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Tip of the Week: Summer Reading List 2017

This year may be a little tough. My July is scheduled full of days that I get to spend with social studies teachers around the country. But my hopes are high.

Regular History Tech readers already know this – every summer since I finished my first year as a middle school US history teacher, I’ve put together a summer reading list. Several teachers down the hall had taken me into their inner circle and suggested, very strongly, that I needed to do more during the summer months than life guard and paint houses – that growing professionally over the summer was a non-negotiable. This professional growth might include some sort of face to face professional learning opportunity but it definitely included creating a personal reading list.

Best. Advice. Ever. It’s really more than just a reading list – it’s the idea that teachers need to continually work on honing their craft and a summer reading list is a practical way to make that happen. So . . . I picked some books with content. Some with process. Some for fun. And started the fall semester smarter than when I left in the spring. So have been doing it ever since.

The problem is that I have never, not once, not ever, finished my summer list. And July obligations and an extensive honey-do list makes it unlikely that 2017 is the year I actually cross the finish line.


But I’m still creating the list. Cause . . . you know. It could happen. I could finish. I’m not kidding around this year. Seriously.

There’s no real theme this summer. Just a few books that look interesting and that should make me better at what I do:

Examining the Evidence: Seven Strategies for Teaching with Primary Sources
Primary sources are the very documents that history is made of. This book shares a variety of strategies that teachers can use to make primary sources come alive for students and to enhance visual literacy, using photographs and powerful primary source texts.

The Magicians series
It’s a bit like Harry Potter. Magic. Magic school. Kids who learn magic. Kids who are learning magic get into hilarious hijinks. Except . . . for grownups. And the hijinks aren’t that hilarious. A three part series that I read when it first came out and need to reread. Because Cory Doctorow says that “The Magicians may just be the most subversive, gripping and enchanting fantasy novel I’ve read this century.” So . . .

The Geography of Genius: Lessons from the World’s Most Creative Places
The Geography of Genius wants to examine the connection between our surroundings and our most innovative ideas by exploring the history of places like Vienna of 1900, Renaissance Florence, ancient Athens, Song Dynasty Hangzhou, and Silicon Valley, to show how certain urban settings are conducive to ingenuity. The back cover claims that this “informed romp through history will surely jumpstart a national conversation.” I don’t know about that but it does look interesting.

Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America and 
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
As we read stories of white supremacists with torches, Nazi slogans, and connections to the White House protesting at Confederate memorials and alt-right bloggers seating in national press conferences, we need to have a better understanding of the history of American race relations. These two award winning books will help.

The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For
I’ve always enjoyed a little David McCullough – winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This collection of his speeches “remind us of fundamental American principles . . . regardless of which region we live in, which political party we identify with, or our ethnic background. This is a book about America for all Americans that reminds us who we are and helps to guide us as we find our way forward.”

From Inquiry to Action: Civic Engagement with Project-Based Learning in All Content Areas
I’ve had this book lying around for the last few months. I need to get to it. It looks like what we’re trying to figure out here in Kansas. “. . . projects that give students choice, ownership over their learning, incredible motivation, and a sense of voice and power that only comes from focusing on and applying their learning to real-world situations. It’s not enough to just talk about change or practice in mock legislatures. When students see adults actually listening to them with respect, that is when they begin to realize they have a voice and can make a difference in their world.”

BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships, and Empower Learning
 claims to move schools “beyond mascots and clever taglines to showcase a school’s assets and enhance communication with students, parents, and all stakeholders.” Here at ESSDACK, we’re learning about how we can tell our story more effectively. BrandED looks like it might help.

So . . . What’s on your list? What am I missing?


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Glenn is a curriculum and integration specialist, speaker, and blogger with a passion for technology and social studies. He delivers engaging professional learning across the country with a focus on consulting, presentations, and keynotes. Find out more about Glenn and how you might learn together by going to his Work with Me page.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. jmgarner2003 #

    I saw Patrick Phillips, author of Blood At The Root speak about his book not long ago. Very powerful book. I’d be interested in your thoughts after you read it

    I too, create a summer reading list and never manage to get to the end. We all have to have goals, right?

    May 16, 2017
    • glennw #

      Someday we’ll actually finished our lists! But I am halfway through the second of three Magician books. So . . . I’ve got a good feeling about this year. 😉

      I’m just a little afraid of Blood at the Root – I browsed through it at a bookstore and have a general idea of the events. The personal and oral history pieces seem especially powerful. It’s a story that we all need to hear, accept, and be challenged by. But it’s not the typical beach vacation book.

      I’m trying to think through and develop some sort of a civic engagement program as part of a state level social studies assessment. And am looking to find a way to incorporate these sorts of uncomfortable but necessary tales of national / state history and current events into that program.

      Thanks for the comment!


      May 16, 2017
      • jmgarner2003 #

        I actually live now in Forsyth County. It is certainly a story that needed to be written and must be read. It’s a hard read, but an important one.

        May 16, 2017

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Summer Road Trip – Have Fun And Get Some Professional Development | Doing Social Studies
  2. Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters book is disrupting my summer reading plans | History Tech

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