Pernille Ripp’s new book Passionate Learners: Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students is “seriously one of the most important education books I have ever read…and I’ve got four bookshelves and a Kindle full of them,” says teacher and consultant Angela Watson, author of Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching. “I love, love, LOVE, this book!”

PassionateLearners-300Published by Powerful Learning Press, Ripp’s book offers both an inspiring message of possibility and practical ideas to help educators create a classroom where students eagerly pursue learning. The interactive eBook (PDF & ePub) includes color photos from Pernille’s classroom, plus videos, downloads and links to pertinent resources and further writings by the author.

Pernille Ripp is a 5th grade teacher in Middleton, Wisconsin and the creator of the Global Read Aloud, a literacy initiative that has connected more than 200,000 students around the world since 2010. Her writing and work has been featured by Edutopia, Education Week, School Library Journal, MiddleWeb and Learning & Leading magazine. She’s also a creator of EdCampMadWI and was selected as a Microsoft Hero of Education in 2013.

In a recent interview, I asked Pernille to tell us more about Passionate Learners:

John: What’s the core message of your book?

Pernille: My goal to help teachers give an authentic voice to their students and then be better at listening to what they have to say. We too often leave students out of the education conversation happening within our schools (and our minds) as we plan and teach. This book sets out to change that.

John: For many teachers who work in traditional schools where the emphasis is on covering the curriculum and preparing for the test, “giving our classrooms back to our students” may sound like an overwhelming and lonely task. How do teachers begin?

Author Pernille Ripp

Pernille: The first step is simply to ask the students how they would like to learn. Even if it means just taking one small idea, engagement will increase simply by giving them a stake in the process and outcome. The other easy thing is to stop talking so much! When we get more quiet as teachers, students have more time to discuss, create and reflect. Neither one of these ideas are scary but they both can be major change makers.

John: Although your book is written for both new and experienced teachers, you were a novice teacher when you began to make this shift yourself. Why do you believe that new teachers shouldn’t wait until they “get their feet on the ground” to create a student-centered classroom?

Pernille: Because these are living, breathing people we work with. The kids who have to sit through our first few years of novice teaching matter too. We can do better than teach from traditional first-year teacher’s guidebooks. Besides, when you are new you are creating your professional habits — so you may as well create wonderful ones that won’t come back to haunt you later.

John: You devote a whole chapter in your book to making your case against traditional grades. Why are the issues of grading and alternate assessment so important in the student-centered, passion-driven classroom? How do teachers who share your views begin to move away from traditional grades?

Pernille: Eliminating grades or even reducing what we grade can be frightening, which is why I suggest a step-by-step approach in my chapter on grading. We can do this in stages. Each step is important because we have to move students away from a product mindset toward a creation mindset. When we focus on the grade, there is always a final product that is supposed to accurately reflect how much a child knows.


On the other hand, when we create projects and then assess them through conversation, self-assessment and peer review (or whatever methods work with our particular kids) we create a dialogue that itself becomes part of the creation. The creative work isn’t finished until the conversation ends and even then, it’s just a step toward the next big goal.

John: Teachers are clearly your primary audience, but what about school leaders? What might principals, instructional coaches and other educators in leadership roles gain by reading Passionate Learners?

Pernille: I believe this book has ideas worthy of every educator’s attention. I hope principals and other staff in leadership positions will find sections of the book worth sharing with those people who can help get changes started. In one sense, I see this as a how-to book for people in leadership to help teachers who are trying to make a change. Working across an entire school or district to transform student learning in this way would be incredibly powerful.

John: One more important question: how can readers of Passionate Learners engage with you more directly to explore ideas together?

Pernille: I am incredibly accessible because I want to support others on this journey, much like I was and still am supported by the many incredible people I am connected with.

I am on Twitter @pernilleripp, I can be emailed through my page, I can be found on Facebook and I also have a page on my website Blogging Through the Fourth DImension dedicated to this book and to create a dialogue around it.

John: Thanks, Pernille. This is such an honest and helpful book. Readers only need to see the many photos from your classroom to recognize that you have, indeed, created passionate learners.

PassionateLrnrs-cvr-standingAnd speaking of readers, during the first three days of this book’s launch, anyone who buys Passionate Learners will get a $2 discount with the code PASSION. And everyone will receive two versions – the PDF which can be read easily on laptops and other devices – and the ePub version, perfect for iPads & iPhones (using the free iBooks app) or Android devices (using the free Aldiko app).

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