How To Integrate Textbooks Into Your Teaching

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Are you making the most of textbooks?

No one would argue with high calibre resources for students, but teachers in Britain do seem to have a chequered history with the textbook, writes Julie Murray from the Copyright Licensing Agency.

Nick Gibb has cited an anti-textbook ethos, and while one might disagree with that sentiment, it’s true that many teachers argue, if the students can just work through a book, what’s the point in me being there? Other times a textbook is a faithful friend – laying out a concept that students can work through at their own pace, read and re-read, calling on the teacher when they need support or challenge.

A patchwork quilt of resources

It’s probably fairer to say that most good teachers view the textbook as one weapon in an arsenal rather than the silver bullet. Textbooks are part of a wider eco-system, sitting alongside interactive digital resources, contemporary newspapers and magazines, or collaborative and creative self-created materials.

I think I always knew this, but working at CLA, a company whose purpose is to give teachers greater access to resources through their CLA Education Licence, the rhyme and reason behind how we stitch materials together has come into sharper focus.

By using such a patchwork quilt of resources you can capture student engagement, give them a range of ways in to the subject and layer up their knowledge of a topic. All this will hopefully lead to a rounded and rooted understanding in the end. But, how to approach the vast array of resources available, and how to weave them in to a lesson plan?

4 steps to integrating textbooks into your lesson plan

1. Recon

Textbooks were often my key starting point in lesson planning. If facing an unfamiliar topic I would start by reading chapters of the textbooks my department had available. I was lucky enough that there were several collected over the years. I could then get a sense of the basic understanding from one book, and the enhanced understanding from another. I’d find a picture I liked in one edition, but preferred the text in another.

2. Combine the textbook with other resources

What were the class like, when was I teaching them and what did I want them to leave the room knowing. A lively but cottoned on group on a Tuesday morning – let’s go with a research carousel. I’ll enlarge and photocopy (under the CLA Licence!) different extracts from the books and place these at stations round the room – students move around at intervals to look at each source. Now that I think about it, a colleague mentioned that DVD we own with a good clip in it, and a quick internet search leads to a newspaper article. Let’s have these too to mix up the media.

3. Mould the activity to fit your class

But what will students do as they move – complete a research grid?  They’re a pretty able group – let’s go with a question tree –starting with five of their own questions they add further questions and answers as they think of and find them.  There’s that related novel they’re doing in English – let’s scan the front cover and have it on the IWB as the students walk in to start them thinking.

4. Stickability

How will I know they’ve got it?  Each student needs to explain the concept to a Martian – 15 words to explain what happened. Pairs choose a winner, then fours, and then we’ll hear the final 8 and decide the overall winner.  Once enhanced by class chat all students will write down the winning statement.

Julie Murray, CLA

I know that I’m teaching my granny to suck eggs by describing the process of planning – forgive me! – but in an age where there exists a directive to use textbooks more, it’s important to remember that using a textbook in a lesson doesn’t necessarily need to create a textbook lesson.

Check out the Re:source blog

If you’re looking for more ideas on how to make the most out of your textbooks and other resources, then you can visit the CLA re:source blog, showing teachers how they can reinvent their teaching materials.

You can find out more about her on our website and you can read more articles by Julie Murray here.

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Holly Gardner

Holly Gardner is TT Editor, as well as a Freelance Book Publisher and TEFL teacher. She has been working with @TeacherToolkit for 5 years - since she published his first book in her role as Senior Commissioning Editor at Bloomsbury Publishing. Since then, she left her day job, moved to Madrid and trained as an English teacher. She is now a key member of the TT team, continues to teach english and edit books, and also spends her time learning spanish and searching for the best tortilla de patata! You can follow her at @HollyEditTeach.