We hear it all the time: “Use your textbook as a resource.” But what does it really mean? After studying your standards, use backward design to plan instruction. Your text may work for part of your plan, but you’ll need more.
Ms. Sneed Plans Standards-Based Instruction
Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, entered the teachers’ lounge. She sat down across from her teammate, Mr. Frank. As she unpacked her lunch, Ms. Sneed started talking shop. “We’ve deconstructed our standards and studied the year-end assessments,” she said. “Would you like to work on plans for our energy unit next week?”
“Sure,” replied Mr. Frank. “Just say when and where.”
Using the Textbook as a Resource
On Monday morning, the colleagues began. “Since we’re using backward design,” said Ms. Sneed, “we need to create a final assessment first.”
As they finished the last test item, the bell rang. “Time to teach!” Ms. Sneed said. “Let’s meet tomorrow to work on activities for our light unit.”
Strong Text, Weak Activities
The following day, Ms. Sneed and Mr. Frank flipped through the chapter on light in their new science textbook. “I see some great informational text articles,” said Mr. Frank.
“Yep. Too bad the activities are so lame,” responded Ms. Sneed. “The concepts aren’t well sequenced either.”
“Since we already have these light centers, let’s use the articles after each. The kids can do the activity then read more about it.”
“I agree,” responded Ms. Sneed. “The articles will enhance their learning – and counter any misconceptions. For best use of our time, would you like to tie in informational text skills?”
“You know it!”
They created timeline for their activities, slotting the text in after each. “I love the way our plans match the assessment,” said Ms. Sneed.
“And I love the way the assessments match the standards – and our year-end tests,” her friend replied.
Strong Activities, Weak Text
On Wednesday, the teachers tackled electricity. “Hmm,” said Ms. Sneed, “the text here is confusing. Maybe even misleading.”
“Yeah, but look at these great activities,” Mr. Frank responded. “And all of the materials are included in the kit.”
“That sure saves us a lot of time and work. Let’s use the student activities. And wait, do we even need text?”
“Good point. Why do we always think the kids need to read about science? Let’s just do it!”
When to Ditch the Textbook Altogether
Weak Text, Weak Activities
The next day, the two educators worked on their sound unit. “Ugh!” they said in unison.
“Where are the activities?” complained Ms. Sneed.
“What’s up with this text?” sighed Mr. Frank. “Forget this chapter. We’ll use other materials for sound.”
Let Standards Guide Instruction – Not Textbooks
Later that month, the principal popped into Ms. Sneed’s room for a short observation. As students finished their light stations, they opened their textbooks and began to read. “For this unit,” Ms. Sneed explained, “the textbook supplied great informational text articles – but poor activities. Mr. Frank and I decided to use our own activities and follow up with some reading.”
“Ah,” the principal said, “and I see that when you used the textbook as a resource, your teaching improved.”
Ms. Sneed’s eyes twinkled, and that famous smile twitched at the corners of her lips.
Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.