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What's the Big Idea?: Question-Driven Units to Motivate Reading, Writing, and Thinking Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0325021577 ISBN-10: 0325021570

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What's the Big Idea?: Question-Driven Units to Motivate Reading, Writing, and Thinking + The English Teacher's Companion, Fourth Edition: A Completely New Guide to Classroom, Curriculum, and the Profession + Teaching English by Design: How to Create and Carry Out Instructional Units
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 11 - 17 years
  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Heinemann (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0325021570
  • ISBN-13: 978-0325021577
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jim Burke is the author of numerous bestselling Heinemann titles, including the English Teacher's Companion, Fourth Edition and What's the Big Idea? The question he's always tried to answer is "How can we teach our students better?" He seeks these answers daily through his work in his own classroom at Burlingame High School in California where he still teaches after twenty years. Facing the same constraints and challenges as every other teacher, Jim shares his creative solutions in bestselling professional titles with Heinemann such as Reading Reminders and Writing Reminders as well as through Heinemann Professional Development Services. As part of his commitment to helping teachers and learning how to use the latest technologies, he founded the English Companion Ning, described by Education Week as "the world's largest English department" and winner of several Edublog Awards for Best Social Network for Education. In addition to the EC Ning, Jim offers a steady stream of recommended resources through his website (www.englishcompanion.com) and Twitter (@englishcomp) where he is ranked in the top 100 educators to follow at the top within the online English teacher community. Jim serves on several national commissions related to adolescent literacy and standards, including the Advanced Placement English Literature and Language Course and Exam Review Commission with the College Board and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) where he serves on the Content Technical Working Group, which advises PARCC on the national assessments being developed for the Common Core State Standards. In addition, he is a senior author on the Holt McDougal Harcourt Literature series. Jim has received numerous awards, including the NCTE Intellectual Freedom Award, the NCTE Conference on English Leadership Award, and the California Reading Association Hall of Fame Award. He served on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Committee on Adolescence and Young Adulthood English Language Arts Standards. Through his work in the class and on such commissions, Jim Burke seeks not only to clarify but reimagine what English should be, honoring the past even as he works with others to create the future of the discipline he loves so much. Visit his website (www.englishcompanion.com) for more information.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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The book had a lot of helpful information.
Taylor_Reviews
Through this book Jim models how to motivate all students to engage in rich literary experiences that are tied to standards-based instruction.
Kay Haas
Another great Jim Burke book for secondary ELA who want to create flow in the classroom.
Diane Musick

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Daniel E. Sharkovitz on March 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
Look beyond the title. That's my advice for anyone thinking about purchasing this book. I bought the book out of respect for its author, an extraordinarily thoughtful teacher who has contributed much to the teaching profession.

What is especially valuable about What's the Big Idea is not just the "big ideas"--or guiding questions of the book's title. While questions may help a teacher structure a lesson, the book moves beyond being merely an application of the essential questions pedagogy. The book presents many practical ideas for structuring and sustaining deep levels of student inquiry into whatever the subject of study. And that is the book's grandness--wonderful lessons that help teachers create conditions of deep engagement that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow.

In addition to the materials in the book itself, there are helpful links from the book to parallel resources on the publisher's website that make the printing of clear copies of handouts easier.

There are books out there that attempt to frame teaching and learning through one narrow theory or approach. What's the Big Idea is different. In it, Jim Burke tells a wonderful story, a story informed by years of teaching, supported by research, and immersed within the individual journeys of his students to explore, learn, and discover.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kay Haas on March 1, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jim Burke has done it again--and perhaps better than ever before! What's the Big Idea? Question-Driven Units to Motivate Reading, Writing, and Thinking not only provides a researched foundation for implementing inquiry-based instruction, but it also provides a clear picture of what goes on in Jim's high school English classes every day. Through this book Jim models how to motivate all students to engage in rich literary experiences that are tied to standards-based instruction. The text is laced with his activity handouts (also available online for classroom use), pictures of how he models specific skills, and student work samples.

Jim's claim is that questions can and should be the core of our instruction--the foundation for delivering our curriculum; the result will be motivated students engaged in high level critical thinking throughout the year. He states, "...education should disturb when possible; it should challenge students' perspectives, inspire curiosity, and pose questions about why things are the way they are." (78)

To demonstrate the role inquiry plays within instructional units, Jim takes us through his teaching of Romeo and Juliet, Of Mice and Men, and Crime and Punishment so we can witness his instruction and student results from beginning to end. Another unit he shares is an end-of-year project focused on independent reading experiences in his senior AP course. At the same time, Jim shows how he differentiates instruction for struggling students by describing how he scaffolds lessons when necessary so that all students are able to master the same skills. He states, "I began the year committed to the idea that my students could do challenging work, wrestle with big questions and complex ideas, if I guided my instruction not by the questions, `How low must I go?
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By cranteach on October 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book paints a very engaging picture of Jim Burke's AP classroom. It's what I call a "neat ideas" book. It's packed with "neat ideas": activities that sound engaging and valuable and intellectual. I could print out the handouts and use them in my class very easily. (If I taught AP English)

It doesn't, however, teach me enough to design my own curriculum or thoughtfully use questioning in my own classroom context.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By G. Anderson on March 29, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Here are lessons and advice based on successful experiences with a wide range of Jim Burke's students, all based on the concept of using inquiry as the foundation of units, lessons, and learning.

Jim draws on and makes connections with many of the best contemporary thinkers as he provides the theoretical bases for his chapters. Although many of the lessons deal with specific texts, they are easily adaptable to any works a teacher might be using in class.

This important book is supported by superb graphics, online access to handouts and organizers, and useful appendices.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amanda on July 22, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Though I'm not finished yet, I can tell you a give a thumbs up to the content. Thoughtful and specific, Jim Burke provides an easy-to-understand narrative about essential questions. I do have a warning for Kindle users. The book does not neatly translate its format to the smaller Kindle. I just now found the blurb on the book's Amazon page that warns about the text layout being optimized for larger screens (Kindle DX, computer screen, iPad, etc.). My fault, I'll be certain to check that out from now on. Had I known ahead of time, I would have purchased the paperback.

Great content, though!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dahliasbooks on September 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
Although I've taught high school English for fifteen years, I am still an avid reader of teacher resource books. Burke's books, along with Kelly Gallagher's, are among the best and most practical of this genre. Burke provides tons of examples of how he focuses lessons around a big idea, using examples from Of Mice and Men and other commonly taught works. Buy it and see for yourself. You'll refer to again and again and change the way you view lesson planning. Good stuff!
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