Outside the Classroom

January’s Top 5 Books on Education: See What’s Coming Out This Month!

Every month, hundreds of new books for educators are released, so finding the best ones can be difficult. To better help you, your students, and your coworkers, we’ve put together a list of January’s top 5 books on education. Covering such topics as how coding can make learning math engaging; a revolutionary program high schools in Chicago are using to help at-risk students; and how to adjust your teaching when students are completing some or all of their learning online, these books are full of great information to help you better serve your students and do your job. Check out what we picked for you this month!

All Learning Is Social and Emotional: Helping Students Develop Essential Skills for the Classroom and Beyond
Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher, and Dominique Smith

While social and emotional learning (SEL) is most familiar as compartmentalized programs separate from academics, the truth is, all learning is social and emotional. What teachers say, the values we express, the materials and activities we choose, and the skills we prioritize all influence how students think, see themselves, and interact with content and with others.

If you teach kids rather than standards, and if you want all kids to get what they need to thrive, Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher, and Dominique Smith offer a solution: a comprehensive, five-part model of SEL that’s easy to integrate into everyday content instruction, no matter what subject or grade level you teach. You’ll learn the hows and whys of

  • Building students’ sense of identity and confidence in their ability to learn, overcome challenge, and influence the world around them.
  • Helping students identify, describe, and regulate their emotional responses.
  • Promoting the cognitive regulation skills critical to decision making and problem solving.
  • Fostering students’ social skills, including teamwork and sharing, and their ability to establish and repair relationships.
  • Equipping students to becoming informed and involved citizens.

Along with a toolbox of strategies for addressing 33 essential competencies, you’ll find real-life examples highlighting the many opportunities for social and emotional learning within the K–12 academic curriculum. Children’s social and emotional development is too important to be an add-on or an afterthought, too important to be left to chance. Use this book’s integrated SEL approach to help your students build essential skills that will serve them in the classroom and throughout their lives.

The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive
W. Thomas Boyce

From one of the world’s foremost researchers and pioneers of pediatric health—a book that offers hope and a pathway to success for parents, teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and child development experts coping with “difficult” children, fully exploring the author’s revolutionary discovery about childhood development, parenting, and the key to helping all children find happiness and success.

“Based on groundbreaking research that has the power to change the lives of countless children—and the adults who love them.” — Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts.

In Tom Boyce’s extraordinary new book, he explores the “dandelion” child (hardy, resilient, healthy), able to survive and flourish under most circumstances, and the “orchid” child (sensitive, susceptible, fragile), who, given the right support, can thrive as much as, if not more than, other children.

Boyce writes of his pathfinding research as a developmental pediatrician working with troubled children in child-development research for almost four decades, and explores his major discovery that reveals how genetic make-up and environment shape behavior. He writes that certain variant genes can increase a person’s susceptibility to depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and antisocial, sociopathic, or violent behaviors. But rather than seeing this “risk” gene as a liability, Boyce, through his daring research, has recast the way we think of human frailty, and has shown that while these “bad” genes can create problems, they can also, in the right setting and the right environment, result in producing children who not only do better than before but far exceed their peers. Orchid children, Boyce makes clear, are not failed dandelions; they are a different category of child, with special sensitivities and strengths, and need to be nurtured and taught in special ways. And in The Orchid and the Dandelion, Boyce shows us how to understand these children for their unique sensibilities, their considerable challenges, their remarkable gifts.

Math Adventures with Python: An Illustrated Guide to Exploring Math with Code
Peter Farrell 

Math Adventures with Python will show you how to harness the power of programming to keep math relevant and fun. With the aid of the Python programming language, you’ll learn how to visualize solutions to a range of math problems as you use code to explore key mathematical concepts like algebra, trigonometry, matrices, and cellular automata.

Once you’ve learned the programming basics like loops and variables, you’ll write your own programs to solve equations quickly, make cool things like an interactive rainbow grid, and automate tedious tasks like factoring numbers and finding square roots. You’ll learn how to write functions to draw and manipulate shapes, create oscillating sine waves, and solve equations graphically.

You’ll also learn how to:

  • Draw and transform 2D and 3D graphics with matrices
  • Make colorful designs like the Mandelbrot and Julia sets with complex numbers
  • Use recursion to create fractals like the Koch snowflake and the Sierpinski triangle
  • Generate virtual sheep that graze on grass and multiply autonomously
  • Crack secret codes using genetic algorithms

As you work through the book’s numerous examples and increasingly challenging exercises, you’ll code your own solutions, create beautiful visualizations, and see just how much more fun math can be!

The Make-or-Break Year: Solving the Dropout Crisis One Ninth Grader at a Time
Emily Krone Phillips

An entirely fresh approach to ending the high school dropout crisis is revealed in this groundbreaking chronicle of unprecedented transformation in a city notorious for its “failing schools.”

“You’ve got close to educational meltdown here in Chicago. Is there a worse case?” —William Bennett, former U.S. secretary of education

In eighth grade, Eric thought he was going places. But by his second semester of freshman year at Hancock High, his D’s in Environmental Science and French, plus an F in Mr. Castillo’s Honors Algebra class, might have suggested otherwise. Research shows that students with more than one semester F during their freshman year are very unlikely to graduate. If Eric had attended Hancock—or any number of Chicago’s public high schools—just a decade earlier, chances are good he would have dropped out. Instead, Hancock’s new way of responding to failing grades, missed homework, and other red flags made it possible for Eric to get back on track.

The Make-or-Break Year is the largely untold story of how a simple idea—that reorganizing schools to get students through the treacherous transitions of freshman year greatly increases the odds of those students graduating—changed the course of two Chicago high schools, an entire school system, and thousands of lives. Marshaling groundbreaking research on the teenage brain, peer relationships, and academic performance, journalist turned communications expert Emily Krone Phillips details the emergence of Freshman OnTrack, a program-cum-movement that is translating knowledge into action—and revolutionizing how teachers grade, mete out discipline, and provide social, emotional, and academic support to their students.

This vivid description of real change in a faulty system will captivate anyone who cares about improving our nation’s schools; it will inspire educators and families to reimagine their relationships with students like Eric, and others whose stories affirm the pivotal nature of ninth grade for all young people. In a moment of relentless focus on what doesn’t work in education and the public sphere, Phillips’s dramatic account examines what does.

Teaching Children Online: A Conversation-based Approach
Carla Meskill, Natasha Anthony

What does best practice in online education look like? How can educators make use of the affordances offered by online environments to bring out the best in the children they teach? These questions are answered in this new textbook, written with experienced teachers, novice educators, and teacher educators in mind. Meskill and Anthony offer a wealth of examples of what successful online teaching looks like, and provide a rich source of practical, conversation-based strategies for optimizing online learning. This book will inspire anyone teaching or planning to teach fully online, or in a blended or hybrid format, by demonstrating how well constructed online conversations constitute powerful teaching.

Did you miss last month’s recommendations? It’s not too late to see December’s top books on education!

About the Author

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Laura Almozara

As a child, Laura spent a lot of time reading and telling stories, at one point reading a new book every day. She took that interest with her to college, where she studied English and journalism. She then started working in publishing and eventually made her way to edtech. Laura is excited to be a part of the Where Learning Clicks team, helping to provide innovative education tools to some of the people who need them most.