Professional Development Books Worth Reading {Comprehension & Collaboration}

I don't know about you but I never have the time during the school year to read all the great professional books that I hear about throughout the year.  I usually have an ongoing list of like 20+ books I want to check out and can't wait until summer to read. So here at The Elementary Entourage we want to bring you some of our suggestions that we have read and loved.  These books have made huge changes to our teaching and we'd love if you'd check them out and let us know what you think!

I am in full summer reading mode and spent the weekend reading 2 great new books for the book studies I am a part of this summer. Teaching with Intention with our very own Greg from The Kindergarten Smorgasbord and Learn Like a Pirate with Amanda from The Primary Gal. I am loving both books, and will be sharing all about them on my blog over the next 2 months.  But for now I wanted to share a book that I read a few years ago and has really changed the way I think about student collaboration in the classroom, "Comprehension & Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action" by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels.
If you are considering trying out small group inquiry or project based learning in your classroom then this book is for you.  I could go on and on about all of the amazing things in this book, but to really get the most out of it you will definitely want to grab your own copy.  Our school district bought us a copy, but I went out and bought my own after I left because that's just how much I love this book and I knew I would want to keep it and use it in the future wherever I end up.

Here is just a quick run down of what you will learn in this book:

  • Why should we shift from teacher led classrooms to more student led small group inquiry projects? Students need to be involved in their learning! We need to move past the outdated passive, coverage approach to education and help prepare students to think, collaborate, and drive their own learning.
  • How to create an effective learning environment for active learning, including how to effectively use technology.
  • explanations of 4 different types of inquiry models: mini-inquiries, curricular inquiries, literature circle inquiries, and open inquiries. There are great real classroom examples of each that span K-12 with great ideas to get you going.
  • Tips for assessing, evaluating and managing inquiry circles.  I'm not going to lie it is rough getting started when you are used to having so much teacher control, but the results are so amazing and totally worth it when you see the deep thinking, understanding and motivation in your students.
  • And last but not least 27 lessons in comprehension, collaboration, and inquiry (AKA pretty much the best part of this book ever!) Seriously, these lessons are a fantastic starting point if you are new to teaching collaboration, comprehension and inquiry.  
Here's a peek at a few of my favorite lessons from the book:
 For comprehension, I love this lesson that emphasizes thinking, questioning, and learning from pictures.  When you teach kindergarten, you know the struggle of students finding information when they can't read more complex texts yet.  So this lesson helps my students understand how to find information even before they can read!
 All of the collaboration lessons in this book are great, and I revisit each of them often, but the most important ones are definitely the first turn and talk lesson, and the Showing Friendliness and Support lesson.  These lessons teach students how to talk to and encourage each other in the classroom. This is the foundation for successful inquiry in the classroom.
And one of the best inquiry lessons is the first lesson as well in which students create research notebooks.  My kindergartners loved writing in their research notebooks because they felt so grown up and it really helped them keep track of their work.  For me these notebooks were a great way to assess their progress and see the great work that they were doing.

Do you use inquiry circles or project based learning? Have you read this book? I'd love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and questions in the comments. Happy summer reading :)

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