A Festival of Book Reviews

Since this collection of book reviews was published in 2012, MiddleWeb had created several more festivals. You can visit them here: 2012 (Pt2), 2013, 2018, 2022 and 2023. Enjoy!

Our Fall Book Review Festival features 15 recent reviews of professional books — each one written by and for middle grades educators.

Our collection of reviews covers a wide range of topics: teaching tips and strategies, visual & media literacy, intelligent test preparation, Common Core issues, academic icebreakers, RTI & special education, social studies, math teaching and achievement, teacher research, ESL/ELL strategies, and student motivation.

Look over all the offerings here and follow our links to the reviews that interest you most. You can always read our latest reviews, browse the growing collection, and learn about writing reviews yourself by visiting our Book Reviews area of the website. (Special thanks to Janice Norton for managing our book review program!)

Helping Students Motivate Themselves

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Larry Ferlazzo effectively ties student motivation to relationship-building, classroom culture and metacognition, says book reviewer and intermediate grades teacher Becky Bair. It’s the go-to book when we’re looking for good ways to respond to that sad, familiar comment: “These kids just don’t want to learn!”


How to Teach Thinking Skills Within the Common Core

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This book may be too structurally complex to be a valuable everyday resource to the classroom educator. But there’s still plenty to admire, says teacher-reviewer Kevin Hodgson,  including its stance that rote learning and memorization do “not produce the kind of thinking, problem-solving citizens that the world will need.”


Interactive Modeling: A Powerful Technique for Teaching Children

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This Responsive Classroom guide for PK-8 educators can improve teaching of essential academics, social skills, routines and behaviors, says reviewer Linda Biondi. The author’s practical advice “builds upon best practices that teachers may already apply in their classrooms, and introduces us to the highly useful Interactive Modeling concept.”


I See What You Mean: Visual Literacy K-8

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Visual literacy is a vital skill for iGeneration students, says our reviewer Patricia Thomas-Jeanig. In this second edition of a book first published in the 1990s, Steve Moline explores many kinds of visual texts and includes great teaching ideas, all in the context of today’s pervasive social media.


Kick-Start Your Class: Academic Icebreakers to Engage Students

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Imagine, 125 icebreakers and 40 closure activities all in one book! It’s a teacher’s dream come true, says our reviewer Anne Anderson. The rich collection of activities, she says, will help teachers in many grades and subjects engage students while meeting the high demands of Common Core State Standards.


The Line Between Us: Teaching about the Border and Mexican Immigration

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Bill Bigelow’s teacher-friendly book offers concrete strategies to help students understand immigration and globalization issues, says teacher educator Kelly Moser. Firsthand accounts and other resources provide students with a glimpse into how other peoples live, the challenges they face, and the reasons they come to the United States.


Living the Questions: A Guide for Teacher Researchers

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This teacher research guide can help educators analyze, reflect upon and improve their practice, says reviewer Amanda Wall. The authors “clearly value and respect the work of teachers and include short essays, tips, and examples submitted by teacher researchers themselves.”


Math in Plain English: Literacy Strategies for the Mathematics Classroom

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Finally, says reviewer Shelly Sims, there’s a book combining literacy strategies with what we know about math thinking and problem-solving. Author Amy Benjamin “challenges the teacher-reader to incorporate both receptive and productive math instruction.”


 Media Literacy in the K-12 Classroom

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Reviewer Jamey Cates says this ISTE guide by consultant Frank W. Baker is an excellent resource for cultivating media literacy skills in today’s iGeneration students, with well-thought-out and ready-to-serve lessons correlated to standards.


Minding the Achievement Gap One Classroom at a Time

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ESL teacher Julie Dermody found this book to be a great resource for implementing Classroom Instruction That Works strategies for second-language learners, although she says its vague title almost caused her to overlook it.


Small Steps, Big Changes: Eight Essential Practices for Transforming Schools Through Mathematics

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Reviewer and math teacher Michelle Schwartz admired the authors’ eight essential elements for schoolwide math success but wondered how they might be accomplished in schools without a math coach or “on-board” principal.


Teach Like a Champion Field Guide

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This field guide to 49 teaching techniques developed for the Uncommon Schools charter organization provides new ideas and useful information “to refresh my classroom teaching,” says reviewer Susan Shaver.


The Energetic Brain: Understanding and Managing ADHD

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Special education teacher Laura Von Staden, a mother of two children with ADHD, found this book authoritative and a good source of research-based information about ADHD but thought it lacked the detail teachers need about specific interventions.



What Every Middle School Teacher Needs to Know about Reading Tests

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Sick of test prep that required her students to read boring texts and fill out worksheets, our reviewer Rebecca Crockett was excited to discover a book offering practical advice about reading tests and engaging test-prep activities that integrate well into the content she teaches.


What Every School Leader Needs to Know about RTI

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This book for school leaders “provides the steps and framework necessary to seamlessly apply the RTI approach within our schools,” says Linda Biondi. “It’s an important book for all school-based and district-level administrators to read.”

You can access all of our book reviews with one click. Watch for them here! If you’re a publisher interested in providing books for review, contact John Norton at MiddleWeb.

John Norton

John Croft Norton is an education writer and editor. He's the founder and co-editor of MiddleWeb. John also co-founded the national Teacher Leaders Network and enjoys developing and supporting virtual communities of educators and promoting teacher voices. He lives in Little Switzerland NC, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and once lived in Atlanta, where he was vice president for information at the Southern Regional Education Board.

2 Responses

  1. 10/05/2012

    […] A Festival of Book Reviews Our Fall Book Review Festival features 15 brand-new reviews of professional books – each one written by and for middle grades educators. Read more → […]

  2. 10/06/2012

    […] middle school teachers but has a lot to offer to teachers of all levels) is part of the site’s Fall Book Review Festival. There are some interesting books on the list and all the reviews were done by educators, so you […]

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