The holidays are the best time for refreshing ourselves intellectually, so here is a list of good reading for English teachers (it will be regularly updated). You can contribute by the comments section below, or via Twitter to @sccenglish.
This blog has always been (amongst many other things) about putting our own learning as teachers openly alongside our pupils' learning and achievements (including our use of Twitter). Click here for over 50 English teaching posts.
[updated February 2013]
Recommendations, in no particular order:
- The Art of Slow Reading (2011) by Thomas Newkirk : outstanding short book that, appropriately, should be read slowly, to absorb its considerable practical and philosophical wisdom.
- Prefaces to Shakespeare (2010) by Tony Tanner. Most of us spend a lot of time with Shakespeare. This could well be the single most intellectually stimulating book on the playwright. Originally introductions to the Everyman series, they are now thankfully collected in one volume. 800 pages of pure gold.
- I Is An Other (2011) by James Geary. A book about one of the most important elements of language, metaphor, packed full of examples and ideas we can use in the classroom. Particularly strong on 'real world' use, such as in economics.
- The Learning Game (2002) by Jonathan Smith. The autobiographical reflections of an English teacher looking back on a career. Very readable.
- Readicide (2009) by Kelly Gallagher. Subtitled 'How schools are killing reading and what you can do about it), this book was prompted by Gallagher's dismay at how American schools are approaching reading, but has a huge amount of material relevant to other countries. It is also consistently readable.
- Write Like This (2011) again by Kelly Gallagher. Again, the subtitle summarises: 'Teaching real-world writing through modelling and mentor texts'. Lots of practical activities. Gallagher reminds teachers how important it is that we model writing for our pupils, as 'the best writers in the room'.
- How to Teach (2010) by Phil Beadle. Not confined to English teachers, but written by one. On marking: 'Make no mistake: this is the most important thing you do as a teacher.' Read his story in Chapter 5 about Cerise, and the tragedy (yes, really) of her unmarked book.
- The Language Instinct (1995) by Steven Pinker. The intellectual underpinning of Pinker's thought can be controversial (see several articulate caveats in the Amazon comments), but simply on the level of rich material and examples this is a terrific book for the classroom. See also his book on verbs, Words and Rules.
- On the same subject, The Unfolding of Language: the evolution of mankind's greatest invention (2006) by Guy Deutscher. 'Linguistics for laypeople' ... as with Pinker, a great bag of stuff for the classroom here.
- Old Friend from Far Away (2009) by Natalie Goldberg. Plenty of good prompts and exercises for the classroom, but also a reminder that we should be writing away from it, too, and memoir is a good place to start.
- The Perfect Ofsted English Lesson (2012) by David Didau. A short book with lots of good sense (and plenty of value for those of us who don't have to undergo the British Ofsted inspections).
- The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction (2011) by Alan Jacobs. The changing nature of reading in the electronic age is something all English teachers should think about, and Jacobs's attractive and sensible book helps us to do this, as well as providing a lot of pleasure in itself.
- Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a world that can't stop talking (2013) by Susan Cain. Lots to think about here, especially for those of us teaching a subject that requires quietness (reading) and also oral engagement (discussion and debate).
- Finally, Drive (2011) by Daniel Pink. Not about English teaching, (though teaching is often discussed), but its lessons about motivation at work should be at the core of our vocations, what we do in our classrooms, and why we do it.