The first year of teaching is always the hardest. I remember finishing my PGCE and feeling ready for the classroom, but nothing can prepare you for every scenario in your first year.
I always say that the best resource you can have as a teacher is other teachers. Sharing their experience, knowledge, support, and guidance can make that first year more rewarding and successful.
But even if you have a strong network of professionals around you to cheer you on, you may be looking for some other resources to help you grow and develop in your first year of teaching.
We’ve asked some industry professionals for recommendations for the best books for first year teachers.
These education experts and fellow teachers have been kind enough to share the book that helped them, or their colleagues, during their first year, so you can go into the classroom feeling ready to tackle any challenges.
Take a look at what books they recommend…
Best Books for First Year Teachers
Whether you’re looking for classroom management tips or advice on staying calm in the face of adversity, supporting special education needs, or even just a great book to read to your students, these are the best first year teacher books…
1. The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher – Dr. Harry Wong
Recommended by Dr. Johnita R. Porter, Manager/Founding member of The Virtual Educator Network
I retired from education last November with 20+ years in education. My specialty is in special education; specifically in the areas of assistive technology and including children with special needs in the general education setting.
The book I found essential as a first-year teacher that I recommend to all new teachers is Dr. Harry Wong’s, The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher. It is a classic. This book provides systems that every new teacher needs for the beginning of the school year. These systems go a long way in creating successful learning environments and school experiences for students.
2. A Touchdown in Reading: An Educator’s Guide to Literacy – Katherine Stark
Recommended by Katherine Stark, Author
A Touchdown in Reading: An Educator’s Guide to Literacy was written and published to help new teachers understand and enjoy the teaching of reading.
Reading is the most complex subject to teach with the least support. School districts in all 50 states have implemented this recommended reading resource to help their teachers love literacy.
I’ve provided just a few reasons from educators in the field below. Thank you for your interest and consideration.
The writing workshop knowledge from your book was one of the most practical and beneficial aspects of PD I have had this year.
I had been struggling to get my kids to write, but when you encouraged us to volunteer writing samples or ideas, you could connect them with the curriculum and give us ways to improve it in our writing classroom.
My main point where you provided support and assistance this year was your hands-on approach with feedback.
Instead of writing notes and discussing with me one-on-one, you stepped into the classroom and showed me what would work better by actually doing the activity or procedure with the kids, and that helped me learn a lot better!
3. A Teacher’s Guide to Online Learning – Lindy Hockenbary
Recommended by Lindy Hockenbary, K-12 Education and Technology Trainer
With the onslaught of technology in the classroom, first-year teachers must develop a plan for technology integration. Most importantly, teachers must have a system for digital workflow in their classrooms.
A Teacher’s Guide to Online Learning provides a framework for building a solid foundation to ensure the success of technology as an instructional tool.
The book discusses how to create a digital hub where learners go to access all information for a course, outlines essential instructional tools, and explains the importance of clarity and consistency with digital learning materials.
The modern teacher must be prepared for any situation. After reading A Teacher’s Guide to Online Learning, first-year teachers will be prepared for whatever learning environment: face-to-face, blended, hybrid, or virtual.
4. My First Year as a Teacher: Twenty-Five Teachers Talk about Their Amazing First-Year Classroom Experiences – Pearl Rock Kane
Recommended by Victoria Taylor, a parent, teacher and founder of BestCaseParenting.com
For first-year teachers, I highly recommend the book, My First Year as a Teacher: Twenty-Five Teachers Talk about Their Amazing First-Year Classroom Experiences by Pearl Rock Kane.
This book is filled with insightful accounts from veteran teachers who have succeeded during their first year of teaching.
Through these stories, aspiring teachers can learn from the real-life experiences of others and gain valuable tips on navigating the challenging environment that comes with being a new teacher. With topics such as classroom management and building relationships with students and colleagues, this book provides novice educators with practical advice to ensure they have successful first-year teaching.
I found it extremely helpful when I became a teacher, and I highly recommend this book to any new educator!
5. Small Teaching K-8 – Sarah Sanders
Recommended by Dr. POOJA K. AGARWAL, cognitive scientist and co-author of Powerful Teaching
There are thousands of books to support new educators, and with good reason—teaching is the noblest profession. But, in recent years, teachers have left the classroom in droves. SMALL TEACHING K-8 takes a unique approach to combat teacher burnout with research-based practices that are low-effort and high-reward.
In SMALL TEACHING K-8, Sarah Sanders offers fourteen years of experience as a public school teacher to help bridge the gap between cognitive theory and a natural classroom environment.
A thought leader in the field of education and the science of learning, her collaborator James Lang is the author of six books. Lang’s work has been featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, and Time.
“In Small Teaching K–8, educators Sarah Sanders and James Lang present practical class activities that boost student learning—including quick tips and templates for implementing retrieval practice and interleaving. They draw on the experiences of classroom teachers, particularly in early childhood education, to illustrate how easy it is to take learning to the next level in five minutes or less.”
6. Our Class is a Family – Shannon Olsen
Recommended by Theresa Bertuzzi, Chief Program Development Officer and Co-founder of Tiny Hoppers, and a certified and experienced Early Childhood Educator and Primary School Teacher with qualifications in Early Childhood Education
An excellent book for teachers in their first year of teaching preschool to kindergarten is Our Class is a Family by Shannon Olsen.
This book can be shared with your class in the first few weeks of school to start the year on the right foot.
The general message helps kids understand how to include, respect, and care for each other in the classroom. Teaching kids to treat their peers with the same love they show their family makes the classroom more inclusive and safe for everyone.
The book is also an excellent resource to keep on hand during the year. When children are having a hard time getting along, you can return to the book and create a lesson activity to help reiterate the importance of the message.
Overall, this book is an excellent resource for teachers starting their first year to help them develop a sense of community in their classroom.
7. Don’t Be That KID! At School – Lois McGuire
Recommended by Lois McGuire, a retired Superintendent of Schools from a K-12 district in New Jersey now living in Florida.
In my 25 years as an administrator who observed and evaluated new and experienced teachers, I have to say classroom management is the #1 difficulty. It isn’t easy to instruct when a teacher does not establish clear expectations on Day 1 and then continually reinforces them.
Because of this, I have written character education/good behavior books to assist teachers in establishing expectations for classrooms and schools beginning on the first day of school.
“Don’t Be That KID! At School” is about a little goat who misbehaves at school but ultimately learns his lesson.
Each scene provides an opportunity to discuss character-building values, such as honesty, consideration, responsibility, and respect.
The “Don’t Be That KID! At School Resource Guide” is filled with meaningful activities for students in grades Pre- K – 5 for teachers to use to reinforce proper behavior and character-building principles. It begins with a section titled “Establishing Expectations.”
The books allow teachers to initiate behavior expectations discussions with their students.
“What type of person do they want to be?”
Afterward, the class will make a list of goals and write down the realistic steps that can be taken to achieve them.
To “seal the deal,” take the DON’T BE THAT KID! PLEDGE on page 69 of the resource guide or download it from my website.
Then refer to it during the year to assess the achievement status and make changes if needed.
8. Last Child in the Woods – Richard Louv
Recommended by Jon Borley, a certified Level 3 Forest School Leader and Outdoor TA and works in 3 schools (pre-school and 2 x primary) in the UK
It’s eye-opening in the way it discusses the role of nature and learning, and it makes a strong case for why nature deficit is a massive challenge for how we bring up and work with young people.
If you have ever wondered why children feel better after an outdoor learning session or why it’s worth scheduling time for a walk in the woods as part of a curriculum-led topic, then this book has all the answers.
It also includes actions you can take to create change in your school: even if you don’t feel empowered to make a change in your first year as a teacher. It will give you a different take on educators’ role in bringing nature into our work.
Whether your class is studying the weather, habitats, natural history, biology, maths, or anything else, you can bring a natural play element into the way they do that, and they (and you) will be better for it.
9. One Voice – Cindy McKinley
Recommended by Cindy McKinley Alder, a teacher of 30+ years and author of award-winning children’s books: One Smile and One Voice.
One Voice is a beautiful gift for first-year teachers because it can help them set a tone of kindness for their new class.
It’s a hardcover and beautifully illustrated. It’s a good springboard for many different kinds of activities, getting kids involved by thinking about how their kindness impacts others.
It shows kids how even their simple acts of kindness can spread… and change the world. It shows how one young child’s small act of kindness sets off a chain of events that travels throughout a community.
Kids will love watching the kindness travel, inspire each new person to spread it in a new way, and love how the stories eventually come full circle in a surprise ending.
Certainly, we could all use a little more kindness in our lives, especially now…
10. The Novice Advantage – Jon Eckert PhD. Jon
Recommended by Mark Schmit, Vice President of Education Brainingcamp.com
The book I recommend for first-year teachers (and for any Pre-service, beginning experienced, savvy, and those approaching burnout) is The Novice Advantage by Jon Eckert PhD.
In this book, Dr. Eckert shares, reflects, and reminds us all how important a growth mindset is. The Novice Mindset, he professes, reminds us that we grow continuously through fearless, deliberate practice.
This mindset allows teachers to get better at getting better. He provides examples of teachers (and himself) taking risks and learning from mistakes.
As a Middle School Math teacher of 14 years, I tried many things that didn’t work as planned. These attempts were either disregarded entirely or changed based on my learnings.
Even seasoned or accomplished teachers, which he refers to as Expert Novices, still need to possess the Novice Mindset.
He also reminds teachers that the need to improve is grounded in student needs, and this mindset and processes are applicable throughout one’s teaching career.
Teaching is the hardest job there is, particularly at these times. This book will make teachers’ lives easier while stretching their thinking. You don’t have to read this book all at once, but you can certainly take it chapter by chapter and learn as you go.
11. Ambitious Science Teaching – Mark Windschitl, Jessica Thompson, and Melissa Braaten
Recommended by Dr. Leena Bakshi, Professor of Pre-Service Teachers from Claremont Graduate University, also the founder and Executive Director of STEM4Real
For STEM Teachers, I would recommend “Ambitious Science Teaching” and “Science in the City.”
Although they are geared towards teaching science, many teachers can craft their lessons to be grounded in local phenomena that drive curiosity and student learning.
At STEM4Real, we call this the DO-KNOW-THINK approach whereas we craft our lessons, we want our students not just to learn and KNOW about a bunch of facts but also to engage in the practices of DOING the learning and critically THINKING about their learning.
12. In a Dark Dark Wood – Joy Cowley June Melser
Recommended by Eva Petruzziello, a full-time elementary school teacher for 14+ years and owner of Simple n’ Delight.com
An excellent book for first-year primary teachers is “In a Dark Dark Wood.” It is a great book to read to your students around Halloween because of the suspense, imagination, and simple activity you can have them do.
A great lesson is to read them the book and withhold reading the last page. Students should then write about what they think is on the last page hiding in the box.
Tell the students to use their imagination and write a sentence or two about what they think it is.
Disclose the last page after all the students have had their chance to write about what they think is in the box.
This is an excellent activity for all students because it is accessible to various reading and writing levels, and ages.
13. The First-Year Teacher’s Survival Guide – Julia G.
Recommended by Kelly Mason, Tutor at TheTutor.Link.
Thompson is an invaluable resource for first-year teachers. This comprehensive guide provides abundant practical strategies, tools, and activities to help new teachers successfully manage their classrooms and effectively teach their students.
The book covers many topics, including building student relationships, classroom management, instructional strategies, assessment and evaluations, and working with parents and administrators.
It also provides a wealth of ideas to help teachers create a positive learning environment, including dealing with challenging behavior, encouraging student involvement, motivating reluctant learners, and fostering positive student-teacher relationships.
14. The Elements of Teaching – James M. Banner, Jr. and Harold C. Cannon
Recommended by Elliott Goodman, 11-year National Board Certified Teacher and co-founder of the classroom-based assessment tool called Tiro (tiro.org).
What book would I recommend for first-year teachers? There are a lot of books out there that are “how-to-teach” guides, like Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov or Teaching Outside the Box by LouAnne Johnson.
These are incredibly useful because they will add moves to a teacher’s toolbox. However, as a first-year teacher, you’re fresh out of a credentialing program, and (hopefully!) you already have many things you want to try, and these “how-to-teach” guides full of tricks might be overwhelming.
The summer before my first year teaching, my new Head of School mailed me a copy of The Elements of Teaching by James M. Banner, Jr. and Harold C. Cannon.
This book doesn’t tell you how to teach, it helps you develop your approach to teaching. Each chapter touches on a specific aspect of teaching (like authority, ethics, or patience) and uses stories of amazing educators to illustrate the main idea.
One of my favorite maxims from the book is, “Ethical teaching means setting high standards and expectations and inspiring students to meet them.” So often, I see well-intentioned first-year teachers exhibiting pity for their students and subsequently lowering their expectations for student achievement.
However, if we are going to help our students become the best version of themselves, we need to set audacious goals and then create opportunities for our students to develop the competencies to achieve great things.
This book is wonderful because it helps any educator develop a philosophy of education and feel empowered to find their unique teaching style.
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Final Word on Books For First Year Teachers
So there you have it; those are the top books for first year teachers recommended by educators and education professionals.
As you can see, there’s a lot of variety on this list, and we hope you find something that helps you in your first year as a teacher.
It’s a tough job, but the first year is always the hardest. After this first year, it gets easier.
If you have other recommendations to share, remember that teachers are the best resource for other teachers, so don’t be a stranger, and let us know your recommendations in the comments.
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