The play factor is huge and I am hoping to build more time for this into the library next year.


  1. Wondering, English Acquisition that geared for all students or ELA students? Choice needs to be more prevelant in our classrooms.

  2. If you are interested in exploring the relationship between technology and writing, you might be interested in learning about research being done into how the Internet is impacting young peoples' writing and general literacy skills. There's an interesting piece online at:

  3. Inquiry Circles sounds intersting. I've used Literature Circles successfully for many years.

    I'm in need of something new.

  4. wow this kind of books is what people needs when thinking about the educational crisis we are currently dealing with, people complaining about economy break down but also realizing how poor has become our public school education... so thinking about "We teach thinking all year... we teach students how to listen, view, read, gather, and engage with information" so why is failing our education just figure out if every school is already and truly trying to teach them on school, is that exactly how are designed our children school k 12 instruction ?


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