When I started teaching 10 years ago, there were only a few textbooks for the American History course. In fact, only enough for one class set for myself and the other 2 teachers – a total of 75. I reviewed the textbook and the quality was lukewarm at best with me having flashbacks to my own lukewarm history classes. *Note – I actually graduated from the high school that I teach at!* Feeling the need to lay a radical teaching foundation, I gave up the textbooks to my colleagues. Although you may not be ready to give up your book completely, going textbook free can be a refreshing change to your teaching. Here are a few baby steps that you can take to lean a little more towards the textbook free side.
First let me say that going COMPLETELY textbook free is not for the faint of heart or those that have an amazing textbook. It does require more work on the forefront with previewing and adapting materials but once you have a bank of material built, it becomes a (little) more feasible!
Textbook Free Baby Step #1:
—–> Use documents to supplement your textbook content. As a social studies teacher, I love the idea of using documents (both primary and secondary). What a great way to expose students to a variety of material and engage them beyond the solid walls of their textbook. For example, if your textbook touches on Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, have students compare passages from that document to the Constitution and a passage from Malcolm X.
*Now where to FIND documents? Online resources are full of document goodness – check out this post from Edutopia on 6 places to find primary documents.
*Adapt the documents to suit your students needs and your objectives. This guide from Teaching History provides a step by step way to “slim down” your sources.
Textbook Free Baby Step #2:
—–> Instead of assessing students using textbook tests and quizzes (or the materials from the supplemental CD), look for other means of assessment that are textbook free. For instance, the Literacy Design Collaborative (I’m a HUGE fan) is massive collection of modules that become complete projects. Sign up for free and then search for a topic! My classes alternate between a formative assessment and a project based assessment every other unit. For World War II, my students completed a detailed argumentative essay about the justification of the atomic bomb to end the war. Students were reading, discussing, writing, editing, and completing an essay that asked for them to defend their position with textual evidence. Oh the skills!
I also recently stumbled on the Inquiry Design Model website and LOVE their New York State Social Studies Toolkit Resources!
Textbook Free Baby Step #3:
—–> Use current materials to make your content relevant. As a history teacher, this is one of the key reasons behind my textbook free philosophy. Keeping my materials “fresh” and current allows for my students to connect to family discussions or social media trending topics. Let’s go back to the topic of Civil Rights and MLK Jr. – connect this with current materials on the Black Lives Matter movement or the South Dakota Pipeline/Standing Rock Protest.
Textbook free doesn’t have to be an immediate change but can become a more of a slow progression. Check out the site “Ditch That Textbook” for more resources and materials!