On Teaching Techniques and Methods (Part Two)


On Teaching Techniques and Methods: Reflections of an Experienced Teacher (Part Two)

By Ralph Rhodes, retired social studies teacher, Council Rock High School, Pennsylvania

Edited by Elliott Seif, author of Teaching for Lifelong Learning: How to Prepare Students for a Changing World

Editor’s note: Many years ago, I worked with Ralph Rhodes who, upon his retirement from education, wrote this paper with the intention of passing on some of his teaching insights to others. His words of wisdom are divided into two separate blogs—the first one on teaching techniques and methods and this blog, part two, on “who you are” as an educator. 

I have edited his work to make it more general and fit with today’s times, but there is a lot of wisdom about teaching at any level presented here. Enjoy!


My fellow educators:

Over the last 22 years, I have consistently evaluated my own teaching. For 10 of those years, I have had my students do the same. I have divided my reflections into two parts: the first 10 suggestions, posted in an earlier blog on teaching techniques and strategies, and these 10 suggestions on “being” or the importance of who a teacher is in the classroom.

Several of these tips can also be helpful to educational leaders who may want to share and discuss these ideas with teachers. Since we are all unique and many effective teaching styles can be very different from one another, some of the items listed here may or may not be appropriate for everyone. However, I hope these 10 ideas on “being” are ultimately helpful to many of those in the classroom as well as those working with teachers.


  1. Be inspired. If you ever wish to inspire others, you must be inspired yourself. Seek and cultivate your own sources of inspiration. Find others who have the same passions as you do and encourage each other.

    A good teacher has a thirst for learning as well as teaching. Be a thief of other ideas, techniques, and attitudes that inspire you as a teacher. Take courses that renew your creativity. Become friendly with those who set high ideals and stoke your personal and professional passions.

    It also helps to have childlike curiosity and excitement. Tom Hanks was told in the movie Joe Versus the Volcano that only a few people on Earth are awake; the rest are going through life asleep, unaware, unappreciative, and unexcited. Make sure you and your classes are among those that are awake. You and your students will benefit from such inspiration and passion.

  2. Make sure you have the energy you need for the magic moments when you are with your students. Good teaching requires high levels of energy and enthusiasm. Each day, you must be fresh and up and ready to wage war against ignorance. Though your role should be closer to a “guide on the side” than a “sage on the stage,” steering your students toward inquiry, understanding, and explanation is the greatest show on Earth. Do whatever it takes to stay fresh and enthusiastic.

  3. Be supportive and empowering, not negative and controlling. Your job is to get your students to feel good about what they do and to empower them to learn, apply what they learn, and think on their own. Someone once said that humility is having the ability and capacity to see all people as equals, so approach your students with this humility. Create a dialogue. Let them talk and always try to find value and interest in what they say. Respect their opinion, and they will respect yours and will be empowered to think more on their own.

  4.  Set high standards for yourself and your students, and always be a truth seeker. Good teaching is hard work and requires a lot of effort and thoughtfulness inside and outside of the classroom. Always challenge your class with the appropriate level of work, but monitor this carefully for each student. Use the same grading standards for all, but in your feedback, be encouraging to those less skilled and challenge those with more confidence and mastery. Also, contact home with positive thoughts when a student does something outstanding or when his or her confidence needs a boost.

    You should always strive for the truth. Present yourself as someone who facilitates truth seeking. This may require admitting you are wrong or that you do not know but will find out—or you’ll help your students find out. To seek the truth is a habit and a way of being that you can model for your students.

  5. Be very clear on what you expect in every assignment. Important, complex, and involved assignments should be modeled as concretely as possible. Share previously completed exemplary projects and assignments with your students. Term papers and other involved projects should be completed in steps so students get feedback as they progress. When possible, give students a chance to revise their work so they (and you) can be proud of what they achieved.

  6.  Never lose the opportunity to be dramatic. If you have an inclination or flair for dramatic teaching techniques, such as those exhibited by Robin Williams in the movie Dead Poets Society, use them: stand on your desk, give a press conference as Teddy Roosevelt, have your class do the wave, draw cartoons on the board. Lose your inhibitions. It may be best to limit these at the beginning of the year, but once the ice is broken, go for it. As Miss Frizzle of The Magic School Bus says, “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, get messy, ask questions, get answers.”

  7. Be clear on goals for the year, unit, and day. It’s good to be spontaneous but be clear what it is you want your students to learn, understand, or demonstrate. I always had a daily agenda with my lesson goals on the board, and at the end of the period, I used it for closure.

  8. Be a moral agent. Many educators feel uncomfortable imparting values and morals in teaching, but I feel strongly that teachers must be moral agents. They must be strong moral examples and expect the same behaviors from their students. The principles of human dignity, justice, and equality are standards to exemplify and reinforce. Teachers should not belittle anyone, and students shouldn’t either. A racist, a thief, a liar, or a bully in the classroom should not be tolerated but should be handled without sacrificing that person’s dignity.

  9.  Be centered and focus on the positive aspects of teaching students. For those of us who are intensely self-critical, teaching can be a daily roller coaster of emotional bliss and great despair—especially when things go wrong. Although a lesson’s failure is often an opportunity to learn, one must realize that teaching success or failure can be dictated by factors beyond a teacher’s control, such as the time of day, the mood and attitude of students, or students’ familial or social troubles. Teachers must be centered and confident and know that all they can do is their best—and then let the chips fall where they may.

    It’s important to keep some inner peace and a sense of humor as a teacher and not have your mood be dependent on whether you were successful or not that day. I used to have a sign in my room that said, “Every day in here is a battle against ignorance. Who won today?” It helped me get through those occasional bad days when ignorance won more often than I would have liked.

    Effective teaching depends on consistent monitoring of student learning, but as a teacher, you should always do this with kindness and forgiveness. Do whatever you can to be centered and not overreact to the outcome of one or two classes, the challenges of student learning, or the behavior of one or two students. Things are often not as bad as you think—and even if they are bad, you should remember that you can lose some battles and still win the war. In short, be gracious and kind to yourself as well as your students.

    Keep these lessons in mind:

    1. Often your worst class will end up being one of your best classes by the end of the year. (Unfortunately, the reverse is also true.)
    2. A few students can ruin a class if you let them. In a class where one or more students turn things sour, don’t let it ruin your feelings for the entire class. When a class has you down, focus and reinforce what is good about that class. Take time to get to know the quiet and more productive students and offer your best to them. You still need to address the challenging students as best you can, but don’t let that ruin your effort to teach the others.

      In the worst case scenarios, I just accepted the fact that I could not change a student or a group of students. I just went with them and never threw in the towel. Like in a marriage, you need to accept the unpleasant things in your relationship and focus on and nurture the good things.
  10.  Be persistent in your own desire to grow and learn. Teaching is both a science and an art form that can always be improved. The day teachers feel they know it all is the day they’ll lose the excitement and curiosity of teaching. Cultivate the habit of always looking for new resources, new methods, new ideas, and better ways of being and doing. Keep a professional list of things you want to remember to do and change, and keep working on these items a little at a time. 

These 10 items are just some humble suggestions on “being” as a classroom teacher. I hope some of them are helpful to you. Teaching is a wonderful and rewarding profession. Be patient and kind to yourself, and remember that good teaching takes lots of time and effort.

Make sure you and your classes are among those awake.

On Teaching Techniques and Methods (Part One)

Categories: Instruction, Student Engagement

On Teaching Techniques and Methods: Reflections of an Experienced Teacher

By Ralph Rhodes, retired social studies teacher, Council Rock High School, Newtown, Pennsylvania

Edited by Elliott Seif, author of Teaching for Lifelong Learning: How to Prepare Students for a Changing World

Editor’s note: Many years ago, I worked with Ralph Rhodes who, upon his retirement from teaching, wrote this paper with the intention of passing on some of his teaching wisdom to others. I have divided his reflections into two separate blogs—this one on “doing,” i.e., teaching techniques and methods, and the second on “being” or determining who you are in the classroom, which will be posted at a later date.

I have edited his work to make it more general and fit with today’s times, but there is a lot of wisdom about teaching at any level that is presented here. Enjoy!

My fellow educators:

Over the last 22 years, I have consistently evaluated my own teaching. For 10 of those years, I have had my students do the same. The following teaching techniques, methods, and suggestions come from these self and student critiques. Since we all have our own teaching styles, these suggestions may or may not be appropriate for you. However, I hope you will find some of these teaching techniques and methods useful in your own teaching situations.

  1. Build mystery and inquiry into your lessons.

  2. Often, I found that students had lost the ability to figure out and seek out answers to problems after many years of schooling. One way to rekindle this ability is to bring challenges to students in the form of puzzles and games. For example, I would sometimes bring to class a little-known relic from a time period under study and have students ask 20 questions to guess what it is.

    Another idea: Present problems for them to solve and have resources ready for them to use to find answers. For example, I created a mystery game where each student was given a short clue on an index card, and I would ask students to work together as a class to figure out “whodunit” or what caused it.

  3. Review, review, and more review.

  4. Avoid a “hit-and-run curriculum.” Make sure you know what your goals are, teach to your goals, and then review, review, review. Share your goals on what you want your students to learn in a specific time frame and always try to end the time by asking them to demonstrate what you taught them. Make a strong effort to start each day reviewing what you did the day before. Give one or more quizzes as review and discussion before any big unit test. Offer a midterm as a formative assessment, even if it is not required. Find a way to review and apply what they learned in other units. Have them keep a vocabulary list, personalize learning in a journal, or complete reinforcing homework assignments. The more ways you can get them to interact with the material, review, summarize, synthesize, etc., the better.

  5. Use props and other methods to make learning more concrete.

  6. Find ways to use props and other means to demonstrate and explain key ideas and turn the abstract into something concrete. I would bring in a fan and a vacuum cleaner to demonstrate how the Federal Reserve Bank tries to raise and lower the money supply to influence inflation or recessions. I would create a chain reaction using six mouse traps, six ping pong balls and a dart gun to illustrate how the assassination of an archduke caused World War I. I drew cartoon characters or told a story to illustrate important ideas.

    Don’t hesitate to be a technique thief; ask other teachers what they do to teach a topic and make the learning more concrete—what props, methods, stories, and other means they use.

  7. Be aware of the learning environment.

  8. Do what you can to make a classroom comfortable. Monitor classroom temperature and air circulation. Make sure all kids see the board and adjust the seating to fit the lesson and the style of teaching to promote a more student-centered and less teacher-dominated classroom. Use a circle or other more open arrangement so students can talk to each other and not have their backs to each other.

  9. Find out how your students individually learn.

  10. Use diagnostic tests, teacher observations, and other means to note differences in how students learn. Try your best to provide for these differences.

    For example, take into account differences between primarily visual and kinesthetic-tactile learners with large index cards, each listing a key vocabulary word or the cause of a major historical event. Each card may have a different color to reinforce differences. You can put magnetic tape on the back of each card and place the cards on the board, rearrange the order, or have students do the matching and sorting. This display, which takes into account student differences in learning, is helpful in teaching and in reviewing. It’s also great for teaching cause and effect, understanding key concepts, and sorting, sequencing, and determining cause and effect.

    When teaching a difficult abstract concept, I would often stop my lesson and have students pair with a neighbor to explain it in their own way or make a drawing to better understand it.

  11. Get as many students engaged as possible.

  12. It’s easy to let a few students dominate class involvement. To get greater numbers of students engaged, I sometimes called on students who were quiet. If this is painful for the terminally shy, you can find other ways for them to share in the lesson, such as writing their thoughts down in a journal before sharing. If you want to improve class participation, ask a question and then let them write an answer down, share it with a partner, and then share it with the class. This think-pair-share technique takes more time but it promotes more discussion and gets more students involved.

    Also, make it clear to your students that teaching and learning is a two-way street. I would often start the year with a communication game where I asked my students to draw an object I was thinking of while I used only verbal descriptions of the object, not allowing any student questions or requests. I would go fast, use difficult vocabulary, and be purposefully vague. When my verbal explanation for a simple airplane ended up looking like abstract art or a house on their papers, I would ask them what was missing in this learning experience, and they would usually answer by saying that what’s missing are their questions and their requests for me to slow down, to define key words, and to give more exact explanations. I would then do it again with a new object and allow questions and other feedback, making teaching and learning a two-way street. This set the tone for each year.

  13. Create a research component for each unit and end with some kind of fun culminating activity.

  14. Research activities, where students find and evaluate information to help them answer questions, develop projects, and more not only teaches students many useful skills but also allows them the freedom to explore additional topics that interest them in a unit. Culminating activities, such as mock trials, personal diaries or scrapbooks, posters, or debates, offer students a chance to apply and reinforce what they have learned, and helps them anchor what was taught in their long-term memory.

  15. Develop an open classroom environment with clear limits you can enforce.

  16. I like an open classroom, where students have a chance to frequently participate and even confront me while also having some clear limits. My classroom rule was that students must show respect for others and use respectful language in the classroom. I made sure to follow the same rules, and when I needed to confront students, I did it respectfully and with dignity.

    Also, I would always try to make confrontations as private as possible. I would deal early with problem students in order to nip the problem in the bud and prevent potentially difficult and challenging situations from getting worse. I made it a point to chat with their other teachers, talk with guidance personnel, or call home if appropriate. I also made an effort to take into account the positive traits and strengths of all students and used positive reinforcement as much as possible.

  17. Teach by building on what students have in their “cerebral data bank.”

  18. I made a strong effort to find out what my students were thinking about and what their experiences were so I could better connect with them. I would try to learn what they watched on TV, what they did on social media, what music they liked, what movies they’d seen, what issues were important to them. When possible, I integrated what I knew about them into my teaching.

  19. When appropriate, cultivate a childlike atmosphere in class.

  20. How can we get back to a time when students were eager to learn and most were very willing to get involved and eagerly give an answer to a question? I believe that it first requires that we as teachers have a childlike spirit. All of us need to look for reasons to be children again.

    To try to get students to rekindle the desire to participate often and with enthusiasm, I sometimes told them to bring their desks closer together for a story and had them pretend they just had their cookies, milk and a nap. One year, I came into class singing and pretending to be Mr. Rogers, and then I told a story relevant to the lesson.

    One suggestion: Walk around the class often, making quality eye contact and personal comments to those who are not big class participants. Develop an unusual walk or gestures to add to your lessons. Figure out your own ways to rekindle a childlike excitement. Your students may think you are strange, but this attitude will reawaken curiosity and interest, and your lessons will stick with your students and rekindle the spirit that makes a classroom come alive.

Ten Reasons Why Strong Arts Education Programs Are Critical for Living in Today’s and Tomorrow’s World


Elliott Seif is the author of Teaching for Lifelong Learning: How to Prepare Students for a Changing World.

In two previous blogs, I identified many reasons for building strong science and social studies programs for students, K–12. In this blog, I identify ten key reasons why a comprehensive K–12 arts program should also be a critical component of a rich education that prepares students for living in today’s and tomorrow’s world.

Unfortunately, in too many schools and districts, the arts are considered less important than other subjects and are given short shrift as part of a student’s K–12 educational experience. In my estimation, rich, comprehensive arts programs are a critical component of a strong education because they have a powerful impact on attitudes towards school and learning and help develop important understandings, skills and habits of mind. Arts education programs also develop student interests and talents, prepare students for living a full life and, for some, lead to career choices in music and dance, visual arts, and the theater, among others.

Here are my ten powerful reasons for developing strong, rich, and comprehensive school arts programs.

  1. Most children like arts education and actively engage in school through the arts.

    Let’s face it—for the most part, children like arts education! They are engaged, interested and involved. Arts education is usually “hands on,” has immediate rewards, focuses on positive achievements and results, develops concrete products, and fosters collaboration and successful achievement. There are many opportunities for students to “show off” and demonstrate their skills through authentic performance. For some students, arts education is the main reason why they come to school and stay in school.

  2. Children learn growth habits, positive behaviors and attitudes through the arts.
    The arts enable children to grow in confidence, learn ways to improve learning, and think positively about themselves and learning. Learning a musical instrument, creating a painting, learning to dance, or singing in a chorus teaches that taking small steps, using feedback to improve, practicing to get better at something, and being persistent and patient even in the face of adversity are important for growth and improvement. In other words, the arts teach growth habits, behaviors, and attitudes that can be applied to any field of endeavor.
  3. The arts help students develop critical intellectual skills.
    The arts foster the learning of critical skills that carry over to learning other subjects and in life. For example, through the arts, children learn to observe (“What do you see in a painting?”); interpret (“How should we play this music?”); see different perspectives (“What is the artist’s perspective? What is your perspective?”); analyze (“What if we take apart this play and study each part separately?”); and synthesize (“How do all the parts of the dance fit together to create a whole?”).
  4. The arts enhance creativity and creative thinking.
    Imagine an art class in which students create an original canvas filled with color and creative use of space; a music class where they develop their own rhythms and music interpretations; a theater class where they create and produce their own interpretation of plays and/or their own original plays. In other words, the arts are a wonderful arena for fostering creative thinking, inventiveness, and originality—important skills to have in a rapidly changing world.
  5. The arts teach students methods for learning language and literacy skills.
    As students learn to read musical notes, play an instrument, learn dance steps, create a painting, act in a drama, or interpret a script, they are also building reading skills, learning how to develop new concepts, building new vocabulary, and learning a new language.
  6. The arts help students learn mathematics.
    The arts require measurement, number manipulation, and proportional thinking—all of which foster mathematical thinking. Students also learn about patterns (e.g., musical rhythms and dance patterns); spatial and geometric relationships (e.g., visual art patterns); and three-dimensional measurement skills (e.g., making models of clay).
  7. The arts broaden and enrich learning in other subjects.
    Artworks provide a visual context for learning about, interpreting, and analyzing historical periods. Music, painting, theater, and dance help literature come alive. Graphic designs and drawings, such as those made by inventors and engineers, complement learning about scientific and technological principles and innovations.
  8. Aesthetic learning is important in its own right.
    The arts teach about beauty, proportion, and grace. The power of the arts is in their wondrous ability to give us joy, help us understand tragedy, promote empathy, and make the written word come alive. They help students examine conflict, power, emotion, and life itself. For many, the arts become part of the richness of living over the course of a lifetime.
  9. Artistic talents and interests are nurtured and developed.
    Through the arts, many children discover their talents and interests and find a way to do something productive with their life. They develop career interests, talents, and hobbies related to acting, theater production, painting, graphic design, music, dance, sculpture, or creative writing that they will enjoy and use throughout their lives.
  10. The arts teach teamwork and collaboration. Children learn tolerance and understanding of others.
    Through the arts, children learn how to work together to achieve great things. For example, they learn how teamwork contributes to a great theater or musical performance, a mural, or a dance. By teaching students how to work and live together, the arts contribute to making schools and the entire community safer and more peaceful.


In sum, extensive and excellent art education programs foster important and enjoyable learning experiences, positive attitudes toward school and learning, significant learning across many subject areas, creative thinking, teamwork, the understanding of new career options, talent development, and many other learning and life experiences. Arts programs can make a big difference in the life of every child, and every student should have the opportunity to participate in a strong, multidimensional arts program throughout their educational experience. The arts can have a powerful impact on children and learning, and they can make a significant difference in children’s lives. What it takes is commitment, support, understanding, and hard work to make sure the arts are a significant and meaningful part of every school program in the country.

Ten Reasons Why a Strong Social Studies Education Is Critical for Living in Today’s and Tomorrow’s World

Categories: 21st Century Skills

Elliott Seif is the author of Teaching for Lifelong Learning: How to Prepare Students for a Changing World.

In my last Solution Tree blog, “Why We Need K–12 High-Quality Science Instruction in a 21st Century World,” I identified twelve reasons why every child needs to have the opportunity to participate in a strong, coherent, inquiry-oriented science program. In this blog, I will explore ten important reasons why a strong, coherent social studies program, beginning in the earliest grades through high school, should be an important goal for all schools today.

Unfortunately, the quality of the social studies program has often been neglected in many schools and districts. In the primary and elementary grades, teachers and schools often limit the teaching of social studies or water down the teaching in order to pay more attention to tested subjects, such as English/language arts and mathematics. Secondary social studies is often taught through textbooks and survey courses that cover content and ignore interesting, meaningful, active, in-depth learning, a focus on understanding, and the teaching of critical skills such as thinking and writing.

Here are ten reasons why we need a revitalized, strong, coherent, and comprehensive social studies program at all grade levels:

  1. Social studies provides students with a broad and relevant knowledge base that helps them better understand and deal with today’s complex world.
  2. Knowledge and understanding of crucial concepts and ideas in American and world history—such as the diversity of American and world cultures and communities, key geographic knowledge and concepts, an understanding of America’s democratic heritage, and basic economic concepts and theory—as well as important concepts from other social science disciplines are critical for an enlarged understanding the place of each individual in the world in which we live, America’s place in the world, and the role of informed citizens in a democratic society.

  3. Social studies helps students develop understanding and positive values that build a common foundation among Americans.
  4. Students are able to build common understanding and a common set of values that transcend geographic boundaries and create a concept of America as one nation. These include stories and narratives about great Americans; the ideals, principles, rights and values tied to the American Revolution and found within the Constitution; the geography and demographics of America; why we fought the Civil War and in World Wars I and II; slavery and the civil rights movement; the importance of immigration to America; Manifest Destiny; market economy principles; the Cold War; common problems Americans face today; and many other key ideas.

  5. Social studies teaches students how to be thoughtful, active citizens in a democratic society.
  6. Students develop an understanding of current issues and events, and develop the context through which to analyze these issues and events and consider alternative perspectives and solutions. Social studies is also how students learn to actively participate in American democratic institutions—through field trips to the courts and governing bodies, learning how to register to vote, community service, and other means.

  7. Social studies is a key vehicle for developing literacy, math and other critical skills, such as the use of evidence, research, argumentation, writing, speaking, listening, numeracy, and data collection and analysis.
  8. From an early age, students should read and analyze varied fiction and nonfiction texts, learn important concepts and vocabulary about history and the world around them, learn how important evidence is for accuracy of opinions and ideas, conduct research and write essays and reports, develop and conduct surveys, interpret and use graphs, and in general develop and reinforce important and vital skills necessary for living in a 21st century world.

  9. By engaging in social studies inquiry, students learn how to be capable, collaborative problem-solvers.
  10. Through essential questions, discussions, persuasive essays and other means, students work together to learn how to discuss, use evidence, and reflect on and solve problems, such as issues about the environment, poverty, race, class, economics, and politics.

  11. Social studies develops critical and creative thinking skills.
  12. Students in social studies classes discern patterns, analyze and interpret maps, take apart arguments, and invent new solutions to challenging problems.

  13. Social studies is a powerful vehicle for creating interdisciplinary, integrated school programs.
  14. Many elementary teachers, along with diverse secondary subject area teachers, can create interdisciplinary programs around social studies themes like community, environment and human interaction, conflict, change, and adaptation. History can be integrated with literature, social studies topics can be infused with science and math, and the arts can help students understand historical events.

  15. Social studies helps to educate and prepare future leaders.
  16. As students learn about positive leadership in America and throughout the world, consider difficult issues throughout history and how they were solved, examine current issues and ways people try to solve them, and take part in civic activities, they build an understanding of leadership and what it takes to be an effective leader.

  17. Social studies promotes self-understanding and the understanding of other peoples and cultures.
  18. Social studies helps students understand their own backgrounds, the values and diverse backgrounds and experiences of Americans, and the wide variety of cultures and customs of people around the world and at other periods in history.

  19. Social studies provides students with important practical information and skills that can be used in their everyday lives.
  20. In social studies classes, students learn skills for financial literacy, career options, how to register and vote, and other important practical skills.

Based on these crucial reasons for creating a strong, comprehensive social studies program, social studies should be given a prominent place throughout the curriculum, beginning in the earliest grades. If social studies are to fulfill the important goals outlined above, there must be a greater emphasis on building a strong, coherent K–12 curriculum that uses multiple resources and powerful instructional strategies. This requires a belief that social studies is as important as reading, math, and any other subject, and that it should be given significant financial support and provided with effective professional development at all levels.

Follow-up reading:
Seif, E. (2003). Social Studies Revived. Educational Leadership, 61, 54–59. https://www.ascd.org/el/articles/social-studies-revived

Asking for Amazon Reviews: A Guide

Categories: Bookmark

Be honest: when you’re shopping for books, how often do you head straight for the one with the most reviews? Like it or not, Amazon has forever changed the way we buy and sell books. As knowledgeable educators who recognize the value of data, we look to reviews to help us determine the quality of the work. And those comments, especially on Amazon, not only influence sales; they also influence the author’s visibility.

We have a chicken-and-egg problem, though. In order to get reviews, we need to sell books; in order to sell books, we need good reviews. So, what is the single best way to get Amazon reviews? Start by simply asking.

“Almost every important human encounter boils down to the act, and the art, of asking,” says Amanda Palmer, author of The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help.

If the idea of asking for reviews makes you feel uncomfortable, here are a few tips that can ease your nerves.

Start with a Launch Team

The publishing process includes a lot of people: editors, publicists, marketers, social media specialists, and designers, to name a few. While many people on your team are provided by the publisher, you can, and should, bring in outside reviewers to look over your work. These can be close colleagues, but because of the highly savvy Amazon algorithm, you should avoid family and friends. “Amazon can track your close relationships and will remove these reviews because they are seen as biased,” according to the Author Learning Center.

Make a list of 10 to 30 people who might be able to read the work. But even if you can’t reach that many, just start with a few names. “One month before the book release, send this team a copy of your book so they can read it in advance. It’s easiest to email the book as a PDF, along with a short call to action,” says Tucker Max, cofounder of Scribe Media.

  • DO: Give out free, advanced copies of your book in exchange for an honest review.
  • DON’T: Pay for a review or offer compensation for a positive review.

Choose Your Words Carefully

When asking for reviews, you want to respect the complexity of your readers’ opinions. Avoid saying things like, “If you really loved my book, please leave a review.” While this is a common ask, it doesn’t leave space for an honest assessment. You want the review to be positive, of course, but you want the reader to get there organically.

A better way to phrase the question is, “Did this book help you in some way? If so, I’d love to hear about it.” Honest reviews help readers find the right book for their needs!

Scribe Media suggests something like the following:

  • DO: Use the “Editorial Reviews” section on your Amazon book page.
  • DON’T: Review your own book.

Get Personal with Visuals

Asking for Amazon reviews via video is a great way to deliver a personal message to your readers. Here’s an example from author Ken Williams.

Harness the Power of Social Media

If you don’t have social media platforms set up, consider doing so. You don’t need to learn all the latest influencer trends, but casting a wide social media net will catch more readers than you could accomplish without it. Specifically, you should have a presence on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. If you have a more visual approach, you can also consider Instagram and TikTok.

As part of your marketing strategy from Solution Tree, you have access to a digital marketing kit. We know the importance of social media and give you the tools you need.

  • DO: Repost, comment, or “like” positive comments about your book.
  • DON’T: Promise to trade positive reviews with other authors.


Selling a book can be challenging. You’ll need to put in some solid legwork. Start with Amazon, prime the pump with reviews, and help spread the word.