Summer is a time for teachers to relax, rejuvenate and revamp their curriculum for the coming school year, but it is also a time to overcome textbook fatigue. This time of reflection and rest after a hectic school year also provides a great opportunity to address textbook fatigue by evaluating how your use your textbook to create engaging lessons.

VOCABULARY 180An ever-present challenge, textbook fatigue can be a difficult habit to correct. Take a minute to look at the table of contents in that bulging teacher’s edition of your students’ textbook and it’s easy to see why textbook fatigue is such a chronic syndrome nationwide. Often, educators use the table of contents as a curriculum guide; while this doesn’t necessarily make sense, it’s an integral part of the scripted curriculum methods that traditional education is built on.

Below are five tips to help you rejuvenate your curriculum (as well as yourselves) and overcome textbook fatigue by evaluating its effectiveness for your particular group of students while infusing all instruction with relevant, engaging supplemental texts.

1. Make a list of the most important topics or units that you teach each year, those that are core to your curriculum. Honestly assess your students’ learning by critically evaluating the information presented in the textbook. For example, what may have been included in the textbook that was so superficially covered that it only served to confuse students? What was not included that should have been—perhaps background knowledge your students didn’t possess or insufficient explanation of key concepts? Think, too, about when students seemed most engaged in their learning and when they seemed tuned out. Can you identify the cause of those responses?

2. If you could teach this unit with the textbook as only one resource, how would you change the instruction and what additional materials would you include? You may want to incorporate more writing, discussion, or inquiry projects, for example. What websites, videos, field trips (virtual or real), or artifacts might enhance the study? Don’t hold back. Create a unit that, in your professional judgment, will engage your students and ignite their passion for going beyond what is presented to them in the textbook.

3. Look back over the unit and identify key vocabulary that students must know in order to comprehend the most important concepts. Often textbooks don’t provide integrative word study that unlocks information for kids. Develop ways of helping students internalize meanings rather than memorize definitions for the purpose of passing a test.

4. If at all possible, collaborate with a colleague or team at your school as you work. Divide up the tasks of finding resources, creating engaging lessons, or evaluating what is most useful in the textbook and teacher’s edition. Then come back together to reflect, revise, and reinvent.

5. Be proactive in asking for what you need. Ask your principal (or central office if you are a principal) for stipends to cover the cost of additional resources. If you see a glimmer of a positive response, inquire about funds for supplemental texts, including subscriptions for content-area magazines or classroom library resources. Have in hand research that shows the significant positive impact that independent reading has on reading, writing, grammar, and vocabulary skills in all disciplines.

CONTINUE READING – Five Tips for Overcoming Textbook Fatigue This Summer

ReLeah Cossett Lent was a teacher for more than 20 years before becoming a founding member of a statewide literacy project at the University of Central Florida. She is now an international education consultant. Lent writes, speaks, and provides workshops on topics ranging from literacy to creating communities of practice within schools and districts. Learn more about Overcoming Textbook Fatigue: 21st Century Tools to Revitalize Teaching and Learning or purchase a copy of her book.

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