It’s Time for March Reading Madness!

Welcome to SURN’s March Reading Madness

Twenty books go head-to-head in this exciting twist on March Madness.  Welcome to SURN’s first annual March Reading Madness!  Starting on February 24th and continuing throughout the month of March, you get to vote on which book you think is the best.  There are six rounds over the course of the next few weeks, and only the books with the top votes advance to the next round.  Excited about your book?  Don’t forget to vote!

March Reading Madness Schedule:
February 24– Round One
March 3– Round Two
March 10– Round Three
March 17– Quarter Finals
March 24– Semi-finals
March 31– Final Championship


Click to zoom in

The Official Bracket Based On Your Input:

How to Vote:

Please visit our Google form to vote.  It should only take about two minutes—it is super quick!

More Information on the Books:

White Dolphin

Ruth and the Green Book

Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!

Pete the Cat

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom


Lightning in a Jar

The Book Whisperer

Accessible Mathematics

The Energy Bus

Teach Like a Pirate


Riding Freedom


Lean In

Papa’s Mechanical Fish

When You Were Little

To Kill a Mockingbird

Mr. Peabody’s Apples

A review of “The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi”

tia book

Book Review by SURN Logistics Planner and Research Assistant, Tia McClenney

I have studied Nazi Germany since I was 7 years old but Neal Bascomb’s “The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi” introduced me to an aspect of the war to which I hadn’t been exposed. The novel went outside the general presumption of WWII and Nazi Germany and instead gave an astounding look at government and spy operations in capturing a well-known Nazi leader. The novel provokes questions among the reader, influencing consideration to what goes into the development of division, war, and its aftermath.

I was gripped by the logistical operations of the Holocaust, with Bascomb going outside of what was done and instead explaining how it was done, enlightening the importance of prosecuting such a high ranking Nazi leader and all involved. It gave a look into how many were surreptitiously connected in implementing Hitler’s Final Solution – an operation that ultimately resulted in 11 million deaths. Have you ever questioned how this was so tragically achieved? “The Nazi Hunters” gives a look into the answer.

I also valued how Bascomb provided a remarkable glimpse into the progression of a spy operation and likely, this is what will amaze readers the most. The detail that goes into (and even what doesn’t go into) a spy sting is fascinating – though it is difficult to use such a word surrounding the premise of this particular operation. “The Nazi Hunters” further provided an acknowledgment of how much happens in the world around us while we remain unaware. This aroused further questions in my reading such as how often is someone’s death written off as a homicide, but is actually the result of a spy operation; or how often is a person’s disappearance written off as foul play, but is actually the result of a spy operation? Having a glimpse into a spy procedure was eye-opening to say the very least.

Outside of the basic theme of the novel, it had a robust undertone of passion. It enthused me to read of humans so determined to achieve a justice that wasn’t even directly their own. – Despite the obstructions, the failures, and even the times when the men stood alone in wanting to continue their mission, the desire to bring justice to a wrong consistently dictated the operation. The book provided a story of passion for human goodness without even having to state the word.

There are many other aspects of Neal Bascomb’s ““The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi”” that will captivate the reader and ignite a realm of emotions. Though the novel is based on a time many decades ago, it begs the question of how much of the story is still prevalent in our world today. What do I mean by that? Come to your own conclusion by reading the book!

Start a Reading Revolution in Your Classroom!

How often do your students make true connections to what they are required to read in the classroom?  Do your students react with boredom or frustration when you want them to read?  If so, consider flipping your class through the power of blogging!

There is so much value in what we want our students to read, but sometimes it can be a battle to get them to engage in a successful reading process.  There are many ways to transform reading in the classroom, and one exciting way is through flipped blogging.

A flipped classroom is one where students engage in learning at home in order to have an understood foundation of a topic before returning to the classroom.  Once they return to the classroom, they participate in project-based learning that supports and extends the learning they did at home.  Flipping the classroom with reading as a focus allows students to read in the classroom while the teacher models successful reading strategies.

Overview of the process:

  • Students choose any work of fiction appropriate for their reading level
  • Students read in class 3-4 times a week for 2.5 weeks.  They must read actively, but get to choose their method: index cards, post-it flags, bullet points in their notebooks, etc.
  • At home, students write their blog using the Writing to Learn method.  They have the freedom to craft posts on topics of their own choosing.
  • Every day that they read in class, students blog about the experience at home.

 (Sztabnik, 2014)

Flipped Blogging

For more information, please visit

Start a Reading Revolution: Flip Your Class With Blogs

A Review of Effective Teacher Interviews: How Do I Hire Good Teachers?

Effective Teacher Interviews: How Do I Hire Good Teachers? (2014) answers the question with research and an interview-creation process that is user-friendly and a quick-read. This newly released ASCD Arias-formatted book equips and informs readers to construct an interview that is fair, legal, and focused on getting additional information about job-related knowledge, skills, and abilities. The process starts with aligning the interview questions to the job description, continues with writing items to solicit information about past performance (experience-based questions), and eventually concludes with a job offer.

Additionally, Effective Teacher Interviews: How Do I Hire Good Teachers? includes a section on performance interviewing. This is an extra step in the process that is rarely done because of the additional time involved. When a performance interview is added as part of the interview process, there is an opportunity to gain additional insight into candidate’s qualifications.  A performance interview must not be a surprise to the applicant and may be prepared in advance and delivered onsite or as a recorded submission.

For example, candidates could be asked to design and teach a lesson that engages students on the impact of major U.S. waterways on exploration, settlement, transportation, and trade. The interview team establishes the criteria in advance. Evidence of appropriate and challenging student engagement involves students setting learning goals, applying meta-cognitive strategies, using collaborative learning, generating graphic organizers and products, providing feedback and other high-yield strategies, all items found on the SURN Indicators of Student Engagement Tool that is informed by the work of Dr. John Hattie (2009). In this scenario, neither of the two finalists gave unsatisfactory performances. An unsatisfactory performance would have been well-behaved 6th graders neatly coloring and labeling a map of the U.S. waterways. So review the two bullets below and determine who did a better job given the performance task?

  • Candidate A hooked students with a 53-second video about Lewis and Clark’s dog (Seaman) on the expedition, used maps, and had well-organized note-taking sheets about the exploration of several waterways. She moved around the room spot-checking progress. Students listened and took notes.
  • Candidate B used the Jigsaw method. Each expert group gathered information about a particular waterway’s impact on exploration, settlement, transportation, and trade. In their home group they shared and organized the information to compare and contrast the different waterways.

Candidate A had outstanding teacher pedagogy; however, the lesson missed the mark of engaging students, though it did demonstrate the teacher’s expertise at designing a coherent lesson. Candidate B’s lesson design focused on the students acquiring, disseminating, and organizing key information within the context she established. Articulating the criteria by which the lesson would be measured in advance ensures fairness, reduces bias, and focuses the reviewer.

Key take-aways from the book are to plan and structure the interview with care and accountability.

  • The interview is dynamic and responsive to the interactions of the people involved.
  • The interview is a distributive leadership opportunity where you engage your interview panel in contributing to the decision-making process for a new colleague. Training the interview panel will enhance the effectiveness of the interview.
  • The research informs interview design with the inclusion of experienced-based queries, behaviorally-anchored rubrics to assess the quality of responses, note-taking space, and sample quality indicators.
  • The book’s layout with bold headings, bulleted lists, examples, and an Encore section summarizing the hiring process as a “Get Ready, Get Set, Go” contributes to its reader-friendliness.


SURN Assistant Director, Jennifer Hindman, Ph.D. wrote Effective Teacher Interviews: How Do I Hire Good Teachers?


Visible Leading for Secondary English Language Arts


The SURN Visible Leading for Secondary English Language Arts teachers focuses on scaffolding college and career readiness skills in English classes. Through the workshops, teachers consider how they can best address college and career readiness learning outcomes in their own classrooms through learning experiences focused on student engagement in authentic writing, choice reading, and project based learning with a purpose. The following resources are excellent starting points for school and teacher reflection on college and career readiness in their own schools and classrooms. Use these links to reflect on your own practice, start a conversation with your colleagues or student, or get ideas for new strategies to implement in your school or classroom.

Blendspace Learning Module: Virginia College and Career Readiness for Secondary English

This SURN learning module guides you through a brief overview of the VA college and career readiness initiative, video reflections by SURN teachers who have been a part of the implementation process, and other resources that have helped to inform the implementation of the CCR English Performance Expectations into Virginia English classes and SURN workshops.

The Virginia Department of Education College and Career Readiness Initiative Website
The VDOE website provides the CCR performance expectations and course information for English and Math and the data, resources, and research that support the statewide initiative.

The National Council of Teachers of English Position Statement on Leisure Reading
Independent, self-selected reading has a positive impact on students’ reading comprehension, vocabulary, and engagement. Policymakers, administrators, teachers, and families need to foster efforts to increase opportunities for leisure reading in and out of the classroom.

The National Day on Writing
On October 20, 2014, teachers and students across the US participated in the National Day on Writing. They spent time writing across different modes, for different audiences, and for different purposes. Find out more about the event, and more importantly, examples and resources for supporting authentic writing experiences in school every day.