Making Text Books Work

Personally, I am not a fan. If I had my way, most of the textbooks bought by school districts would be used as door stops or maybe to hold up shelves. It amazes me how an incredibly interesting topic like pioneers or dinosaurs can be made utterly dull when presented in a textbook. If I were the Queen of Education, then students would participate in integrated units that are full of writing, drama, music, movement, brainstorming, and open-ended questions, and they end in a giant project rather than a test.

But I am not the Queen of Education, and textbooks are a part of most classrooms.

Research has shown that very little makes its way into long-term memory simply by reading something or hearing it read. So, if you are working with a text book, consider adding some of these ideas:

  • Make a scavenger hunt type of worksheet so that students are looking for specific information that they fill out as they read. It is much more motivational to set it up as a scavenger hunt rather than a list of questions.
  • When reading aloud, stop often to ask questions about the text. Some simple comprehension questions, some open-ended opinion questions. Consider having students pair up to answer the questions to each other.
  • Read somewhere other than sitting on chairs. Sit on desks, sit on the floor, go outside on a sunny day.
  • Have students take notes as they read.
  • Get more pictures. A text book can only offer one or two for any given section. Use the Internet to find more pictures to share and discuss. Pictures bring the subject alive.
  • Ask an open-ended question and have students write about it.
  • If it makes sense, act something out or do a short role-play.
  • If it makes sense, draw pictures having to do with the text.
  • Wait 10 or 15 minutes (maybe after recess) and review. I am a big fan of the foam ball for quick review. A student who gets and answer correct gets to try to throw it into a basket. Keep a year long class tally in a corner on the board. It just takes a few extra seconds and is amazingly motivating, especially when the class tally gets close to 100 and other round numbers.
  • As much as possible try to make connections to the students’ lives.
  • Take big numbers and put them into terms students can understand – that is as tall as a 40 story building. That is as long as 20 football fields.
  • Use the information in other subjects. If you are studying dinosaurs, make up dinosaur word problems or have students write a story about raising a baby dinosaur.
  • Have students read silently for important information. Then have a discussion about what they thought was important and why.

What strategies have you used to teach from text books?

 

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