Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Textbooks or Lack Thereof

I thought that now would be a good time to share a little background information on the district and school where I teach, because this greatly influences why I do the things I do.  I feel privileged to work for a district that places a huge emphasis an authentic learning and critical thinking have seen many changes in our instructional policies over the past several years.  However, these changes have not come without cost.  One of the most controversial decisions was to more or less remove textbooks from the classroom.  The district now uses the allocated money for a large variety of instructional resources.

This decision did not drastically impact me, because I had already fallen in love with guided reading and writing, our math textbooks were absolutely horrible, and our social studies textbooks weren't even remotely close to the standards, so I wasn't using them a lot in the first place.  However, it has been very interesting over the past several years to discover some of the surprising pros and cons of not using textbooks.  I think the biggest advantage for me is that I feel free to teach each lesson the way I feel will best benefit my students.  It allows me to get creative and to try many new ideas.  As I said before, I am a huge fan of reading, writing, and math workshop, and I love the flexibility I have in using a variety of strategies and lessons.  I think the biggest disadvantage is that it is very difficult for new teachers to get started, because they often feel lost with the only real guides being the state standards and curriculum map.  I would love to see us have some type of mentor program to help with this issue.  We already have frequently collaborative planning, but that doesn't seem to help.  Another consideration is the huge amount of time it takes planning each day, because it can certainly be overwhelming at times.  Another one of my concerns is that I do think there is some value to being able to use a textbook, and I can certainly say that my students have NO CLUE how to use one.  To help with this, I've started sparingly using some of our old science textbooks to teach a few of our science standards.  It cracks me up, because it is such a treat to my students whenever I break the books out.  They get so excited about it, and I remember HATING using them when I was a student.

Whether we like it or not, it certainly has been an interesting process.


Jill said...

That is really interesting! It would be great to have the flexibility that you do. Our math program is terrible, too, and my principal knows it. Maybe I will try to only use the text as a starting point when I start teaching in the fall. Thanks for sharing your situation!

Magnificent Multiagers!

Mrs. Magee said...

I agree a lot with what you said. When I started out teaching I was so overwhelmed by the textbooks and all of the materials. However, being a new teacher I DID need some sort of guidance. Now that I've been teaching first grade for four years, the only textbook I use is the reading one and I do not teach with the textbook the way the series tells me to. I enjoy having the freedom to choose what materials I use to teach with. Luckily I have a principal who understands that no one series has it all and that supplementing is important. Our texbook funding keeps getting cut every year. I've been at my school for almost six years and in that time there has never been any science or social studies books purchased for first grade. Guess why - we aren't tested in those areas. :P In fact, we are encouraged to just focus on reading, writing, and math. *sigh* There just isn't enough time in the day.


Alysia Battista said...

I was in the same boat for 2 years, teaching PreK-5 science lab without any texts, and many grade levels at that. It was a lot of hard work, but it did give me freedom and I was able to become more creative and think outside the box...or should I say book?! Nice to know I'm not alone!
Miss B, Busy Bee

P.S. Check out my giveaway contest - you stand a really good chance of winning!

Julie said...

You mentioned using curriculum maps and I was wondering if you developed those yourselves? We are in the process of developing new/improved maps. If you had yours handy would you mind emailing me a copy?? I teach 3rd grade and it would be awesome to have a map with a dif. perspective to look at. We are working hard on word work right now but have lots to do.
When I stop to think about it I don't rely on text books very much. I have a strong workshop approach. I do use teacher guides to help with pacing but they don't dictate for me.
Thoughts of a Third Grade Teacher

Ashleigh said...

Julie, I can email you a copy today, but here's the deal for our curriculum maps-they're really bad. We're all supposed to use the district's curriculum map, but it's impossible to follow. For example, according to the map, I should be able to teach to mastery place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in the first 9 weeks.......so not gonna happen. I've remade my own map that I really like that I can share. I'm going to warn you that mine doesn't look all that great, so don't be disappointed.

Ms.M said...

I completely agree with what you said. I teach with out text books and I love it, but I have been teaching for 7 years. If I think of not having a guide when I first started I think I would have freaked out. I love the freedom now, but when I started I needed help. :)

Ms. M
Ms.M's Blog
A Teacher's Plan

Megan said...

Since I teach at a project based school we also don't focus on textbooks. In reading, we don't have a basal...yay! In math, we use Everyday Mathematics which uses more of a workbook approach. In science, we order kits for hands on inquiry based learning...very nice! In social studies, we do have textbooks to use as starting off places. What I like about them is that they are interactive - students write in them, highlight, etc. They are a great tool to teach non-fiction text!


Pearlann66 said...

My county has gone away from textbooks too, its been a few years for math and just a year for reading. we have a curriculum guide, probably very similar to your map. It takes a bit of getting use to it, but I do prefer it. I team teach, i'm the reading/writing half of the team.

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