Textbooks: the Curriculum Securty Blanket

I watched my 2 year old carry his blanket around the house this weekend, and for some reason it brought to mind the argument I had with a teacher about textbooks.  I don't know why the two things paired up in my mind, but they did.  Perhaps because (as with our previous boys) we are starting the process of weaning our son off his blanket.  It's a multi-year process in our household: first restricting it OUT of certain areas (for example the kitchen), then restricting it TO certain areas (the crib & the car), then restricting it to ONE area (the crib... or bed as it may be!).  After that, it is up to them (hey~ if they want to take it college, who am I to say?).

I feel that likewise, I am trying to wean many of our teachers away from the security blanket of seeing their textbooks as their curriculum.  Somehow, at some time, a vast number of educators got sold on the idea that the textbook is the be-all, end-all of what they need to teach.  It became the easy way to "make sure I'm covering it all."  Now, I'm not going to go into the blaming game as there are probably many factors that have contributed to this view.  However, I think it is time for those in positions that can influence this to begin weaning these educators off their textbooks.

Does it mean that I believe that  textbooks should be completely thrown out?  Definitely not!  They are/can be valuable resources!  But that is all they are, and especially with the availability of the Internet, why aren't we examining all the other resources out there to improve our classes?

Perhaps where I really made the connection between the two was because of a recent conversation with a group of teachers where one talked about "throwing out the book."  While not opposed to this idea (especially knowing which book she is talking about), I think that the movement of putting the textbook back in its proper place is more like the weaning process I described with my son & his blanket.

First we need to show teachers that there are activities that can be done better without the textbook.  Not much at first, perhaps, if they are not ready for it, but little things that can save them time.  For example, my showing a teacher that using a Google Form can quickly collect data from a class that can be used immediately within the lesson when before he passed out survey sheets & took them home to collate the data for the next day.  Or when working with students studying angles how I pulled out the patty paper for some trace and compare activities.  Simple things that take some forethought, but speed the overall process or lead to a better idea of if students understand the concept or not (did you know most textbooks draw intersecting lines so they bisect each other?? quite inaccurate to real life & students wrongly relate angles to length of the lines, but that's another post!)... and are not in the textbook.

Next we need to help them expand these activities into lessons and units.  Perhaps show that while the textbook has topic x & z, maybe they really could be taught together? And maybe the resources in the book are limiting, so what other resources can we add to improve the content?  (After all, which social studies text isn't out of date when it goes to print...)  I know that a catch phrase right now is "backward planning;" call it that or anything else you want, but what teacher isn't better by looking at the material ahead of time instead of showing up for class & opening up a textbook and "teaching"?  If we can begin to get these teachers to look at what they want students to know at the end of a unit/lesson, then to look at the ideas students need to get to the end knowledge, THEN to look at the resources (including the textbook) that students might use to get the ideas... Wow! That reverses the process doesn't it?

Beyond that?  If a teacher wants to give up the textbook or not doesn't really matter.  Because at that point, we are back to teaching for learning... and no longer teaching to cover the book.

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