Summer Homework Ideas For Teachers

Only five weeks remain before my students pack up their things, clean out their lockers, and bid me farewell.  I don’t know about you but, when the final bell rings for the year, I immediately begin to create a mental note of all the things I did this year (some great, others not so great), and of the things I want to incorporate into my classroom for next year.

Of the many things I want and need to do this summer, learning new teaching skills is definitely at the top of my list. There are many new things out there in the world of education, and so many resources that demonstrate techniques, concepts, strategies to create an engaging and exciting learning environment – they’re all just waiting to be discovered.

I plan to focus on three specific areas of improvement this summer: reading, engaging/creative teaching and, dare I say it, creating lesson plans that inspire student thinking. I have gathered a reading list of six books that will assist me in becoming a better teacher. My goals this summer: read, take notes, research, discuss with peers, and learn.

The Book Whisperer and The Daily 5/Cafe Book

I am fortunate to have a principal who is allowing me to move away from reading anthologies (not a huge fan) to books that vary in genre and ability level. With this in mind, I am looking to create new ways to incorporate these readers beyond reading groups. I did a little research online and at my local library (yes I still research hard copy style), and discovered two really great books I am adding to my “teacher's summer reading” list:  Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer and The Daily 5: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades, along with the companion book The Cafe Book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. 

I admit The Book Whisperer enticed me simply by the title. It just sounds so practical and so easy. As I skimmed through the list of chapters, the titles read like journal entries, detailing real situations in real classrooms, unlike other texts that illustrate how to execute a lesson but neglect to share the actual results in the classroom. I want to read what someone has done and how it worked - I am not interested in “do this and maybe this will happen.”

The “Walking the Walk” chapter grabbed my attention immediately. I peeked and discovered this chapter details the importance of being a reading role model for our students. I am always reading, so I was so excited that I can check off one of the items on the list! I’m always willing to share my enthusiasm for reading with anyone who will listen; it is a good thing to find that you are on the right path.

Through the books, I am hoping to engage my students in various literacy tasks (five in all), which will allow me to assist in small groups, or one on one, with a struggling reader. The two books were created to demonstrate tasks students will complete independently. These tasks will help students develop the daily habits of reading, writing, and working with peers. CAFE, I recently learned, is an acronym for Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, and Expanding vocabulary.

Teach Like a Champion

Another area I’d like to improve upon: engaging and creative teaching. For this, I search the internet daily (Pinterest is a favorite).  But I will also use the book, Teach like a Champion by Doug Lemov, as a resource. Lemov offers methods for awakening the skills and talents of your students. His chapters include setting high expectations, structuring and delivering lessons, engaging students, building a classroom culture, building character and trust, and challenging students to think critically. This is just in the first part of the book -I am going to need lots of post-its! The second part deals mostly with reading and the fundamentals. Perhaps this will tie in nicely with the two books listed above.

Understanding by Design and The Lesson Planning Handbook

The third area I’d like to improve upon is the area I dread the most - lesson plans. We all have a weak spot; writing lesson plans are my kryptonite. I have never been great at writing lesson plans, especially since the formats are often changing. For this task, I have selected two books, The Lesson Planning Handbook by Peter Brunn and sections taken from Understanding by Design by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe.

My principal and I attended an Understanding by Design conference earlier this year.  During this conference I was given the opportunity to learn another method for creating lesson plans: planning backward. Planning backwards involves three stages: identifying desired results, determining acceptable evidence, and planning learning experiences and instruction. Thankfully, the book offers examples and a template to assist teachers in this method, as this may take a bit of practice.

The Lesson Planning Handbook is written in three parts: teaching essentials, before we teach, and as we teach. The book details successful lessons, methods of organizing lessons that optimizes student thinking (always a plus), and suggests a process for planning, reviewing, and revising lesson.

Combining the techniques from these two sources may help reduce my dislike for lesson plans and finally give me a format I can follow.

Summer is just around the corner and a new school year will be here before you blink. Don't hesitate to start thinking how you will improve upon your teaching for next year: now is the perfect time to start creating a list. So, grab a chair, find a beach, and start reading.

Now that you know what’s on my summer improvement and reading list, tell me: what’s on yours? Leave your replies in the comment section, below.



If you don’t think of yourself as “creative”, then you’re thinking about it all wrong.  This powerful book helps us all to connect with what it means to be creative and how to connect with our own unique brand of artistry. Even trained artists can have trouble with creativity!  This book helps to break down the science and the art of “stealing back your creative genius”. Excited to add this one to my summer reading list!



This terrific book is a must-have for those who are looking to create arts integrated math lessons.  Robin is an Associate Director for Curriculum Integration at Rice University and will also be sharing more about this topic at our upcoming online conference.  In this book, she provides immediately-actionable activities for finding mathematical connections in various artwork from Pollack to O’Keefe.  Great for both the classroom and art class library!



Our entire team here at EdCloset LOVES the book Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess.  In this next book, Paul Solarz brings the principles to us as learners and the transformations are incredible. Definitely grab this one as part of your own “growth” library this summer.



Ever wonder how to provide students with an authentic grade that is reflective of both their knowledge and their growth?  In this book, Lewin and Shoemaker share both integrated thematic units and how to develop/implement performance tasks that make sense.



Ever wonder where big, breakthrough ideas come from? It’s not a magical event!  This book shares how we can cultivate innovation by learning from others who have done it, like Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos.  Originally written for business leaders, this book translates so easily into our own classrooms and how we develop innovative thinkers along the way.



This book from Harvard’s Project Zero co-director David Perkins provides a framework for teaching that walks you through how to teach both the bigger picture and the discrete ideas through integrated approaches.  Practical and eye-opening!





In this book from respected journalist Suzie Boss, we’re given practical advice for those who are interested in how to facilitate PBL in our own classrooms. From project design to getting parental and community support, this is a great overview of how to bring Project-Based Learning into your room without getting bogged down and frustrated.



This book from John Hattie is the next step in his groundbreaking research on how visible learning impacts students.  In this resource, he takes it to the next level with practical implementation strategies, lesson planning, and checklists/resources you can use right away.



From celebrated art historian, former curator of the MoMA, and teacher Sarah Lewis, this book takes an interesting look at how our most creative endeavors—from innovation to the arts—are not achievements but corrections after failed attempts.  After hearing Sarah speak last year at the ASCD conference in Houston, I can say this book is a MUST-READ for all educators.



If you need a little “pick me up” or as a reminder that our uniqueness is exactly what the world needs, then you need to pick up a copy of this book.  So often, we pursue pathways because we think it’s what we should do, rather than because it’s our passion.  This book helps peel back the layers and guides us all in embracing who we really are.



I was so excited about the release of this new book from one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert (who also wrote Eat, Pray Love and The Signature of All Things).  Once I picked it up, I moved through it in just under 2 days.  There are so many important lessons in here for all of us who want to inspire, create, and connect with the world but are sometimes blocked from doing so. This book gives us all hope that creativity isn’t for the lucky few, but is a birthright of our own humanity.



As we all know by now, trying to make significant changes like using Arts Integration, STEAM or PBL is difficult.  I think this is especially true in schools!  This book not only shares why this happens, but practical ways we can do something about it.  If you’re tired of the status quo and want to create change in your school, this is definitely a great place to start.



THIS is the book we’ve been waiting for!  Written for the new “maker” entrepreneur, the connections that are available for schools, leadership, innovative efforts (like Arts Integration and STEAM) are written over every single page.  You’re going to be inspired in each section and want to go make your classroom, school or district even better.



This book is a must-read for any teacher who is sick of hearing crickets whenever they ask a question (even an easy question) in their classroom.  This helpful resource shares the Question Formulation Technique that any teacher can use to help students ask their own questions that are rich, meaningful and spark their own curiosity for learning.



Almost all of us know of Sir Ken’s pivotal TED Talk on why Schools are Killing Creativity.  It has been seen more than any other TED Talk.  In his new book, though, Sir Ken is going deeper and taking a look at what creative schools might look like, what that would require and the fundamental shift that needs to take place to make this happen.



As an educator, you know all about taking risks.  In this beautiful book by Brene Brown, you’ll be encouraged to reach even farther and take the risks that matter most. Daring you to push yourself and others in your life (and classrooms) to dream bigger is the greatest gift you can give.



Ever wonder why you can put the pieces together around a topic or arts area that others just can’t? This fascinating book from Gary Klein explore what makes us tick and why each of us has a unique set of abilities and talents that give us incredible insights.



This book is a fantastic reminder of why we practice and how we practice a habit. There have been more and more studies recently that habitually practicing your creativity can make you a healthier, happier, and more productive person.  Who wouldn’t want that?





We’re going to keep adding to your professional bookshelf with this quick-read by Doug Johnson.  In this book, Doug shares why creativity is not a nice “extra” but a “must-have” in the 21st century classroom. This book delivers surefire strategies for equipping learners across all grades and subjects with the motivation and critical thinking skills to thrive in our high-tech future.



I am fascinated by what causes us all to have our own unique stamp on creativity.  This book, Wired to Create, offers a glimpse inside the “messy minds” of highly creative people. Showcasing current research, along with engaging examples of artists and innovators throughout history, the book shines a light on the practices and habits of mind that promote creative thinking.




If you ever feel like you’re alone in the world, this is the book for you.  Inside, Adam Grant showcases how the people who make the biggest, most lasting changes to our world are those who stand just outside of the box. As innovative educators, you’ll find yourself reflected in page after page in this book.



In this book, The Little Spark: 30 Ways to Ignite Your Creativity, you’ll find not only some great exercises to open up your creative spirit, but also tips for how to make room for it in your daily life.



This book is from artist and author Elle Luna, who will be a keynote speaker at this summer’s online Arts Integration and STEAM conference.  It’s about the difference between jobs, careers, and callings. If you’re looking for an inspirational, quick read – this is a great option.



Any book by Seth Godin immediately goes to the top of my reading pile and this one is no different.  Once you start to read this book, you’re going to have trouble getting through it.  Only because you’ll want to get up and get started on whatever it is that you’re passionate about.


Need some new ways to teach vocabulary?  There are 13 different games provided in this book with terms from E/LA, Math, Science and Social Studies.  I’ve also found that these games work well with key terms found in all arts areas.



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