Instructional Tools, Must-Reads, Social-Emotional Learning

BOMish: August 2019

This month’s BOMish is a bit over the top.

It’s less about ONE book and more about… 35! *Gasp!* Say what?!

Indeed! This week, the Huffington Post compiled a list of 35 children’s books that are centred around empathy. These books range for reading levels from approximately grade 1-5 (more heavily clustered to lower elementary reading levels) featuring characters who embark on “compassion, acceptance, and inclusion.” The books range in diversity of topic, including heavy world events like terrorism (Most People) to diversity in our schools and neighbourhoods (All Are Welcome; Chocolate Milk, Por Favor; and Last Stop on Market Street) to bullying (One) to the power of reaching out and being a friend (Save Me A Seat). It also includes the modern elementary classroom hit, Have You Filled A Bucket Today? – a guide for happiness and social-emotional awareness for kids and classrooms, as well as the age-old classic of Ferdinand (personal fave). Books feature characters from all over the world and many have a focus on cross-cultural understanding and celebrating differences. Authors, too, represent

Admittedly, I’ve not ready many on the list, though I’m thrilled to seek inspiration and find more diverse voices and choices as I bolster my classroom library.

Huff Po’s 35 Children’s Books on Empathy & Kindness

  • Last Stop on Market Street (Matt de la Peña)
  • Those Shoes (Maribeth Boelts)
  • You, Me, and Empathy (Jayneen Sanders)
  • Most People (Michael Leannah)
  • The Invisible Boy (Trudy Ludwig)
  • Come With Me (Holly M. McGhee)
  • All Are Welcome (Alexandra Penfold)
  • Little Blue Truck (Alice Schertle)
  • Be Kind (Pat Zietlow Miller)
  • Save Me A Seat (Sarah Weeks & Gita Varadarajan)
  • Chocolate Milk, Por Favor (Maria Dismondy)
  • If You Plant a Seed (Kadir Nelson)
  • One (Kathryn Otoshi)
  • We’re All Wonders (RJ Palacio)
  • I Am Enough (Grace Byers)
  • Enemy Pie (Derek Monson)
  • Lovely (Jess Hong)
  • A Sick Day for Amos McGee (Philip C. Stead)
  • Have You Filled A Bucket Today? (Carol McCloud)
  • Each Kindness (Jacqueline Woodson)
  • I Am Human (Susan Verde)
  • Superheroes Club (Madeleine Sherak)
  • I Walk With Vanessa (Kerascoët)
  • The Monster Who Lost His Mean (Tiffany Strelitz Haher)
  • The Rabbit Listened (Cori Doerrfeld)
  • Otis and the Scarecrow (Loren Long)
  • Lost and Found Cat (Doug Kuntz & Amy Schrodes)
  • Hey, Little Ant (Phillip and Hannah Hoose)
  • How Kind! (Mary Murphy)
  • Pass It On (Sophy Henn)
  • Listening With My Heart (Gabi Garcia)
  • The Story of Ferdinand (Munro Leaf)
  • Empathy is My Superpower (Bryan Smith)
  • Just Feel (Malika Chopra)
  • Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler (Margery Cuyler)

  • How many of these have you read?
  • What’s missing in this book list?
  • What are some of your favourite titles for young learners?
Instructional Tools, Must-Reads, Recent + Research-Based

BOMish: September 2018

book-of-the-month (1)

This month’s BOMish (Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning by John Hattie) was another book used in one of my graduate courses, and it was the first textbook that stopped me in my tracks. I mean, really– how many textbooks do we find arresting ever? This was the first researched-based text that allowed me to see what works and why when it comes to actually fostering learning. Not memorizing, not meeting standards, not testing– but good ol’ fashioned learning

Let’s get to the good stuff.

Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning (John Hattie)


  • The Stats: 296 Pages, published March 2012 (but online resources are consistently updated)
  • Who Should Read It: Teachers, school administrators, educational program designers
  • My Rating (out of 5 ♥): ♥♥♥♥.5
  • My Thoughts: As educators, we’re constantly trying new things with the goal of helping our students learn. We want things to stick, but not for the sake of memorizing, but for internalizing concepts, ideas, patterns so students can draw meaningful connections and learn from a wide. But trying new things can be maddening and brings up more doubt and questions than just coasting with the status quo. Where should you start? Do you flip your classroom just because it seems like that’s the “in” thing right now? Do you try all the things, and see what works best? Do you just try one thing and stick with it for the year? What research should I trust? What works best? How do I know if what I’m doing is actually working?

Hattie’s book (hailed as “teaching’s Holy Grail”) takes out the guesswork and provides a no-nonsense meta-analysis of over 50,000 studies and 80 million students and offers 200+ instructional strategies and their relative effectiveness as related to student achievement. In other words, he tells us what helps and what hinders learning and helps us get into the minds of our students. With so much data analyzed, the results are at first a bit overwhelming.

Check it: 


…wait, w h a a a t ?

The chart takes a minute or six to digest.

What you’re looking at is a ranked list of the factors that affect student learning. The ones on the top? Those are the goodies. They have the most evidence that using them will increase student learning. Moving towards the middle, Hattie found that the “hinge point” was at 0.40. In other words– go for the strategies that are above 0.40(ish). And, finally, at the bottom, we’ve got what hinders learning: ADHD, deafness, boredom, depression, moving, corporal punishment (how is this still relevant enough to have studies…? #shudder), etc. 

As you read the list, you might be struck by the vastness of the categories (breastfeeding? chess instruction? modifying school calendars?) and wonder how and why Hattie selected the factors he did. The original list was a scant (sarcasm) 138 categories, and was developed by analyzing data of studies spanning 6 major areas, including  students, schools, home, curricula, teaching strategies, and the classroom. The list continued to take shape and grow after incorporating a holistic picture of students backgrounds, culturally, physiologically, emotionally, financially, and more. Personally, I don’t need all of the categories of the updated analysis and find the first iteration to be sufficient. Overall, the list hasn’t changed too much, though more categories have been added towards the top and bottom.

So, is the book all numbers? Ah, thank heavens, no, and in fact, you’re supplied with ample examples on how to leverage effective teaching strategies with examples, hands-on activities, and ideas. There are checklists, facilitation tips, as well as rich resources to use in nearly any classroom. The book was updated in 2012 and Hattie’s online resource bank is updated constantly. 

If you’re a new teacher struggling to keep your head above water, a veteran teacher looking to mix it up, an administrator wondering what initiatives to promote, or an educational program designer… I can’t recommend this book enough. While, of course, each student group is different, and ultimately your students’ achievements may not fall exactly in the order laid out on this grand meta-analysis, Hattie’s book directs you to the starting line and points you in the direction of success.

Side-note: Since this was an assigned text, I admit it may not elegantly catalogue into taking charge of my own professional development. I take full ownership of this decision 🙂 

Must-Reads, Professional Development, School Design

BOMish: July 2018

book-of-the-month (1)

How’s that personal professional development going, friends?

In the midst of my final days of graduate school, in which I want nothing more than to sleep and eat an unsafe amount of chocolate truffles, I’m still keeping the practice of reading.

I’ll admit– I’m cheating a bit this month.

This month’s BOMish was one of my choice-books for my final class. Nevertheless, it’s a book! A compelling one, at that, rife with lessons I’ll take with me, and another chance to walk my walk and keep reading for my own sake.

The NEW School Rules: 6 Vital Practices for Thriving and Responsive Schools (Anthony Kim & Alexis Gonzalez-Black)

Photo from

  • The Stats: 216 Pages, published February 2018
  • Who Should Read It: School administrators, school designers
  • My Rating (out of 5 ♥): ♥♥♥.5
  • My Thoughts: If you’ve ever found yourself checking the clock during a faculty meeting, willing the seconds to propel forward as you listen to an unproductive argument rooted in excuses and unnecessary power dynamics, this book is a breath of hope. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a strategic plan that seems impractical, patronizing, and woefully inappropriate, this book shows the light! 

The New School Rules offers six practices that help improve school structure, design, and overall effectiveness from an administrative perspective. The practices (Planning, Teaming, Managing Roles, Decision-Making, Sharing Information, and Learning Organization) are research-based strategies and are presented alongside realistic case studies, which include the problems, the learning, and helpful resources. The website is the perfect companion to the book and offers a rich supply of tools, workouts, and exercises for applying the rules in real-time.

I found myself nodding along several times in this book and having a few “aha!” moments, such as when planning, start small and plan for pivot-points. Or reinventing meeting structures, whereby most of the preparation is done by individuals before the meeting, rather than spending time listening to the moderator review the entire schedule.

Along with some aggressive head-nodding, I also left the book wondering how well certain ideas would work in a school, as they smelled more of a non-profit or start-up flavor, than that of an education setting. In a school setting, the majority of roles are already pre-assigned at the time of hiring. For instance, if I’m hired to be a middle school teacher, the bulk of my job will be… teaching middle school. The additional roles will generally be ancillary, and I’m curious how the Managing Roles and Teaming strategies will be received and/or adapted by school leaders as this book finds itself in schools. 

Ultimately, I’m curious about the reception of this book and its practicality and application to schools. I left it abuzz with ideas but also with equal measure of questions of its depth of relevancy to a school. The rules and simplification found on the website are dangerously tempting to be used as quickie (easily forgotten) professional development sessions and not for grander structural overhauls– which the book suggests are necessary for a school to be more responsive. 

Certainly worth a read, and I look forward to seeing further versions, adaptations, and ideas as schools take it on.

Have you read The New School Rules? 

Are these rules appropriate for your school setting? 

What rule do you think is most important for your school? Least?