Outside the Classroom

December’s Top New Books for Educators

Looking for some interesting books to give as gifts, or some good, informative reads to enjoy this holiday season? December’s top new books for educators address topics for all kinds of educators, whether you find yourself teaching online, in-person, or some combination in between.

Our eight picks for December’s top new books for educators are great for those who are continuously adapting their teaching styles—cap off this challenging year with one of the books below, and enjoy your very well-deserved time off!

Lessons for Learning: 12 Building Blocks for Effective Teaching
Tim Surma, Kristel Vanhoyweghen, Dominique Sluijsmans, Gino Camp, Daniel Muijs, Paul A. Kirschner

How do you create effective lessons? How do you develop and implement what solid empirical research tells us about what works in the classroom? How do we help learners to learn more effectively, efficiently, and enjoyably? These are the core questions of the book Lessons for Learning: 12 Building Blocks for Effective Teaching.

This book is positioned at the crossroads between scientific research on learning, teaching, and teacher effectiveness on the one hand and good teaching and classroom practice on the other. The authors present twelve evidence-informed didactical building blocks for good teaching and learning. They explain why those building blocks work and give concrete examples of how to apply them in the classroom. For each building block, the authors provide additional theoretical and practical resources.

The authors combined have more than 20,000 hours of practical teaching experience at different levels and represent broad expertise in carrying out high-quality empirical research on teaching and learning. They also solicited and received help in writing the book from scores of teachers who provided practical examples to illustrate how they got started with and use the building blocks in their daily practice.

The Assessment Playbook for Distance and Blended Learning: Measuring Student Learning in Any Setting
Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, Vince Bustamante, John Hattie

Design assessments that measure and target student learning in both face-to-face and distance learning environments

Assessments are the essential link between teaching and learning, yet the assessments used in face-to-face classrooms are not always practical or impactful in remote learning environments. Now that teachers are teaching from a distance, how will you assess what your students have learned?

Tapping the expertise of teachers who are successfully engaged in distance learning, The Assessment Playbook for Distance and Blended Learning answers that question. Rich with a wide range of examples, strategies, and assessments that can be leveraged with rigor and fidelity regardless of the learning environment, this practical playbook empowers teachers with the decision-making tools needed to gauge the impact of instructional strategies in today’s rapidly evolving educational landscape. It features:

  • “Assessment cookies,” or insights that endure in any distance or hybrid learning environment and can be used to inform assessment decisions, including the understanding that “everything is searchable.”
  • A robust “playlist” of distance learning assessment tools—including universal response, teach-back opportunities, composing, taking action, self-assessment, and peer assessment—that teachers can mix and deploy to match every learning intention.
  • Information on how to evaluate the impact of your teaching on student learning—and how assessment can guide your teaching moves.
  • Characteristics of formal tools of evaluation, such as tests, longer essays, and performance tasks that teachers can use in distance learning environments to document learning for reporting purposes.

A Parent’s Guide to Powerful Teaching
Patrice M. Bain

“I’m not sure how to help my child with schoolwork.” “I see my child study for tests and not do well.” “How much help is too much? Or not enough?” As a parent, do you have questions like these? For students reading this book, have you ever thought: I studied all night and didn’t do well on the test? Do you question why spending more time on schoolwork often does not reflect increased learning or higher grades?

We all think we know how to study. Many of us have spent years in educational settings. Because we have learned, do we know how learning occurs? Often the answer is no. Fewer than 10% of students have parents who are certified educators. Where can the other 90% of parents go to find answers? If you are a student, where can you go to find out how to maximize learning while spending less time doing so? The answer is this guide.

Patrice Bain has shown thousands of students with a wide range of abilities on how to increase school performance. Having worked with cognitive scientists in the classroom for over half of her 25+ year teaching career, Bain knows how students learn and has developed strategies that increase memory, grades, and retention of material. This book is not about fads or the latest shiny gadgets. Instead, this guide, based on rigorous research, gives the inside look into how all of us learn best. Filled with stories making learning relevant, and strategies to use at home, this guide will be like having a seat in Mrs. Bain’s engaging classroom.

Distance Learning for Elementary STEM: Creative Projects for Teachers and Families
Amanda Thomas

Online and distance learning may sound fairly straightforward. Instead of learning in a classroom setting, students learn at home with the assistance of online resources. But classroom learning does not always translate easily to online settings, particularly at the elementary level where children should be actively engaging in activities, exploration, and discussion.

For STEM subjects, integration across subjects, settings, and play-based versus traditional learning presents opportunities for young learners to engage in age-appropriate online and distance learning. This book features eight creative, integrated STEM lessons, including ideas for designing a zoo, learning to garden, exploring the night sky, and more. Each lesson offers online, traditional, and hands-on components, with connections to the ISTE Standards and STEM standards across elementary grades.

Each of the eight lessons includes:

  • An overview of materials, resources, time, and supervision needed.
  • Suggested resources to explore, such as simulations and virtual field trips.
  • Supplementary learning materials such as questions and quizzes.
  • Ideas for games and reinforcement.
  • Hands-on activities and engineering design challenges.
  • Connections to various content areas as well as children’s books, movies, and art to keep the learning going after the lesson is completed.

Concluding with a model for designing online and distance STEM learning for elementary-aged children, this book will support teachers and parents in designing the types of resources and learning experiences they need for elementary students’ distance learning.

Teacher Burnout Turnaround: Strategies for Empowered Educators
Patricia A. Jennings

Stress and burnout are eroding teachers’ motivation, performance, quality of classroom interactions, and relationships with students, as well as their commitment to the profession. Principals are leaving in droves, and teacher shortages are becoming the new normal. Our teachers are underappreciated and our schools under resourced. But, as the author of Mindfulness for Teachers and The Trauma-Sensitive Classroom points out, educators themselves have the power to alter this downward spiral.

Educational psychologist Tish Jennings presents a matrix of stress-causing factors that lead to burnout and shows how teachers can tackle the sources of stress at each pressure point. From the development of social and emotional competencies—so important to teachers and students alike—to the achievement of systemic change through collective efficacy, she offers hope and practical remedies for overcoming a toxic trend in education.

Humanizing Distance Learning: Centering Equity and Humanity in Times of Crisis
Paul Emerich France

“In some ways, shouldn’t we always be teaching from a distance?”

Paul France asks this not as a pitch for distance learning, but because part of the reason distance learning has been so challenging, Paul asserts, is that we’re replicating long-standing practices that promote dependent learning in our students. Why not use this unique moment of time to reconnect with the true purpose of teaching: to help our students become liberated learners and free thinkers?

The next logical step in teachers’ months-long distance learning “journey,” Humanizing Distance Learning describes how to center humanity and equity in our process of reimagining learning. Even while teaching and learning miles apart through screens, you’ll discover how to:

  • Build independence within your students so they’re better equipped to tackle challenges with persistence and learn how to learn
  • Make collaboration and human connection essential components of your pedagogy, offering students the chance to socialize and learn from one another
  • Center and unpack stu­dents’ identities, helping them develop a conscious knowledge of themselves, all the while using their self-identified strengths to overcome any obstacles
  • Plan, prepare, and implement humanized instruction while teaching for student liberation—both digitally and in person
  • Investigate technol­ogy integration, including the Digital Divide, as well as ways to minimize EdTech integration so that our collective sense of humanity can continue to be front and center

“The future,” Paul writes, “may be unclear, the road may be rocky, and the story may continue to be long and winding as we push forward through this global crisis. But the answer will always be simple: We must teach and learn in pursuit of a deeper sense of collective humanity—and for no other reason.”

Adventures in Authentic Learning: 21 Step-by-Step Projects from an EdTech Coach
Kristin Harrington

This insider’s guide from a seasoned technology coach provides classroom teachers with ideas and strategies to help students develop real-world projects to support authentic learning.

Not every teacher has a dedicated coach who can support them in the classroom. Even those who do can benefit from additional ideas and support from a seasoned coach. Written by an experienced instructional technologist, this book is designed to help fill this role, showing teachers how to empower students to take charge of their learning and provide creative and authentic opportunities for students to demonstrate their knowledge through projects.

With this book, teachers will get the guidance they need to help students engage in learning experiences that allow them to reflect on their level of knowledge and what they need to learn while exploring topics that correspond with their interests. Instead of providing text-based slideshow presentations that students read off a screen, teachers will learn to guide students in creating tutorial videos, providing peer reviews, curating their own resources, and participating in debates. The book:

  • Shows how to take the fear out of edtech projects and presentations, while helping educators solve the problem of finding time to develop and manage authentic projects.
  • Offers a blueprint for implementing high-quality strategies and lesson ideas in classes, with a plethora of practical resources to inspire students.
  • Demonstrates the importance of pedagogy before tech, with some activities highlighting a blend of hands-on learning and technology.
  • Aligns projects to the ISTE Standards, providing a road map for creating valuable opportunities to help students become successful lifelong learners.
  • Includes at least three thematically linked projects in every chapter, as well as examples from other educators who are modeling the ideas in the book.

Make Virtual Learning Matter: How to Turn Virtual Classrooms into a Remarkable, Authentic Experience for Kids
Jacob Mnookin, Paul Axtell

While few things can replace in-person learning, virtual learning can create an extraordinary opportunity for students. In fact, often more immediate, flexible, and for many students growing up and learning in this virtual age, more authentic: virtual learning, when yielded properly, can create amazing results.

So how can you make virtual learning a force for good in your child’s life?

From education expert Jacob Mnookin and virtual meeting expert Paul Axtell, comes a tool to ensure virtual learning at its finest. Together with our children and their teachers, we can help ensure that our kids are back on track, learning as they would be in a school building.

Did you miss last month’s recommendations? It’s not too late to see November’s top books for educators.

About the Author


Where Learning Clicks

Since 1998, Edgenuity has been creating products and services that help all students achieve their full potential. As an extension of our efforts, we also produce Where Learning Clicks to share meaningful and timely ideas about trends, developments, and changes in education, as well as how to further incorporate technology into today’s classrooms.