Teachers for Teachers | It’s Monday! A Powerful New Book to Lift Our Teaching to a New Level
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It’s Monday! A Powerful New Book to Lift Our Teaching to a New Level


In my 19, almost 20 years of parenting, I have learned a lot of lessons.  But one that has stayed with me through the years is the advice a doctor gave me, “You know,” she said, “When we fix something for someone or solve his problem we sometimes rob that person of building his own problem-solving skills.  She calls it “missing a problem-solving opportunity.”  Even though I struggle with this, I now analyze parenting situations through a “problem-solving opportunity lens.”   This new lens helps me pause and think about the possible learning opportunities that hide inside a specific situation before I jump into problem-solving mode.


When Clare and I read Who’s Doing the Work?  by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris I was reminded of the “problem-solving opportunity lens”  this doctor taught me.  The authors urge us to scrutinize our lessons through the “lens of student independence/dependence.”   They say, “…if we want students to use strategies independently, we must question the ways our “scaffolding” may get in the way.” What an important concept!  We must think about how the learning experiences we design and the language we use will empower students.  We want students to not only feel empowered to use strategies as they read, but to also know when, why and how to employ them independently.

To begin thinking about lesson design through the lens of student independence/dependence, the first chapter focuses on a topic near and dear to our hearts – formative assessment.  Jan and Kim use a simple, yet powerful graphic (check out the free online version of this book at Stenhouse), to help us watch closely to understand a child’s reading process; to identify each student’s strengths; and determine possible next steps.   The authors want us to remember that if we want students to do “more of the work” then it is our job to learn everything we can about them as readers and writers.

The subsequent chapters are filled with specific ideas about key instructional literacy practices (read aloud, shared reading and guided reading) to help us reflect on own instruction and make specific and palpable changes so that students are “doing more of the work.”   We love the way each chapter gives a crystal clear picture of what “next generation” read-aloud, shared reading and guided reading look like.   They share what’s tricky about the specific instructional practice, common misconceptions, cautionary tales and snapshots from K-6 classrooms.  This structure makes it easy to think through subtle, yet significant, changes we can make to our teaching practices to build students’ independence.

So if you are looking for a book to help you reflect and refine your own practices, this is the book we recommend.  It is a book we believe will help move current teaching practices to a “higher notch.”  We know we will be sharing this book with teachers in our partnership schools and we will come back to this text again and again to reflect on our own teaching practices to think about “Who’s Doing the Work.”

Tammy and Clare

  • Avatar
    Posted at 12:01h, 12 September Reply

    I couldn’t agree more. I love this book. It fits with the mantra I have been sharing for years, “Whoever does the work, does the learning.” I LOVE THIS BOOK!! Thanks for posting about it-I hope it finds its way into the hands of many teachers.

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      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 23:57h, 12 September Reply

      Hi Paula,
      We are certainly going to be recommending it to lots of teachers – We love it too!

      Tammy and Clare

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    Jane @ Raincity Librarian
    Posted at 17:02h, 12 September Reply

    I remember when I was starting out as an ESL instructor, and especially when it came to speaking classes were were told to follow the 80-20 rule – the students should be speaking 80% of the time, since we already knew how to speak English, thank you very much! It was a good reminder – even if I don’t necessarily follow a specific formula anymore, it’s helpful to remember that my job is really to facilitate learning, to provide support and guidance so that my students can get as much benefit from my classes as possible.

    • Avatar
      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 00:11h, 13 September Reply

      Hi Jane,

      We love this book because it helps you to remember the 80-20 rule and to think about specific ways to encourage students to take more ownership of the learning.

      Tammy and Clare

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    Michele Knott
    Posted at 21:43h, 12 September Reply

    I can’t wait to dig into this book. I pre ordered it but summer was too busy to get into it. There have been so many great professional books that have come out recently. Between this one, Still Learning to Read, and Becoming a Literacy Leader… so much to get caught up on!

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      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 00:12h, 13 September Reply

      Hi Michele,

      Still Learning to Read and Becoming a Literacy Leader are both on the top of our TBR stack too. So many books… so little time.

      Tammy and Clare

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    Posted at 01:05h, 13 September Reply

    Read this amazing book earlier in the summer and I’ve already gone back many times to my post-it notes marking my favorite excerpts. Shared the dance metaphor with a group of instructional coaches last week and we had a great discussion about how to pass on that brilliant piece with the teachers we serve. Probably one of the best professional books I’ve read in this past year! So happy to see you write about it here.

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    Posted at 01:21h, 13 September Reply

    This was one of my most important summer reads – so much wisdom!

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    Myra from GatheringBooks
    Posted at 07:35h, 13 September Reply

    I love it when you feature professional development texts. Definitely one that I should find. 🙂

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