Thursday, March 10, 2011

Reading for the Classroom: 101 "Answers" for New Teachers and Word Smart

It's been a busy week -- that's just how it is in the teaching world sometimes, especially in the whirlwind before spring break and then state standardized testing. I bring you two books today that will be especially helpful for educators, but also for anyone involved in a career with children and young adults. Actually, anyone involved in a "helping" profession and anyone who is a parent. Does that sufficiently pique your interest?

Two books have made a huge impact on my teaching this year: Annette Breaux's 101 "Answers" for New Teachers and Their Mentors: Effective Teaching Tips for Daily Classroom Use and The Princeton Review's Word Smart: Building an Educated Vocabulary.

I had the opportunity to hear Annette Breaux speak last fall, and the experience was amazing. Breaux is a motivational speaker for educators. She offers practical, down-to-earth advice that you might think would be common sense, but teachers -- like everyone else -- need reminders every now and again. One of her most frequent refrains sounds like a cliche: fake it 'til you make it. Smile at your students (even when you're not happy), greet them (even if you're not necessarily happy to see them), treat them with respect (even when they aren't respecting you).

The wisdom that can be gained from "fake it 'til you make it" goes on and on -- and can be applied to life, no matter your profession. Her book 101 "Answers" addresses many of the concepts Breaux shared in her educator presentation, but also other gems like: remember your favorite teacher (for tips on what to do), remember your worst teacher (for tips on what not to do), and always focus on the positive. An excellent, quick read for educators, parents, everyone -- really.

Word Smart was a used book store find I uncovered several months ago. It has served for the basis of my "Word of the Day" activity ever since. The book offers an extensive list of words often seen in the academic world, from standardized test questions to the SAT and ACT to college classrooms and adult reading. Although the book offers many activities, like quizzes after each section, it is organized alphabetically and works well with my method -- flipping through its pages until I find something I like!

I have always tried to give my students a good mix of words, but I love using Word Smart as a base list. It really helps keep our vocabulary-building focused. My students who are intent on doing well in high school and extending their education to the college level like the fact that it's published by The Princeton Review and that it is specifically aimed towards increasing their vocabularies for future use. I highly recommend it for anyone who has an interest in vocabulary building.

Don't expect to find random, arcane words to help your crossword puzzle skills. Rather, this book is filled with highly-used, yet sometimes misunderstood vocabulary words. It will really serve to increase your reading comprehension  in a wide variety of settings -- newspapers, online news articles, magazine articles, as well as literary pursuits.

Enjoy these educational offerings, and check back tomorrow for some fun, March Madness-style Book News!

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