I struggle with parting from our textbook, Geography, Alive! It offers a wide variety of global issues (such as overpopulation, land conflict, and life at various elevations) and is easily broken down to highlight main ideas of the topics. There are wonderful maps, charts, images and stories that help to emphasize the topics.

Part of the Common Core standards for social studies is that students will be able to “Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source [and] provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.” Again, Geography, Alive! is the perfect secondary source where I am able to see how students can pull information and manipulate it to demonstrate their understanding.

Textbook work in the classroom is a great collaborative assignment that can lead to in depth projects and conversations. But oh my goodness, the energy and engagement level in the classroom drops dramatically!

I don’t know about you, but I generally feel extremely uncomfortable around silence. Even when sleeping, reading, or driving in the car, I usually have soundtrack music or mindless Family Guy or Simpsons going on in the background. So when there’s a classroom of 25 students all glued to their textbooks and working independently, I feel insecure and uncomfortable. I start to think to myself, “is this the right way for students to gain information?” “Are they engaged and learning?” “Where did I go wrong?”

I understand the need to read a secondary source and the skills necessary to manipulate information, but how can I make reading sources and taking notes more engaging? Is there a way? Is two to three days of silent reading in the classroom acceptable?

One of our district’s common assessments focuses on the ability to connect the standards to one of the chapters in Geography, Alive! (the Aral Sea). Our students need the practice of reading from the textbook and to be able to write a report using evidence from the source. They need to be able to do this independently, but again, is there a way to make this more active and energetic?

How have you used the textbook in the classroom? What sort of activities have you done involving the textbook? How do you feel about quieter classrooms?


2 thoughts on “Ditching that Textbook?

  1. Do students have to complete these tasks independently? Can you assign them roles and let them complete the readings as a group? So they have a clear purpose for their reading? For example, one student is the Connector, one is the Illustrator, one is the Summarizer, one is the Literary Luminary. Then as a group the complete a mini poster presentation on their reading…maybe something along those lines?


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