Top 5 Books for Teachers

Reading about education has become a passion of mine. I've found tremendous value in numerous books, blogs, articles, Twitter posts, etc. I'd like to take a few moments to share five books I believe every educator should read. In fact, I propose these books should be a part of every undergraduate program training teachers to be teachers. 

The five books below are in no particular order. They are, however, critical to transforming our instruction and connecting with students in ways that make deeper, longer-lasting impacts on their learning. The days of boring worksheets that are anything but engaging need to go. Not that worksheets cannot be helpful, but worksheets do not get students excited about coming to school, engage their minds, or inspire them to move deeper into their learning. As Marcia Tate says, "worksheets don't grow dendrites!"

The Visible Learning series by John Hattie (and others)
John Hattie's Visible Learning research is a must-know for educators. In short, it's not about what works in education but rather what works best. Hattie has conducted 1400 meta-analyses involving 80,000 studies and 300 million students to determine which influences on student achievement have the greatest impact. We all wish we had more time in our classrooms, but we can maximize the time we do have by utilizing the strategies found to be best for student achievement. 

Over the past several years, multiple Visible Learning books have been published. Visible Learning for Teachers was a game-changer. Now, there are options for teachers who want to go deeper with the research in particular content areas. Options include:

Focus (2nd Edition) by Mike Schmoker
This book has become one of my favorites! Even John Hattie himself said Schmoker "has lit a fire" with this book. Schmoker has spent an extensive amount of time researching schools that have made incredible gains in student achievement. He emphasizes three areas in his book: guaranteed, viable curriculum, formative assessment, and literacy. What I appreciate most about this book is the 2nd half has dedicated chapters for specific content areas. In each of these chapters, Schmoker provides simple, applicable, and impactful strategies for content area teachers to incorporate higher quality and quantity of reading, writing, discussing, and debating. When you visit with businesses and colleges, they are saying students are not getting to them with the necessary literacy skills needed for success. Focus (2nd Edition) can help us change that!

Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess
In my opinion, student engagement is the missing link in many lesson plans. We've heard the phrase "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink." While this may be true, our efforts in the classroom should make students so thirsty they can't help but take a drink. This is where student engagement comes in. Early in my career, I felt you either had it or you didn't in regards to student engagement (creativity, engaging personality, etc.). Teach Like a Pirate (TLAP) addresses that myth and provides several applicable strategies to create an engaging learning environment.

TLAP is a fascinating book that is all about increasing student engagement, boosting creativity, and transforming our lives as educators. It has been a game-changer in education that has inspired many more incredible books by Dave Burgess Consulting.

The EduProtocol Field Guide
The EduProtocol Field Guide is a Dave Burgess Consulting book that provides many strategies and templates which simultaneously increase student engagement and incorporate the four C's (creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication). If your school utilizes laptops or Chromebooks, The EduProtocol Field Guide is a must have. 

Sometimes it's not about working harder. The strategies and protocols in this book can actually reduce a teacher's planning and grading workload. Increased engagement and learning plus a decrease in teacher workload makes this a win-win for everybody! When I finished reading this book, I recall thinking that this was one of those must-reads that every educator should have in their library.

Fish in a Tree
Fish in a Tree is different than the rest of the ones mentioned. Below is the description found on Amazon.
Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions.  She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.
The author of the beloved One for the Murphys gives readers an emotionally-charged, uplifting novel that will speak to anyone who’s ever thought there was something wrong with them because they didn’t fit in. 
As educators, it's very important for us to try to understand the root of student behaviors. Many of us have grown frustrated with behaviors students have exhibited - perhaps even calling them apathetic, lazy, etc. Fish in a Tree does an excellent job of putting readers in the mind of someone who wants to do well, but struggles because she doesn't yet know how to cope with dyslexia. This tear-jerker became a building-wide read for our school. It is an excellent book which can help grow empathy in all readers. (This can also be a great book to read as a family. Our family did this last summer. We all looked forward to reading the next chapter(s) as we shared laughter, tears, and meaningful discussions regarding the differences in people.)


It really is impossible to select just five (or so) books that are "must read" books. There are many incredible educational minds who have shared their knowledge, expertise, and experiences through literature. However, I feel there are two additional ones worth mentioning...

BONUS: There are two books, in particular, which challenge traditional mindsets and provide inspiration to be the teacher who is great at building relationships, connecting with students, and transforming the lives of those we teach. Kids Deserve It & What Great Teachers Do Differently. They are each quick reads and well worth the time spent reading them.

If there are other topics of interest, I might have suggestions for you. Don't hesitate to contact me via Twitter @DougDunnEdS.

Doug Dunn is superintendent and principal of a small K-8 school in rural, south central Missouri. He can be found on Twitter at DougDunnEdS.