Our 2022 Winter Book Review Festival

MiddleWeb has published 1100 reviews of professional books for teachers and school leaders since 2012 – each written by a K-12 educator. In this article we’ve curated the 23 most-read reviews posted during 2021. Click on a headline to read our reviewer’s take on a book. (Learn about reviewing here.)

A Toolbox Packed with Practical Math Ideas

In The Math Teacher’s Toolbox Bobson Wong and Larisa Bukalov offer strategies, tools, resources and advice that will help any math teacher better serve middle and high school learners. Middle school teacher leader Laura Von Staden says the book should be part of all new math teacher training.

Where Reading and Writing Converge

Using the ideas in The Literacy Workshop: Where Reading and Writing Converge can transform literacy teaching, writes Linda Biondi. Authors Maria Walther and Karen Biggs-Tucker offer an easy-to-follow, research-based guide as teachers journey into making a dual reading-writing workshop a reality.

Empower Students with Metacognition Skills

In Metacognition: The Neglected Skill Set, Robin Fogarty and Brian Pete offer 30 grab-and-go strategies to help students create a new habit of mind, writes middle school director Jeny Randall. Along with tools for teaching, they invite us to hone our own metacognitive skills.

Nineteen Things Great Teachers Do Differently

Todd Whitaker has the experience, research, data, anecdotes, and feedback from teachers and administrators to help readers see what “great teachers do differently.” He reminds us of the eternal importance of educators and the impact we make, writes Linda Biondi.

How to Empower Students as Questioners

Jackie Acree Walsh’s Empowering Students as Questioners provides educators with the skills, strategies and structures to help each learner reach their potential by transforming their understanding of questioning, writes 5th grade teacher and NBCT Kathleen Palmieri.

Leadership through Connected Relationships

In Unconventional Leadership, Minnesota school leader Jessica M. Cabeen offers principals many ideas and resources to move beyond the office and become more connected, collaborative, and creative leaders, writes teacher and school PD director Becky Johnson.

All You Need to Teach Writing in Small Groups

After making a strong case for small group instruction during the writing process, Jennifer Serravallo shares how to implement and develop six types of groups in grades K-8. Teacher Jennifer Wirtz loves the access to videos of groups in action and the printables for students. Highly recommended.

How to Audit Your K-12 Literacy Curriculum

Evaluating the K-12 Literacy Curriculum is a valuable resource for facilitating teams through the overwhelming yet vital task of auditing programs, materials and instructional approaches, writes educator Abby Markley, noting its user friendly organization. “Through Colleen Pennell’s practical synthesis of literacy research and pedagogy, I am also able to see how secondary literacy instruction fits into the complex world of K-12 literacy curriculum.”

Help Kids Stop Hiding Behind Literacy Masks

Cris Tovani has written a true page turner to assist all teachers with literacy strategies that will captivate their most reluctant students. Why Do I Have to Read This? begins with insights into the many masks of reading resistance that students wear, says Linda Biondi.

20 Things That Great Principals Do Differently

In What Great Principals Do Differently Todd Whitaker sets out a clear and understandable path to success and demystifies some of the unique aspects of school leadership. Any school leader will find value, reinforcement, and solid advice, writes educator Becky Johnson.

It’s Time to Bring Back the Playful Classroom

In The Playful Classroom Jed Dearybury and Julie Jones offer a playful guide written in a playful style with all the research and resources to create a classroom where students will be filled with joy as their learning and soft skills skyrocket, writes Laura Von Staden.

Using Guided Practice with Hesitant Readers

Literacy experts Laura Robb and David Harrison draw directly from their current middle grades teaching practice to identify the causes of reading hesitancy in grades 4-8. Their tested lessons focus on improving student reading and vocabulary using videos and high-interest texts included in the book, writes reviewer Jennifer Wirtz.

Trauma-Informed Schools to Support All Students

In Equity-Centered Trauma-Informed Education, Alex Shevrin Venet has written not only to inform us but also to call us to reflect and take action, writes middle school leader Bill Ivey, who anticipates readers will evaluate their practices to find areas for improvement.

Look at Student Work to See Student Thinking

With formative assessment experts Susan Brookhart and Alice Oakley as guides, teachers can uncover the clues in student work, offer effective feedback, improve lessons and plan next steps, says reviewer and ELA/ELL teacher Josefine Carrion-Dreyer.

Keys to Using Text Sets across Content Areas

Text Sets in Action provides expert guidance for any teacher interested in using this engaging strategy to deepen learning. Authors Cappiello and Dawes define “texts” broadly and provide advice and examples across the core content areas, writes teacher educator Dr. Sarah Pennington.

Knowing WHEN to Use Technology in Class

Suzanne Kelly and Elizabeth Dobler help us understand that technology, when used with intention, can help teachers augment instruction without letting it dictate what we do.They offer many tools and ideas to guide decision making as we integrate tech into our lesson plans, writes Kathleen Palmieri.

12 Characteristics of Deliberate Homework

The consistent structure of Erik Youngman’s book, its examples of implementation, and its actionable strategies will support educators as they explore the 12 characteristics of quality homework. Excellent for teams and discussion groups, says Head of Middle School Michael McLaughlin.

A Deep Look into the Middle Grades Mindset

In The Middle Grades Mindset: A Lesson Plan from A–Z, Dru Tomlin draws on his success as a principal and teacher leader to share an insightful, easy-to-read reference guide to adolescent learning. Middle level master teacher Cheryl Mizerny feels renewed after reading it. Published by AMLE.

Develop Independent and Inter-Dependent Learners

Discover the why, what and how of collective student efficacy in this research-grounded book from John Hattie, Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey and Shirley Clarke. Middle school teacher leader Sarah Cooper was inspired by the rich descriptions of “I” and “we” skills needed for higher-level learning.

A Game Plan to Include SEL in Every Lesson

Jeffrey Benson’s Improve Every Lesson Plan with SEL shows us how – through intentional, deliberate and embedded instruction including differentiation and choice – teachers can assure all students gain the explicit and implicit SEL skills they need, writes middle level leader Todd Brist.

Writing Activities That Build Math Learning

Using informative, argumentative, personal and metacognitive writing activities, Linda S. Dacey shows how all learners can build skills and understanding in math through the writing process. Math and literacy coach Helene Alalouf highly recommends “this gem of a book.”

Sentences to Get Kids Reading and Writing

Rebecca Crockett values the work Geraldine Woods has done in creating Sentence. A Period-to-Period Guide to Building Better Readers and Writers and the expertise she shares with teachers less experienced with this method of teaching. Destined to be an oft-referenced book, says middle grades ELA teacher Crockett.

Math Curriculum for Gifted Sixth Graders

Math Curriculum for Gifted Students (Grade 6): Lessons, Activities and Extensions is a great resource for pull-out math and afterschool enrichment, differentiation in the regular or gifted classroom and more, writes middle school exceptional students educator Dr. Laura Von Staden.


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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.