Getting elementary- and middle-school boys to read anything can be a teacher’s biggest headache and chore, but B.C. Tweedt’s series of Greyson Gray books can excite just about any male reader. Rather than mono-dimensional sports stars, astronauts or rap singers, the series shows characters for what they are: human and full of fun and frailties. The fourth in the Greyson Gray series, “Rubicon” is out and ready for reading groups. Available in Kindle, Audible and good old paperback book, it’s essential adolescent reading where the hero tackles everything from intolerance to terrorism.
“Learn to Program with Small Basic” is the latest in a series of books that show how kids and teachers can learn how to do elementary app development using a free language. In this case, its Small Basic, an extension and update of Microsoft’s Basic. Small Basic can be a powerful introduction to programming for any middle- or high-school class. It starts with apps for having your computer greet you and culminates with creating games, treasure maps and geometric patterns. The print edition is available for $35 or for $28 as an ebook from No Starch Press.
Following in the footsteps of manga guides to statistics and physiology, the latest serious comic book is a look at what mathematical regression analysis is and how to use it. The 232 page book from No Starch Press is chock full of girls in Victorian costumes, big eyed characters with some high-level math thrown in. As is the case with earlier efforts, its key is that in a light-hearted way, the "Regression Analysis" treats the very serious topic with areas like calculating regression equations, confidence intervals and the ever-popular Chi-squared and F confidence tests. It costs $25.
Capstone’s MyOn curriculum has just added a library’s worth of classic books and short stories that can all be read on a phone, tablet or notebook. Aimed at middle and high school students, the virtual library has 10,000 items that are now available at no extra cost to MyOn subscribers. The unabridged volumes in MyOn Classics include everything from "Oliver Twist" to “The Scarlet Letter.” There are categories for middle- and high-school classes.
There’s nothing better for a teacher or district than a good test that provides the needed feedback about the school’s instruction, and Susan’s Brookhart’s “How to Make Decisions with Different Kinds of Student Assessment Data” can help interpret what the numbers say and don’t say about students, schools and districts. She explains how her four-quadrant framework for reading into assessments works. It includes examples and specific instances of how actual schools looked at specific test scores. The print and ebook versions edition go for $18.95 and $17.99 for ASCD members and $24.95 and $23.99 for non-members.
History books are all-too often dominated by huge blocks of text with a small map or painting here and there. No Starch Press’s “Medieval Lego” is totally different with scenarios made of the snap-together toy depicting historic events, from the Great Plague to the Norman Conquest. It may seem frivolous but kids will remember more about the Battle of Bosworth than from a conventional textbook, and maybe even make their own depiction of Henry Tudor and Richard III battling it out. It comes out in September for $15.
What does it take to collaborate in the classroom? Marilyn Swartz and Margaret Searle know and have put together “Teacher Teamwork: How do we make it work?” The 48-page book is deceptively small but is overflowing with real-world ideas and activities to bring teachers closer and create educational teams. It boils down to four ideas, from setting up guidelines and procotols and working through conflicts to fostering decision-making skills and building a teamwork state of mind. Published by ASCD, the print edition costs $10, but the ebook is only $6.
We all know that critical classroom visits can mean the difference between a static teacher and a growing one, but what’s the best way to do these observational visits? ASCD’s “17,000 Classroom visits can’t be wrong: Strategies that engage students, promote active learning, and boost achievement” may be a mouthful, but it’s a thorough how-to manual for classroom scrutiny with practical suggestions on creating engaging activities, using feedback and shifting the emphasis from teaching to learning. John Antonetti and James Garver show how to create valuable educational insight from classroom walkthroughs. The 190-page book costs $28.95, $21.95 for ASCD members.
In an OverDrive-based digital library, ebooks are just like physical volumes, only better. The software lets students browse the catalog and check-out ebooks that can be read on free versions of OverDrive for PCs, Macs, Androids, iPads and Chromebooks. Everything has a due date when the ebook is automatically returned to the collection for another reader. Along the way, OverDrive can not only display the material in several fonts and sizes, but adds definitions, bookmarks and the ability to search the entire book. You can even use the software for audiobooks, which can be played at a variety of speeds.
Often, hearing a book read by a good narrator or group can be as good as having the class read it to each other, but audio books can be expensive for a library to get. Enter Librivox, which collects and offers for download a good assortment of public domain books. From over 100 books by Charles Dickens and Rupert Brooke’s poetry to Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” and a variety of Shakespeare’s plays, the site has an eclectic mix that can augment many classes with spoken audio. Each comes with a description, rundown of chapters and often a link to online text downloads. While most of the roughly 20,000 volumes are in English, there are many in French, German and a smattering in Arabic and Urdu. If you like what you hear, you can either donate to help this non-profit or – better yet – set up a class project to record a book for others to enjoy.