Our New Year Book Review Festival


What better way to start a New Year than with a good read? Our MiddleWeb reviewer-educators have a tall stack of books reviewed and ready for your selection. We hope you enjoy our Winter Book Review Festival! (And if you’d like to review for MiddleWeb yourself, here are the details.)



1 celebrating-writers festCelebrating Writers: From Possibilities through Publication      

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 You can almost hear the funky riffs of Kool & The Gang’s Celebration in the background, says reviewer Kevin Hodgson, as you read through this short, engaging book about the value of noticing small moments and cheering on students as emerging writers. Ruth Ayres, writing with Christi Overman, provides an approachable framework to help teachers open up possibilities for publishing student work, from within the classroom and out on the World Wide Web.

1 Mapping_Comprehensive_Units_fest ELACC andersonMapping Comprehensive Units to the ELA Common Core Standards, 6–12

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Kathy Tuchman Glass has created an intensive, in-depth study to guide educators in understanding and implementing the Common Core ELA standards by leading them through detailed mapping, writes reviewer Anne Anderson. A real benefit: the author’s reformatting the writing standards by Text Types and Purposes to show the progression from grade to grade. All core content teachers welcome!

pirate cover fb von stadenTeach Like a PIRATE: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator

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If you are interested in transforming your classroom, engaging students and becoming an outrageous teacher, read this book, says reviewer Laura Von Staden. Teach Like a PIRATE is based on author Dave Burgess’ seminars “Outrageous Teaching” and “Teach Like a PIRATE.” PIRATE is an acronym for Burgess’ teaching philosophy: Passion, Immersion, Rapport, Ask and analyze, Transformation, and Enthusiasm.

1 putting the practices math fest cc biondiPutting the Practices into Action: Implementing the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice K-8

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Susan O’Connell and John SanGiovanni honor not just the language of the standards, but provide valid examples from all grade levels so teachers will be able to bring the CCSS mathematical practices to their own settings, says reviewer Linda Biondi. The examples are from real classrooms with annotations that highlight possible areas of misunderstanding or confusion.

1 a Lemons-to-Lemonade festLemons to Lemonade: Resolving Problems in Meetings, Workshops, and PLCs             

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Anyone who facilitates team meetings will find Lemons to Lemonade an incredibly useful resource, says reviewer Lyn Hilt. Authors Robert J. Garmston (Center for Cognitive Coaching) and Diane P. Zimmerman (teacher, principal, superintendent & leadership trainer) share strategies and protocols for managing “the unexpected occurrences that crop up when groups of people work together.” They seek to help readers use these events “to build group cohesion, productivity, and learning.”

Wilhelm-cvrImproving Comprehension with Think-aloud Strategies: Doing What Good Readers Do

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Reviewer Linda Biondi likes everything about the 2nd Edition of Jeff Wilhelm’s popular book on helping students improve comprehension by “thinking aloud.” Lots of examples from the classroom, a DVD with video of teachers using the strategies, and even a FAQ based on questions Wilhelm has been asked over the years. And it’s CCSS-aligned, too.

skillful-team-leadr-140The Skillful Team Leader:  A Resource for Overcoming Hurdles to Professional Learning for Student Achievement

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As readers work their way through author Elisa B. MacDonald’s clear and compelling discussion, reviewer Sr. Geralyn Schmidt says, The Skillful Team Leader becomes a powerful resource through which we can actually understand how, with insightful leadership, teams can overcome barriers to collaboration and change the entire school learning environment for the better.

1 every child can do math fest wisneskiEvery Child Can Do Math: Deceptively Simple Activities to Develop Mathematical Thinking

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Every Child Can Do Math by Yeap Ban Har and Lorraine Walker is the perfect resource to engage students while challenging them to think, says reviewer Sandy Wisneski. The book’s activities are matched to the Common Core and deepen students’ understanding of mathematical concepts while inviting them to have fun at the same time.

Daniels_Teaching+Secret-120The Best Kept Teaching Secret: How Written Conversations Engage Kids, Activate Learning, Grow Fluent Writers

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The Best-Kept Teaching Secret “will be a book that I’ll refer to often,” says MiddleWeb reviewer Sandy Wisneski. Smokey and Elaine Daniels offer ideas that are both powerful and simple to implement, she writes, showing teachers how to bring life to “written conversations” through the use of letters, memos, dialogue journals and digital discussions — and in surprisingly engaging ways.

Sentenced to Middle School! (2 Connected Reviews)

1 grammar for ms fest ovadiaGrammar for Middle School: A Sentence-Composing Approach        

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Authors Don and Jenny Killgallon describe their sentence-composing approach as “acrobatic training in sentence dexterity.” The book lives up to this dramatic description, guiding students to imitate and then create complex sentences with varied types of structure and syntax. While no one book can turn your class into The Flying Wallendas of sentence-making, says reviewer Jenny Ovadia, this approach can give your students tools to be more daring in their writing.

1 paragraphs for ms fest millerParagraphs for Middle School: A Sentence-Composing Approach

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Don and Jenny Killgallon give teachers the tools they need to show their students how to write more, and by doing so, write better. The book walks students through the process of composing strong paragraphs by first crafting strong sentences. Its model sentences and paragraphs are from a wide variety of well-known and respected books that middle school students will immediately recognize and identify with, writes reviewer Jenni Miller.


MiddleWeb is all about the middle grades, with great 4-8 resources, book reviews, and guest posts by educators who support the success of young adolescents. And be sure to subscribe to MiddleWeb SmartBrief for the latest middle grades news & commentary from around the USA.

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