Book Reviews


Awaken the Learner
Robert J. Marzano, Darrell Scott

“This text is one that would benefit all educators including faculties of education as it puts a perspective on what educators can do to fully engage students and how we can be more effective in our classrooms. An interesting focus was shared in terms of how we can be more effective and efficient.The belief is to decrease the amount of time directly teaching knowledge and to increase the amount of time directly teaching cognitive skills. Too often educators get caught up in the curriculum and forget about the needs of the students. We need to build relationships, help students be problem solvers and critical thinkers, understand the role of metacognition and how this affects learning. As stated in the text “people who feel competent and effective intrinsically motivated and usually experience positive emotions when confronted with tasks that are challenging” p. 138. We need to look at how direct instruction in cognitive skills, practice of these skills more closely. Direct instruction develops understanding, confidence and inspiration in students. Students can all be successful but it is the role of educators to make them feel accepted and supported as they will be positive and engaged in their learning. When a student feels successful the moon is the limit and Scott and Marzano gives the reader food for thought in terms of what needs to be practiced in our classrooms to be effective educators so that we meet the needs of all our students.

On a personal note, I feel that this would be an ideal book for a book club.”

Shelley, Ottawa Carleton District School Board, ON


“Awaken the Learner is presented to the reader in two parts and is the result of a collaborative effort between Darrell Scott and Robert Marzano. The book attempts to shed light on how educators can better understand student thinking and decision making and use this information to “awaken” the students so that learning, along with acceptance, can be maximized.

The first part of the book highlights the personal and tragic account of Scott losing his daughter Rachel, in the tragic events at Columbine high school years ago. The story that is so dear to him has resulted in the creation of Rachel’s Challenge, a program that has touched numerous youth and transformed their thinking by reaching their hearts, heads, and hands. He speaks of Rachel’s story as inspiring and how many youth have learned from the experience and tried to make a difference in their learning environment when it comes to fitting in, bullying, and making a difference.

In the second part of the book, Marzano focuses on research based practices that will allow for teachers to create a positive student centered environment where the focus is on teaching cognitive skills in order to help students understand content and also be able to connect with their peers ideas and various point of views. I found this second section to be very thorough and would allow for all educators to understand the “how” of what Marzano describes. Through much detail, Marzano illustrates a picture for how educators should structure their classes and monitor the system he suggests to create an environment that focuses on students’ needs and awakens the learner in all.”

Maryam, Toronto District School Board, ON

Building Proportional Reasoning
Marian Small

“The title alone was an eye catcher for me as Proportional Reasoning is a big topic within the Ontario Ministry of Education this current year. This is a resource for all teachers from K-8 and what makes it so teacher-friendly is that examples are given at each grade level with a clear developmental explanation for teachers to consolidate their own mathematical understanding. The author demonstrates what a good question looks like which is essential to push student thinking. Charts, visuals, and images are clear to further support teachers who might find this topic challenging to teach. Two key components of this book are: What is Proportional Thinking and The Essential Understandings Related to Proportional Thinking. Many of the questions are integrated through the strands which allows the teacher to develop quality questions and teaching more than one strand at a time. It is all about developing those key questions.”

Shelley, Ottawa Carleton District School Board, ON


“This is a very useful book for K-8 teachers. It pulls out the curriculum expectations that are related to proportional reasoning in the primary grades, when PR is not explicitly in our curriculum. It defines proportional reasoning as thinking of numbers in relative terms, rather than absolute terms.

It finds the links to proportional reasoning in the different math strands – Number sense – fractions, multiplication and division, money, ratios, rate, powers -Measurement – the inverse relationship between size of units and number you need, measurement formulas and conversions, volume and surface area -Geometry – angle measures -Data Management and Probability-graphing using scales, predicting likelihood and data relationships -Patterning and Algebra – comparing pattern growth, and using equations to express proportional relationships.

As usual with Marian Small, it gives you many open questions (in each grade and topic) that you can use to encourage students to think proportionally.

I found this to be a useful book to pull together a lot of content, to see the relationships between ideas, and to give students and teachers a new set of tools that can be used to understand and solve problems in many different content areas. If you have liked other Marian Small books, like the Good Questions book, this has a similar format and Marian Small’s usual clear explanations of content and strategies.”

Julia, Toronto District School Board , ON

Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard
Sameer Hinduja, Justin W. Patchin

“This is a comprehensive text regarding prevention and intervention when dealing with cyberbullying. What is key about this resource is the evidence based statistical information that is drawn throughout and the real life cases that are used to support and deepen the key characteristics when looking at cyberbullying. Without a doubt, after reading this text, you not only have a crystal clear understanding of the topic but you even have a legal perspective which clearly underlines how a student, family, and community can protect themselves from cyberbullying. Each chapter has a summary which really chunks the key points.

As an educator, I would most definitely use this text for a book club. I would not only involve the staff within the school but the community as well. The case studies and questions outlined are instrumental in having a common understanding of how to deal with cyberbullying and what this word actually means. Some of the questions make you think outside the box which is a reality when dealing with technology as it is constantly changing. This makes the prevention and intervention of cyberbullying on ongoing challenge. Saying this, this text has intensive statistics, case studies, scenarios, surveys, and assessment tools to assist us with cyberbullying. In summary, the tools shared are meant to further assist us to stop the abuse of the negative impact it can have and has had on children and young adults. As the result of cyberbullying some individuals have lost all hope and took their own life. This text will definitely give you insight and the information needed to not only understand this form of bullying but what we can do about it.”

Shelley, Ottawa Carleton District School Board, ON


Deliberate Optimism
Debbie Silver, Jack C. Berckemeyer, Judith Baenen

“Deliberate Optimism is a must read for all educators. In it the authors share, and build on, how the five principles of deliberate optimism, can help teachers and school leaders build or regain a sense of power and influence. The book is full of humour and examples appropriate across divisions. The chapters build on each other, shifting the focus from the individual, to the classroom, to the school, to the community. Each chapter also provides opportunities to reflect and take action for teachers and school leaders. The authors have a realistic view of teaching and provide realistic tips and solutions for educators to embrace positivity in their daily lives. After reading, I am feeling invigorated to bring more optimism into my daily teaching life.”

Jennifer, Toronto District School Board, ON


“I personally believe that a Principal drives the well being of the student, teacher and parents just as a great doctor affects lives of the patients!

This book encompasses great strategies that highlights the human elements required of the Principal as a LEADER as well as the Law Abiding person who ensures that ministry expectations are met and practiced successfully. I also see the author, Lynn Howard, as an experienced mentor who suggests guidelines for building a community that works cohesively with common goals in mind, bringing their best to achieve the best for the school community. My favourite statement was when a principal asks, “What can I do for you? “, instead of “How are you?”. Adding genuineness while interacting builds bridges where the Principal and school community come together to resolve issues(if any)!

Truly an amazing tool for any Principal…new as well as experienced! ”

Romilla, Toronto Catholic District School Board, ON


“This book is a good way to help you thinking about using school culture and climate as a way to support new teachers, and help experienced teachers grow. It is a quick read, and offers some helpful templates to have you think about how to lead staff on this journey. Many links and references are based in the current thinking of several knowledgeable sources (Fullan, Marzano, Leithwood). It helps to set up a year-round approach, but the strategies and suggestions can be used at anytime of the year.”

Lesley, Toronto District School Board, ON


“How often have I, as a school administrator, wondered whether I am supporting my (new) teachers as best as I can. I started my administration career wondering how I could support all teachers, knowing that they are working to the best of their “known” abilities. What I lacked was a framework where I could start my conversations with staff; both new and experienced.

This book provides a LOT of “how to” guides, templates, charts. This is a practical book; one where I could use parts of at different times of the year. A great resource to copy and use to help me focus a “walk through” of the classroom. There is a chapter on almost every aspect of administrative support of teachers, including the use of technology as a communication tool. Feedback for the Principal – a non threatening way to get staff input on your role and how they see you.

It is not a recipe. Any book that would prescribe to do that I would avoid. This book provides a lot of suggestions which you will cater to your individual situations. A great resource for my shelf and one I’d recommend to new administrators in the role of P/VP.”

Kevin, York Region District School Board, ON


Good to Great to Innovate
Lyn Sharratt, Gale Harild

“After reading a book, I find myself asking the question, who would this book speak to and push their thinking? Good to Great To Innovate is a text that I would recommend all leaders within the world of education including directors of education, superintendents, principals, vice principals and those who are in the role of identifying and encouraging change in education for the better, the front line teacher (instructional coaches, facilitators etc.). I would even go on to say that faculties of education should front load this book as it gives an historical perspective up front and clearly outlines where we need to go in terms of how educators can prepare students to be successful once their education is complete and what educators need to commit to in order for the students to be successful. It stresses that leadership within the system, administrators, and teachers are key, however, must support one another. They all must be collaborative, creative, and engaging to lead. Common goals are a must to instill excellence and achievement.

As a teacher, the chapter on closing the gap and what this actually means and what educators can do to get there was very helpful. This chapter was easy to read due to the graphs and the manner in which the information was shared using bold letters and highlighting key ideas on the sides. On page 139 The Power of Five Questions To Answer puts so much into perspective in terms of what educators should be doing every day. The word INQUIRY is a hot topic and there is a chapter that speaks to this and how giving the student a choice in how they apply their new found knowledge matters.

My favorite part of the book is the last chapter and it is a must read for all front line teachers. As an elementary teacher, I found the information on pages 197-199 very helpful as it put the collaborative inquiry model into context using visuals and gives a detailed matrix that is helpful when using this model. It clearly outlines how skilled teachers can push student critical thinking. It displays how ongoing professional learning is vital for inquiry to be meaningful in order to build and extend student success and achievement.

The use of charts, identifying key points in bold letters and listing key points makes this book an easy read.”

Shelley, Ottawa Carleton District School Board, ON


Implementing Project-Based Learning
Suzie Boss

“In Implementing Project-Based Learning the author provides a quick and easy read on the benefits of engaging students using project-based learning (PBL). The book is full of helpful web resources and links that support the implementation of PBL in your classroom. The author delves into three newer literacies – (1) digital, (2) media, (3) global – and combines them with traditional approaches to learning. It reviews common PBL challenges, questions, and solutions and consider assessment strategies. The author highlights real classroom implementation of five specific types of PBL with ideas that inspire and encourage teachers at any grade level to start applying PBL in their classrooms.”

Jennifer A. – Toronto District School Board, ON


“Suzie Boss prescribes the implementation of project-based learning across all grade levels as a means to keep students engaged, motivated, and equipped with the skills they will require when they enter the demands of the workforce. She presents the reader with four core ideas that should be part of every PBL, despite the type of PBL students are engaged in. This allows the reader to understand the fundamentals of PBL as they read through the different types of PBL.

The 4 core ideas are:
An inquiry question to start that drives the entire project and any instruction tied to it.
Students develop critical skills by engaging in a real world problem using tools and strategies that parallel the real world.
During the PBL, students have sharing of their work with a relevant audience.
Students utilize technology to enhance their learning and build on skills of collaboration and communication.

Teachers involved in making the shift to a PBL classroom present their insights and ideas of their methodology and how they implemented PBL in their classrooms. Each chapter highlights a specific focus which allows a teacher to gain some insight as to what PBL looks like and some starting points in the form of websites to begin their own journey and explore with their classrooms. Allowing readers to understand the basics of PBL, but also provide them with some direction to continue their learning was useful for me as it saves much time navigating the internet for reliable and useful information. Some of the highlights in each chapter assisted in understanding the process involved during PBL, the role of the teacher, roles of the students, and the connection between these roles as well.”

Maryam – Toronto District School Board, ON


“This book is a gem! It is concise and chocked full of links to excellent resources. This is the perfect entry point for any classroom teacher looking at beginning Project-Based Learning in their classroom or for the experienced teacher who is looking for additional material to support their program. The book begins with a solid introduction to lay the foundation of PBL. The following chapters give examples of PBL in specific subject/content areas. Each chapter ends with a list of websites to help teachers with specific topics related to PBL in that area. The last chapter covers the challenges and pushback that teachers might be faced with such as the need to cover the curriculum and how to assess PBL. Suzie Boss has provided a great book for teachers, administrators and consultants who would like to implement Project Based Learning in their classroom. A must read!”

Lisa – Trillium Lakelands DSB


Reinventing Learning for the Always On Generation
Ian Jukes, Ryan L. Schaaf, Nicky Mohan
Foreword by Ted McCain

“As a teacher-librarian who passionately pursues strategies for effective technology integration, I’ve read my fair share of technology books aimed at educators, many of which are too theoretical, too vague, too dated or too dull. Reinventing Learning has none of these problems and is, in fact, a blast of fresh air. This 150 page book consists of 13 chapters. Most of the chapters outline one attribute specific to digital learners, suggest apps, strategies and/or tools to support learners with that attribute, and then finish with a summary and questions that encourage reflection about that attribute in your own classroom.

I recommend buying at least one copy of this easy to read, practical guide for working with the always on generation. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Fast Pattern Reading because I didn’t know a lot about it, and it even has implications for how I’ll set up any pages (web or print) to maximize the chance of my content being actually read! I also liked that the information presented is backed up by scientific research and an extensive reference and resource section in the back of the book. The chapter that mentions multitasking and the chapter that refutes that teens are addicted to their devices, provide excellent fodder for classroom and parent discussions. This is the perfect book for someone who is just getting comfortable using technology in the classroom, and is ready to branch out a bit and try some different tools with their always-on students.”

Janice, Peel District School Board, ON


“Sometimes I like to just peruse a book before I read it. I knew that “Reinventing Learning” was the ‘teaching with tech’ book I had been looking for when I paused to take in a few lines in the last chapter while pre-reading: “a teacher is, without question, the best one-to-one device in the classroom. The killer app for the 21 century is a great teacher.” (pg 146) With engaging chapters on everything from “what’s wrong with kids today” to “the need for speed” and “transfluency”, broken into bite-sized sections that summarize the main point and pose questions for the reader to consider, this book was hard to put down… and easy to pick up again whenever I had a few minutes to squeeze in some professional reading!

Being new to teaching with technology, and wanting to integrate digital learning in an authentic way, I really appreciated both the research base and the practical ideas presented in the book. My most immediate take-aways were “fast pattern reading” and strategies for the multi-tasking mind, such as “Google-a-Day”. I also loved the research-based material on the chapter on visual learning, and I appreciated the consolidation of concepts I had already been exposed to, like differentiation, questioning, and “just in case” vs “just in time” learning presented in other chapters.

This is definitely a resource I will revisit often, and one that will fill a coveted space on the shelf of my permanent collection!”

Vera, Peel District School Board, ON


Teaching the iStudent
Mark Barnes

“For many teachers the idea of using mobile devices and social media is very concerning and uncomfortable for fear of students misusing the information obtained by these tools. Many educators don’t have a good grasp of how the digital world works and its benefits within the classroom.The fact is that students use these tools as a means of communicating and learning from each other. In this text, Teaching the iStudent, it states that if we teach how to use social media responsibility as part of are teaching, students will be more engaged in their own learning. Through explicit teaching, students will be more accountable when using Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. This resource is an easy read for all educators and it clearly outlines how anyone can create a classroom using these resources to further support the learning of all students in the 21st century as well as giving the educator the means to do so. After reading this text, I certainly have become more comfortable and have a broader understanding of why and how mobile devices and social media need to be part of our daily practices within the classroom.”

Shelley, Ottawa Carleton District School Board, ON


“Mark Barnes paints a vivid picture of our classrooms that are filled with iStudents who respond well to, are motivated, and engaged through digital learning. Despite the fact that our students are digital natives, many require a developing of skills on how to effectively use the internet, social media, and a number of online tools. Engaging these learners through the web to target learning outcomes, develop and enhance technology skills, and foster an environment that engages them in critical thinking is key to creating independent learners that have a sense of digital citizenship. Through this short and concise book, Barnes provides an understanding of the importance for teachers to build upon the regular use of technology in their classrooms, familiarize themselves with a few useful tools he describes, and resources to access for more learning.”

Maryam, Toronto District School Board, ON

“In Teaching the iStudent, the author provides a quick and easy to use guide on the benefits and use of social media to engage students’ learning in the classroom. The resource was easy to read, and outlined general and specific ideas that could easily be implemented into any classroom to reach iStudents of the 21st century. While many of the authors experiences were linked to middle school, he discusses the importance of introducing social media in the primary grades, and attempts to make meaningful curricular links.The book is also linked to a companion site, with additional resources to support those taking the plunge into using social media in the classroom. After reading the book, I have become more comfortable with the how and why of social media to support student learning, and I’m ready to start using social media as an iTeacher!”

Jennifer, Toronto District School Board, ON

““…if we teach students when they are very young how to use social media appropriately, they are more likely to use it efficiently and appropriately as they grow older.” (page 20, paragraph 3 – Barnes)

In Teaching the iStudent Barnes has captured the need for mobile device and social media to be taught and used in every classroom. Instead of banning these devices and media tools from the classroom, we as teachers should be embracing them as a way for students to become more engaged and to learn how to use them appropriately.

We often think about the negative effects of social media, but Barnes lays out a convincing agreement about why we need to embrace these tools not ban them:
“In order to overcome this fear, students must be allowed to access social networks in class, so they are given the opportunity to misuse the medium and then hopefully learn to successfully and appropriately use this wondrous technology.” (page 15, paragraph 2 – Barnes)

Where else will students get the opportunity to use social media in a safe environment to learn the do’s and don’ts? It seems like everyday we hear about another incident of someone posting something on social media that is really inappropriate, and they seemed shocked about the negative impact or consequences of such actions. Students are growing up in a world of firewalls and social media bans in schools, so they aren’t learning these lessons.

Just like all other subjects, the positive use of mobile devices and social networks needs to be taught. In chapter 6, Barnes provides an outline of some tools teachers can integrate into student learning right away.

Teaching the iStudent is a short easy read for all teachers and administrators who are looking at why and how to take the plunge into opening up their classrooms to technology.”

Laura, Toronto District School Board, ON

Uncomplicating Algebra
Marian Small

“Uncomplicating Algebra is an excellent resource for teachers responsible for the mathematical education of K–8 students. It is also a valuable tool for the training of preservice teachers of elementary and middle school mathematics.”

—Carole Greenes, associate vice provost for STEM education, director of the Practice Research and Innovation in Mathematics Education (PRIME) Center, professor of mathematics education, Arizona State University


“The current climate in North America places a major emphasis on standards, including the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics in the U.S. In many cases, teachers are being asked to teach content with which they themselves struggle. In this book, Dr. Small masterfully breaks down the big ideas of algebraic thinking to assist teachers, math coaches, and preservice teachers—helping them to deepen their own understanding of the mathematics they teach. She describes common error patterns and examines algebraic reasoning from a developmental viewpoint, connecting the dots from kindergarten through grade 8. The book is clearly written, loaded with specific examples, and very timely. I recommend it strongly as a ‘must-read’ for all who are seeking to broaden their understanding of algebra and how to effectively teach this important content area to children.”

—Daniel J. Brahier, director, Science and Math Education in ACTION, professor of mathematics education, School of Teaching and Learning, Bowling Green State University

Walk a Mile
Theresa Anzovino, Deborah Boutilier

“Walk A Mile is an innovative and creative approach to learning about Canada’s diversity. The value of this text is that it recognizes the fundamental truth that learning about diversity is as much learning about oneself as it is learning about others.”

Dr. James Vanderwoerd, Redeemer University College


“The pedagogy integrating print and digital as well as academic and experiential learning tools is inspiring. It has the ability to motivate students and teachers to actively engage (think, reflect, and reflex) with the text and issues of cultural diversity.”

Dr. Francis Adu-Febiri, Camosun College