Shift This: a Book Review

Shift This, by Joy Kirr, is the perfect differentiated professional reading for teachers.

Far too often, professional books are written for teachers at a certain level of development. I’ll find myself reading and thinking, “This would be good for a beginning teacher,” or “Wow, this is great for teachers who are ready to be challenged.” But Shift This has something in it for everyone, and I love that. Not only does Joy give tips and strategies for improving our teaching, she does it by modeling the very best practices in differentiated instruction.

What I loved about this book… other than, well, everything… was this:

  • Shift This begins with questions, explaining that the “why?” questions need to lead to the “how?” questions which will help us make meaningful changes . For example Joy asks “Why aren’t students paying attention?” and then changes that to “How can my students be more active learners in class?” The questions that begin with “How?” are a call to action. Each chapter starts with a series of questions that I’m sure most teachers have asked themselves over and over again. I sat down and made a list of “why?” questions that I turned into “how?” questions such as, “How can I communicate more effectively with parents?” and “How can our school help our students develop a growth mindset?” which are now the basis of my research and learning for the summer. Somehow the “how” questions have empowered me, making me realize I can find solutions. 
  • In each chapter, Joy includes a series of shifts you can implement – such as shifting class discussions, shifting homework, shifting student-directed learning. Think of where you’re at in your teaching, choose an area you’d like to improve in, and then shift it up a notch… or two or three, depending on how much of a risk-taker you are. These shifts are just as good for the teacher who wants to take baby steps as they are for the teacher who wants to jump right in. Joy reassures us with her words: “You don’t have to dive in all at once to make huge, positive changes.” (p. 5)
  • Links to more information are sprinkled liberally throughout the book and at the end of each chapter. There are lists of blog posts, books, and articles that you can check out if the subject interests you. But, best of all, are the livebinders that Joy has created and shares – they’re amazing resources that I’ll be saving and referring to often.
  • Chapters end with reflections and calls to action that are also a series of shifts. Reflect, choose a call to action, implement, reflect, and improve. This is what a learning cycle looks like, and Shift This neatly packages it for us, making it the perfect book for a teacher book study.
  • I love her voice! Joy speaks openly and honestly about all of her teaching ups and downs, all of the moments in which she questioned herself and what she was doing. Her words rang true to me, made me feel understood, and then inspired me. Yes! Been there, felt that… okay, I can make improvements too. Sometimes, when reading a professional book, I feel the author is so far above me that I can’t possibly do what they do. But Joy shares both her weaknesses and the stepping stones she took to improve. Peeking into her classroom and seeing it in all its realistic lack of perfection gave me a sense of solidarity. Basically, by sharing her vulnerability, Joy made me feel stronger and more capable.

I found that the author is also easily approachable – she’s active on Twitter @JoyKirr, and in her blog, she invites readers to contact her through e-mail, saying “Let’s keep the conversation going so we can shift learning back to our students!”

I’ll be strongly recommending Shift This for a book study in our individualized professional development. Yes, I do want to keep the conversation going, and I think this book is the perfect catalyst for doing so.


  1. Wow!!! This is one thorough and professional book review!! It sounds like Joy masterfully differentiated access to the shifts, gave a peek into a “real” classroom, and empowered you, and other readers, the make changes that benefit students. Carla, thank you so much for writing this post! I am blessed by your wisdom, empathy, and friendship. Now . . . I’m off to purchase the book.

    • No…thank YOU for inspiring me Marilyn. I loved the book, but wouldn’t have taken the time to write a review without your push….better together!

  2. Thanks Carla. I am going to read this for sure. You have convinced me!

  3. Thanks, Carla. I have to get this book for sure after reading your insightful review. And I always Love seeing Joy´s tweets as well as your own. Gracias again! From: @AlexForero924

  4. Carla, I am humbled.
    My favorite part of this post is that you’ve written down your questions and have a plan. It’s the questions that drive me each day/week/month/year. What is important to me for my students? Why do I believe something is right and good, and HOW can I get there with my classes? THANK YOU for this. Of course, I couldn’t let it go without commenting – so we can keep this conversation going! Let me know if/when you want me to chime in with your school (that you founded?!?!) ever. I’d be glad to answer questions, be a sounding board, or find someone who can! Feeling blessed, Joy

    • Thanks so much for responding Joy! I would love to keep this conversation going. I’ll let our teachers know they can reach out to you…maybe one day we can invite you down…

  5. I have added this to my reading list on Amazon! Thanks for the review.

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