Sunday, July 18, 2010

Textbook Usage

Our district uses the McGraw-Hill textbook series (for the elementary grades and Glenco for the middle school grades).

I use the textbook in the classroom as a resource. It does not guide instruction, i.e. start at chapter 1 and end at the last chapter (I use our standards and EXCELLENT support documents to guide instruction). Last year I (and the social studies teacher on my team) stopped assigning textbooks to individual students and just kept a class set that we used as needed during instruction. We explained our reasons to our principal (kept the backpacks from being weighed down, cleared up space in their desks, etc.) and he was happy with our reasoning and approved the decision. We also made sure to explain to parents on our back to school night (during that discussion I showed them the link on my website where children could access the textbook online if needed).

Our textbook series is not bad (sure lots of non standard stuff but easy to work around). I can not say the same thing about the middle school science textbooks, which unfortunately reads like a college textbooks (lots and lots and lots of text). If I am going to use the textbook during a lesson I make sure they are stacked in the center of my table groupings at the beginning of the lesson. I use pictures/diagrams a lot and it is another resource for students when they are doing their RH assignments. If I am going to have a substitute I will create activities using the textbook.

When I first started teaching in our district they had just adopted new science textbooks. That meant that one of my back to school trainings was on the textbook and support material. I found that quite helpful. Unfortunately I moved to the elementary school the next year and there was no training. I was handed all the textbooks, kits, and support books/disks (of which there was A LOT) and not given any training. I was so overwhelmed that I put those things in a cabinet, with the intention of going through it all, and I don't think I looked at it once during the year!

The only thing I knew is that students could access the textbook online with a username and password (I learned that in the middle school). I wanted to link that on my website and contacted our district science coordinator for our contact at McGraw-Hill. I never got a response so I contacted the McGraw-Hill support desk and they forwarded my email to our district rep, who was very helpful. In hindsight I could have probably asked for a training on all the material and I bet she would have come out (even though I was the only teacher in our school teaching fourth grade science). Even if I don't use everything it would have been nice to have someone walk me through it and its potential use in the classroom.

I know this is a long post for basically the following idea: Organize your own science professional development and invite the textbook rep to come out and walk through all the resources you get with the textbook. Don't wait for the district to arrange the rep and pick a time/date that works for both of you.

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