Advice on Book Selection

Choosing a book for the Reading Program is not always an easy task. Where do you begin? You have probably received advice about choosing books in the past. More than likely, this advice has come from your teachers, tutors, parents, maybe even your friends.

  • You should choose a book that is a Classic of literature.
  • You should read books by one author.
  • You should read books by many authors.
  • You should read books within one genre of literature.
  • You should read books across a wide variety of genres of literature.
  • You should choose a book that is within your zone of proxiomal development (ZPD).
  • You should choose a book that close to your Lexile level.
  • You should choose a book that interests you. 

So, which advice do you follow? What is best? All of the advice above is excellent advice. In order to develop a better understanding of which particular advice to follow you need to understand your own personal reading goals. 

  • Is it to develop vocabulary?
  • is it to further your reading comprehension?
  • Is it to become a lifelong lover of literature?
  • Is it to learn how to analyze literature?
  • Is it to read the most appropriate books to get into university?

Our Reading Program at Shanghai American School has two main goals:

  1. Foster a love of literature.
  2. Develop your literary analysis skills.

So, back to the original question, how do you go about choosing a book?

  • Have a disucssion with your teacher.
  • Have a discussion with the librarian.
  • Select a book from our Destiny Catalog book list. There are a variety of Wilson book lists that have been created for middle school students.
  • Utilize one of the many social book sites such as Goodreads, Librarything, Amazon, Scholastic, Openlibrary. Each of these sites has vibrant communities discussing literature.

But you say, "Just Tell Me What to Read! Can't you just give me a book list of literature that will ensure my success?" Well, no, I can't give you a book list that will ensure your success because I first need to better understand your interests, better understand your strengths and weaknesses as a reader, and your current reading level. I can then provide direction and guidance to help you select appropriate literature that you will most likely enjoy and that will challenge you.

Although I would recommend that our SAS Middle School librarian should be your trusted resource, another excellent resource is The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). This a national association of librarians, library workers and advocates whose mission is to expand and strengthen library services for teens, aged 12-18. The resources available are of high quality. 

In the next post I will be discussing how we are using our STAR and MAP scores to guide student's selection of books.


Outstanding Books for the College Bound

Link Description: 

From the American Library Association website,

“Students and lifelong learners can use this list to broaden their horizons in preparation for college entrance exams and courses, to increase and update their knowledge in various subject areas, or to develop an appreciation for other cultures and times,” said Sarajo Wentling, committee chair. “The committee worked hard to create a list with something for everyone.” A YALSA committee of public, secondary school, and academic librarians selected the 2009 list in collaboration with the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). Revised every five years, this list is intended as a tool for several audiences: students preparing for college, parents, educators, and librarians."


Top Ten List from the YALSA

Link Description: 

YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee presents fiction titles published for young adults in the past 16 months that are recommended reading for ages 12 to 18. The purpose of the annual list it to provide librarians and library workers with a resource to use for collection development and reader’s advisory purposes.

Students of Concern Process

Students of Concern – Process

I created a collaborative goal as part of our Performance Evaluation process focusing on the Student of Concern realm here at SAMS.  The goal related to establishing effective communication protocols for Students of Concern and enhancing the way we communicate about students.

• Invite feedback from SOC teachers on how the SOC Drupal website can be enhanced to refine processes, procedure and guidelines.

• Establish regular conversations with SOC teachers about subjective and objective note taking and conversations

As an outcome of this goal and our work together a platform was developed to try and implement the goal. This document includes a brief overview of the process and screenshots of the platform and functionality for the purpose of informing the current conversation the leadership team is having regarding SOC communication, not to recommend a particular system.

The Process and Features Developed: The features implemented were based on the approach the grade 7 was utilizing in the SOC structure. Also see screenshots later in document.  

Features of the System

•            SOC Agenda Management – includes minutes.

•            Teachers suggest students for agenda.

•            Access to current notes, interventions and archived information from previous school years.

•            Sinker List creation and management.

•            Formal Review and Intervention management – This includes workflow processes. Once a formal review is created this is added to the agenda with access to the formal review templates – These werebuilt based on the current SAS templates. 

•            Student Note creation  -­‐   This is really the heart of the system. The template and guidelines were built using the SAS handbook from previous years. 

           Note Guidelines: Established after a series of meetings with counselors, V.P., and LC teams. This emerged as some of the most important work we did. It is also not dependent on any technology, it came to be because of a series of collaborative conversations starting with the counselors and team leaders and then on to the full grade level process involvement.


Note Guidelines:


Write a brief note about a student. It could be an observation, a concern, an action step, an intervention, a comment related to learning behaviors, or something completely unique. These notes will help to grow our holistic understanding of students and develop a better understanding of the needs of our students. Keep in mind this type of student note is meant to be a quick submission compare with a more formal SOC Review and/or intervention.


As you write this note keep the following in mind:

•              Positive notes and notes related to student strengths are highly encouraged

•              Keep to observable facts

•              Use professional formal writing

              If you are unsure whether to write the note due to confidentiality, ask a counselor first!

Notice the two sections related to an intervention. Depending on the note this may be inapplicable. In that case, don't fill out that section. We are also considering ways  to align  the notes  to our

Student as Learner Profile (SLP). 

For example, "Johhny did not respect property and materials today. He did not put away the art materials, even after being reminded.", or "Jessie took leadership responsibilities  during the book discussion activity."

Who has access?

If you teach the student, you have access to information regarding the student. School admin, counselors also would had access in real time.

Communication Process –

Do you send an email to each teacher the child teaches? Do you provide the information and allow teachers to go access it? This was a question we struggled with as we developed the process. In the end we created a mix of the two.

If a note is created for a student that note would appear in the appropriate LC page and on the Specialists page. This allows real time information gathering based on the context (student courses and teacher’s students). A teacher needed to check the overview page about once a week to gather this information.

After a week, notes were archived and sent out through email. This was done through the system and didn’t require compilation by a human.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations: (Personal)

As this system was created and adjusted along the way, the user interaction changed at times. In addition, as new features were implemented, teachers needed to adjust.

I believe that if a full feature set were developed and then implemented the barrier to a useful system would be reduced.

Also, the specialist interaction is the most complicated element of a SOC communication system here at SAMS. Standardization across grade levels is key for any system to be effective for buy in and efficiency. During this process only grade 7 was implementing the system. Another key factor is use by the counselors. This obviously contributes to the standardization of the system and efficient communication to improve access to student information to help them be successful here at SAMS.

Sustainability and support are also relevant considerations for this work at SAMS. Who builds, maintains, manages the system we use?

Based on our experience I would recommend looking into Powerschool as a way to implement some of the features we have piloted over the last two years. Again, I am sharing this information to guide our current LT discussions related to this issue because of our previous experience working to improve our SOC communication.


A Common Language for Teams

A Common Language for Team Performance

The Role of a Team Leader:

         As team leaders of grade level learning communities, one of our responsibilities is to support the Shanghai American School vision. Developing the skills, understanding, and dispositions to facilitate this goal is important.  Engagement and discussions with my learning community have led to deeper reflections and a quest to better understand these current team interactions.  A current focus for the 2010-2011 school year at SAS is the development of Critical Friends Groups (  One of the questions that members of critical friends groups focus on is, “What are the collegial conversations that make a difference?”

Purpose of this work:

         I have come to believe that reflecting on and having an awareness of highly effective teams can lead to sustained, quality team performance. There are a wide variety of team performance models. I have been experimenting with the use of a model from The Grove Consultants International called the Team Performance Model. I bring this model to our meeting as a team leader and as a member of this leadership team with the hope of engaging in meaningful learning and having a conversation that “makes a difference” about the implications that the Team Performance Model (Sibbet, 2002) has for our work as team leaders.

A Metaphor for Team Performance

                   As I stated earlier, an awareness of the actions of highly effective teams can lead to improved team performance.  As a team, we are working toward the accomplishment of our SAS vision and our unique learning community vision and goals.  Exploring the Team Performance Model can provide us with a common language and a metaphor for communicating about team performance. 

         The SAS middle school team leader is engaged in multiple daily activities and the facilitation of the learning communities’ accomplishment of SAS goals. These interactions can be thought of as group processes.

         The Team Performance Model combines the ideas of group processes and team building.  David Sibbet of The Grove Consultants International has drawn heavily from the work of Arthur M. Young (Young, 1976) and his work on the Theory of Process in developing the Team Performance model.  Young states,


Process, as the dictionary defines it, consists of steps taken to reach an end. Therefore any process projects a goal and goes through means (constraints) to gain it. We may therefore depict this descent and ascent which process develops as an arc (Sibbet, 2002, p. 13).


         The arc reference in the above quote helps in thinking about the Team Performance Model as a metaphor of a continuously bouncing ball. The Team Performance Model also builds on the work of Jack Gibb (Ayre, Clough, Norris, 2002, p.31), who identified predictable stages in team formation.  His research led to the conclusion that teams go through predictable stages and repeating challenges. 

         The Team Performance Model is one model to help the learning community and the leadership team move through these stages toward sustained high performance using a common language.

A Guide to the Team Performance Model

         In reviewing the Team Performance Model the following ideas will help in the understanding of the model.

         In Facilitating Community Change (2007), the authors explain the key features of this model as the following;

Seven stages, four to create the team and three progressive stages of performance. The design graphically illustrates the "peak-and-valley" nature of all process as a central feature, starting at the "Top-line" freedom of "anything's possible" during Orientation, moving to the "bottom-line" constraints of deciding how to work together during Commitment, then finally regaining freedom and flexibility as constraints are mastered in High Performance and Renewal. (p.31)


         The bouncing ball metaphor also keeps the awareness that group process is always in motion. As teams move through each phase, the stage is either resolved or unresolved. We must keep in mind that the movement through the stages isn't linear.  Teams don't always start at Stage 1.  Team Performance is a constant process and although a stage may at one point in time be resolved, it isn't resolved forever. Teams recycle through the stages constantly, thus the bouncing ball metaphor.  

         As team leaders we have to decide upon actions.  Actions are aimed at a goal of some sort, reflected in the choices made by the group and the team leader.  These intentional actions can also be thought of as a group, or learning community, "having direction."  

         In the Team Performance Model, decisions that move process in a new direction are referred to as the "commitment".  As a team leader, or facilitative leader, recognizing the "commitment" and having an understanding of its implications is of crucial importance.

         Again, the Team Performance Model is one model to help the learning community and the leadership team move through these stages toward sustained high performance using a common language. With these ideas in mind we will review the Team Performance Model while thinking about the following questions:


         What are the implications for us as a leadership team?

What are the implications for you as a team leader?

         What are the implications for our learning community teams?

         What are the implications for our students?


         One of the outcomes I hope for out of this process is to open the door to engage in meaningful conversations about team performance and its implications in our learning community.






Works Cited



Ayre, Darvin, Gruffie Clough, and Tyler Norris. Facilitating Community Change. Boulder, Co.: Community Initiatives, 2000. Print.


The School Reform Initiative. Web. 02 Oct. 2010. <>.


Sibbet, David. Principles of Facilitation: the Purpose and Potential of Leading Group Process. San Francisco, CA: Grove Consultants Internationall, 2002. Print.


Young, Arthur M. The Reflexive Universe: Evolution of Consciousness. New York: Delacorte, 1976. Print.