How to Use Your Textbook as a Resource

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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.

Use Your Textbook as a Resource

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.”

Before you start teaching, deconstruct the standards. Then use backward design to create awesome unit plans.

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.”

Armed with deconstructed standards and sample standardized test items, they set to work. Soon they had three tests prepared: light, sound, and electricity.

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.”

Use backward design to create your unit plans. After deconstructing the standard, create the assessment. Then choose activities.
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.

Thinking of ditching your textbook? Use it as a resource! If your text is strong but the activities are weak, use your textbook but find new activities.
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!”

Thinking of ditching your textbook? Take a look before an all-or-nothing decision. If the text is weak but the activities are strong, keep the activities. For some subjects, you may not need a text.

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.”

If the text and activities are weak, it's time to ditch your textbook altogether.

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.

Enjoy Teaching

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.

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