Use the textbook and its accompanying activities? I do too.
Welcome to “This or That,” a monthly chat where the authors of Reading and Writing Haven and Language Arts Classroom cover different ways of approaching common decisions in the ELA classroom.
In the back of classroom closets and grungy basements sits the accompanying material to the teacher textbook. You know what I mean: the boxes of pretty workbooks, activities, teaching ideas, and (maybe) transparencies.
Do they have their place in a modern classroom? Commonly, teachers say to toss them. They are inferior to teacher-made activities and don’t help students. I disagree.
I don’t feel guilty when I use the textbook and the accompanying activities. Here is why.
They are “teacher-made.”
Flip to the front of a textbook or accompanying packet. Who wrote it?
People who are steeped in research and best practices did. People who have hopefully researched the author or time period or the genre and will teach future teachers. Hopefully, people who research best learning methods created the activities.
Some professors have studied authors more than I have. (As in, they write books and complete dissertations on a particular author). For example, I love learning about the Harlem Renaissance, and I absolutely know more than my high school students do about that time period. But? I’m not an expert. I’ll gladly provide my students with expert opinions developed by education professors.
In my spare time, I study the history of grammar, find old grammar textbooks, and read current research. I hope that I’m bringing my students and other students expert materials because of my expertise.
I cannot be an expert in everything.
And, if the ideas in the material doesn’t work for my particular class…
I have a starting point.
I provide students with choice whenever I can, and I modify my lesson plans yearly. I never teach the exact same order; I want students to input their likes and dislikes into what we read and write.
So! I physically do not have time to create activities for a new class every year. I need a starting point, and those pre-made materials provide that for me. I can alter a graphic organizer or a writing assignment that I perhaps would not have considered. Sometimes, the material is frightfully similar to what I would have created myself.
Additionally, I have a learning style, and when I create activities, I try not to only cater to my learning preferences. I am not a kinesthetic learner, but many students are. The textbook materials provide me with varying approaches for teaching – some of which I would not have considered.
It’s not all a “worksheet.”
Worksheets have a bad reputation, and when teachers administer worksheets and call it a day, then they deserve that reputation. Worksheets don’t automatically equate poor teaching though.
Directions in those packets are written on a piece of paper, but are you positive that the directions are a worksheet? Many times, the “worksheet” outlines ideas for a class discussion or group work. Many times, the materials are actually critical thinking questions, writing prompts, or paired passages with another piece of literature, a poem, or nonfiction.
Sometimes, I would not have considered the included activities! Other times, the provided “worksheet” requires a small twist, and we have a new activity that involves zero seat work.
When teachers use the textbook, they are providing their students with researched and valuable materials. Should a textbook be the only tool in a classroom? I should hope nothing is the one tool a teacher uses! Printing out the “packet” from an educational company seems just as faulty as printing out the previous year’s activity from a different class.
Each class deserves individualized instruction, and I use the textbook and its materials to accomplish that goal.
Not convinced? Melissa at Reading and Writing Haven isn’t either. Read why she doesn’t use the textbook or its materials.