10 Pedagogical Must-Reads for Workshop Teachers

IMG_0650I met with my new student teacher a few weeks ago, and he asked me to borrow any books that might help him get going on the readers-writers workshop–the “theory” version of Jackie’s starter kit.  He’s been in my classroom before, so he knows the general routine and character of our work, but he wanted to know the ins and outs of how I thought and planned and conceptualized the whole thing.

I sat at my desk and looked at all of the titles I had on hand, remembering how influential reading them for the first time had been.  As a result, it was hard not to just dump my entire professional bookshelf onto a cart for him, but I managed to pick out a few titles that have guided me most adeptly in one aspect or another of my current classroom practice.

  1. Book Love by Penny Kittle – This was the book that helped to solidify my vision of an ideal classroom.  Before I read it, I had already been doing many of the best practices Penny mentions–writer’s notebooks, choice reading, personalized writing.  But I didn’t know how to bring it all together until Book Love.  As such, this is my #1 recommendation for any teacher looking to jump-start their individualized workshop curriculum.
  2. Write Beside Them by Penny Kittle – This book introduced me to the concepts of mentor texts, reading like a writer, and best draft/publication of writing.  I learned about quickwrites, constant revision, writing conferences, and a great deal more of what are now standard routines in my classroom.  This is the book for anyone curious about the big picture of writing instruction.
  3. Finding the Heart of Nonfiction by Georgia Heard – I was raised in the tradition of literature as containing mostly fiction and poetry, but Penny’s books helped me see the great value of nonfiction.  I wanted to know how to integrate it well into my thematic units, and this book helped me do that.  Georgia’s book is full of wisdom about finding the soul of good nonfiction writing and matching it to your students’ needs.
  4. Choice Words by Peter Johnston – This book taught me how to talk to students.  It is my #1 recommendation for anyone looking to address those pesky Speaking and Listening standards in the Common Core–this book teaches you about the delicate, volatile power of a few choice words between you and your students.  I re-read it every year, and it might be the most important book in this stack.
  5. Holding On to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones by Tom Newkirk – This book is subtitled “Six Literacy Principles Worth Fighting For,” and Tom Newkirk certainly made me want to engage some of my former teachers in fisticuffs when I finished it.  This text is full of common-sense brilliance that will transform the way you think about why we teach reading and what kinds of texts we teach.
  6. Boy Writers by Ralph Fletcher – Why do my students keep writing about violent gun battles?  Why do they always ask if they can swear in their writing?  What’s up with the complete unwillingness of my boys to be vulnerable?  If you’ve asked yourself these questions…this book is for you.  Ralph writes about everything you ever wondered about boy writers and how to move them forward in their writing.
  7. Readicide by Kelly Gallagher – Schools have been killing reading for many years, Kelly argues, and then presents ways you can stop the slaughter.  He fires away at pop quizzes, assigned chapters, multiple-choice tests, and all the practices that steer our students toward SparkNotes.  Then he reveals ways to get students authentically engaging in literature in a way that doesn’t kill their love of reading.
  8. Falling in Love with Close Reading by Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts – After finishing Readicide and wanting to abandon the eight or so whole-class novels I once felt chained to, I wasn’t sure how to teach close reading skills.  This book answered that question for me, and more.  Chris and Kate reveal how to use poems, articles, short stories, and selections from novels to get kids interacting with the beauty and power of language in all kinds of texts.
  9. Reading Ladders by Teri Lesesne – When all of your students have finally found a book they will actually read–then what?  Teri Lesesne taught me how to help students climb a reading ladder of text complexity with this book.  It’s a tough battle to get all kids reading, but it’s even tougher to get them to all challenge themselves once they are.  Reading ladders are the solution to the increasing complexity question–now they’re a consistent part of my instruction.
  10. Revision Decisions by Jeff Anderson and Deborah Dean – After reading the first nine books on this list, I still wasn’t sure where grammar instruction fit in.  I knew to have students read like writers and learn from language and sentence structures that way, but I wasn’t sure how to structure my mini-lessons, until I read this book.  Jeff and Deborah helped me find strong craft study lessons and bring them into the classroom in a way that appealed to students and also benefited them immediately in their writing.

This is by no means an exhaustive list–That Workshop Book by Stephanie Harvey, Read Write Teach by Linda Rief, The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, and many other integral titles were simply not on my shelf when I gave this stack to Mike.  But these top ten are ones I wouldn’t be the same teacher without.

What other titles are essential to your practice?  Please share in the comments!

Update:  Here are must-read folks that readers have suggested via Twitter and Facebook, as well as in the comments:

  1. Lucy Calkins
  2. Nancie Atwell
  3. Linda Rief
  4. Katie Wood Ray
  5. Donalyn Miller
  6. Don Graves
  7. Donald Murray
  8. Peter Elbow
  9. Ariel Sacks
  10. James Moffett
  11. Louise Rosenblatt

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18 thoughts on “10 Pedagogical Must-Reads for Workshop Teachers

  1. […] have to start by asking yourself what you believe and why you believe that. Shana wrote about some must reads for teachers considering workshop and for me personally this was a great place to start. I bought […]


  2. […] There are also a plethora of professional books written to help teachers with workshop- check out 10 Pedagogical Must-Reads for Workshop Teachers.  Another important component of the workshop is having classroom libraries; they are a […]


  3. Join the #3TTBookClub | January 2, 2017 at 6:34 am Reply

    […] will share ideas on how we might book talk certain books with our students, share insights from pedagogy books we read, share ways we might use excerpts to teach craft, and just overall share our deep and […]


  4. […] whatever guidance and support we can provide one another is a non-negotiable.  Pedagogical reading recommendations, webinars, and Twitter chats can all help our colleagues dive into workshop, and be buoys when we […]


  5. […] from others that we achieve growth, whether through the modern PLC, self-selected learning, or just reading pedagogical texts.  There are so many resources available for the curious, motivated educator–so we […]


  6. […] Check out the stack of books Jackie at Three Teachers Talk gave her new student teacher in 10 Pedagogical Must-Reads for Workshop Teachers. […]


  7. Erik Palmer January 10, 2016 at 11:31 am Reply

    #4 doesn’t really address listening and speaking standards. What is needed is a book showing teachers how to teach students to be effective oral communicators. If you look at students’ speech with new eyes, it is apparent that we have shortchanged the most important language art. Try this: goo.gl/dgoSS7 And if you want a book that truly addresses the standards in a specific and practical way, try this: goo.gl/4iJh1G


  8. stefaniecole January 9, 2016 at 5:40 pm Reply

    A book people might not know but changed my practice was Whole Novels for the Whole Class: A Student Centred Approach, by Ariel Sacks. Some people disagree with the idea of using whole novels themselves, but Ariel Sacks methods of teaching focusing on applying various strategies using sticky notes, accountable talk, mini-projects for book concepts, and more are adaptable to Independent Reading and Literature Discussion Groups. She introduced me to these concepts before they were buzz words I knew.

    Many of the above authors are also key to my program, but I feel like Ariel is often overlooked & maybe the Whole Novel aspect is what does it. Her methods put students and engagement right at the centre of my reader’s workshop! Check her out! http://arielsacks.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    • shanakarnes January 9, 2016 at 6:21 pm Reply

      Excellent suggestion!! I did read that and love it–great strategies for any whole-class text study. I think I heard about Ariel Sacks from a footnote in one of Penny Kittle’s books.


  9. Jennifer O. January 9, 2016 at 3:38 pm Reply

    What a great list! I would add both of Donalyn Miller’s books, The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. California Teacher January 9, 2016 at 2:18 pm Reply

    I understand that this list is very subjective but many of these books would probably not exist without Nancie Atwell or James Moffett.

    Liked by 3 people

    • shanakarnes January 9, 2016 at 2:24 pm Reply

      Agreed!! Louise Rosenblatt, Don Graves, Don Murray, Tom Romano, and many more are the foundational writers these authors learned from. I just found these ten to be particularly helpful with applying the foundational ideas I learned from those earlier writers.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. readitandteach January 8, 2016 at 10:20 pm Reply

    Great list! These are a lot of my favorites too!

    #2 should say by Kelly Gallagher, not Penny Kittle.

    I look forward to trying some others I haven’t yet.


  12. Jeff Anderson January 8, 2016 at 3:55 pm Reply

    Thank you for including Revision Decisions. Dr. Dean and I are tickled pink to be on such a great list.


    Liked by 3 people

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