New reviews of professional books

Members of the TLN Forum regularly review professional books of interest to teacher leaders. Here are summaries of our our latest reviewer commentaries. Click on a book title to read the complete review. And you can peruse all our TLN reviews here.

Personalizing the High School Experience for Each Student
By Joseph DiMartino; John H. Clarke
Reviewed by Mary Tedrow, NBCT
High School English
Winchester, VA

Building from the statistics and anecdotal evidence of disengaged students, the authors have assembled a guide to creating student-centered high schools. “It all sounds great,” says reviewer Mary Tedrow. “But coming from a teacher’s perspective, I cannot imagine this book being useful until it is in the hands of open-minded, inspired leadership. I’m not convinced that we have enough of those yet in place to make a nationwide difference.”

Building a Culture of Literacy Month-by-Month
By Hilarie Davis
Reviewed by Donna C. White, NBCT
K-6 Literacy Coach
Fayetteville, NC

Building a Culture of Literacy Month-by- Month delineates a comprehensive approach to a school wide focus on literacy, says reviewer Donna White. Hilarie Davis takes much of the hard work out of implementing such a plan — from the selection of the book, the information to display in the hall, ideas for a writing contest, to a plan for Family Night. The book also supports “the initiation of those difficult conversations about how the culture of a school is supporting students as they learn to read and write.”

Align the Design: A Blueprint for School Improvement 
By Nancy Mooney and Ann T. Mausbach
Reviewed by Ellen Holmes, NBCT
Distinguished Educator
Maine Department of Education

In clear language, the authors describe the broad concepts of school improvement, the processes and action steps that are needed to achieve specific goals, and the specific methods required to help facilitate the work. The 200-page book is laid out in a practical way to support the work of busy teams as they develop their own blueprint for school reform. Each chapter is built around a common, user-friendly format that provides essential questions, truly practical solutions and tools, roles and responsibilities for administration to consider, critical texts and resources, and the authors’ own valuable, experience-based professional reflections.

Spaces & Places: Designing Classrooms for Literacy
By Debbie Diller
Reviewed by Gail V. Ritchie, NBCT, PhD
School-based Curriculum Leader
Fairfax County, Virginia

Debbie Diller has created an “incredible new resource” with her new book Spaces & Places, says reviewer Gail Ritchie, a K-6 school-based instructional coach. Using before-and-after photos and simple step-by-step instructions, Diller helps teachers de-clutter and organize classroom spaces in which every inch is being utilized thoughtfully. The goal is to create a purposeful, inviting literacy-rich classroom in just about any circumstances.

Reframing Teacher Leadership to Improve Your School
By Douglas Reeves
Reviewed by Ellen Holmes, NBCT
Distinguished Educator
Maine Department of Education

“In my work supporting school professionals who are working to develop collaborative cultures, they often figure out the structures required but then are at a loss for what to actually do,” says reviewer Ellen Holmes. “Reframing Teacher Leadership to Improve Your School provides them a very concrete example: action research.”

Teaching Kids with Mental Health and Learning Disorders in the Regular Classroom
By Myles Cooley
Reviewed by Carol Patterson, NBCT
Second Grade Teacher
Union County (NC) Public Schools

In this helpful book, subtitled How to Recognize, Understand, and Help Challenged (And Challenging) Students Succeed, author Myles Cooley offers an important resource for every teacher with students like these in their classrooms. Reviewer Carol Patterson says “this book will reduce teachers’ anxieties as an increasing number of students with special needs are being mainstreamed.”

Classroom Instruction from A to Z: How to Promote Student Learning
By Barbara R. Blackburn
Reviewed by Susan Graham, NBCT
MS Family and Consumer Sciences
Fredericksburg, VA

While Classroom Instruction A to Z isn’t groundbreaking, it is well-grounded, says reviewer Susan Graham. It may not inspire master teachers, but it’s got the kind of down-to-earth nitty gritty tools and ideas that developing teachers can put to use immediately.

Craft Lessons: Teaching Writing K-8 (2nd Ed.)
By Ralph Fletcher and Joann Portalupi
Reviewed by Gail V. Ritchie, NBCT, PhD
School-based Curriculum Leader
Fairfax County, Virginia

“When I set out to rebuild my classroom Writers Workshop from the ground up,” says reviewer Gail Ritchie, “the first edition of Craft Lessons was an invaluable resource for me. When the second edition came out, my first thought was, ‘How could that book get any better?’ The answer does not lie in major changes; rather, the new edition is a sharper, clearer version of the lessons that transformed writing in my classroom and countless others. It is a polishing of the stone, and the result is a vibrant, beautifully simple resource for scaffolding the development of young writers.”