One of the most powerful changes I have made to my teaching in a long time has been quitting a number of textbooks this year. While my classroom is not ‘textbook free’, my reliance on them on a daily or even weekly basis has ended.
Now, instead of feeling beholden to the pages in a book written years ago and a world away, my students source information on their devices to solve the problems that they encounter, or receive custom-curated resources created to see to the needs of our particular projects.
The following are some of the reasons that I have chosen to quit my textbooks and change my practice for the better!
Textbooks can be a useful resource, especially to new teachers still becoming comfortable in their classrooms. However, over-reliance on textbooks can hold back your ability to engage students in authentic learning activities.
My classroom isn't entirely textbook free yet, but my goal is to get there soon. Have you ever considered quitting your textbooks? Did it work out? Share your ideas in the comments!
We had a super-fun improvised lesson today in science class! After a long break for Chuseok (Korean mid-autumn harvest festival) none of us felt like sitting through a lecture on single-celled living things. Instead, we gathered some random materials from the other classes on our floor and made 2.5-D (not quite 3D) models of microbes.
We all had a blast and my kids got to think of creative ways to reuse materials to represent the structures of cells! Have a look!
I’m really excited to be starting a new novel study class about “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. It’s a book I’ve read many times for pleasure, both as a teenager and as an adult, and this will be the first chance I’ve had to teach it.
This semester, I’m experimenting a little bit in my novel study class with technology and student autonomy. Here’s the course syllabus I’ve posted on our Classting safe social media platform for my students:
I’m providing homework resources to my students for self-study as they pre-read chapters before class, but am not enforcing their completion for homework. Students will have choice in how they wish to use the worksheets as a study guide. In fact, I’m posting the answers online for my students a few days before we meet in class so that they can check their learning.
Another way I’m supporting student autonomy is by allowing students to select their own way to reflect on the reading they do each week. They can post an audio or video response online, share their thoughts as a reflective blog post, or share an image of a sketch quote on something they read in the chapter that interests them. Here are some sketch quotes from this week’s class:
In addition to our Classting class social media feed, we’re using todaysmeet.com to run a backchannel discussion during Socratic circle question and answer periods each week. While one group of students debates and discusses questions orally in class, students in other groups can participate in the discussion by commenting on screen using their smartphone or tablet. Throughout the discussion students are given the chance to participate verbally as well. Here’s a screenshot of our most recent backchannel conversation:
After two classes together, the technology seems to be integrating well into the classes and the students are quite engaged for the hour-and-a-half we are together. I’ll update this post with more student work as we go through the novel.
Here is a free download of my vocabulary and comprehension questions and quizzes for every chapter of The Giver. Feel free to use my work in your class and share it with other teachers in your school if it is useful in your classes. The PDF file is 140 pages and includes answer keys for all of the worksheets and quizzes.
2) Coding is In!: Coding begins in the 6th grade in the curriculum. Students will also use digital media, manage their online image, and identify personal learning networks. I’m so glad that these necessary modern skills are intrinsic to the curriculum-as- written.
3) Metacognition as a Career Skill: The curriculum includes metacognition and emergent leadership skills. I look forward to seeing next generation's motivated leaders mentored up from elementary school!
4) Design thinking and Maker Movement: Learning includes market research, prototypes, and product iterations. It’s open-ended and flexible enough for the creation of both physical and digital products.
5) Competency-based: Focus is on competency growth to reflect needs in our information-rich society. This change fosters authentic learning experiences involving ‘doing’ rather than memorizing lists of facts and processes.
6) Sleek Website Interface: The curriculum is available online with mouse-over elaboration. The standards are neatly presented on about one page per grade! Working with this curriculum will be a dream, and I won't need to dog-ear tens of pages for reference.
BC’s New 2016 Curriculum is a great example of where a lot of teachers hope to see education going. There are also a lot of other great features that I didn’t have space to mention. I’ll keep posting about how using the curriculum pans out as our project moves forward!
Matthew Boomhower is a mid-career educator with 15 years of classroom teaching and educational leadership experience. He is Head of Innovation & Learning at an international school in Malaysia and is a proud husband and father.