In balanced literacy programs and across the curriculum, textbooks can play a key role in instruction. Unfortunately, students often do not read textbooks well, and their learning suffers as a result. This section is provides suggestions for how to make MORE EFFECTIVE USE OF TEXTBOOKS as a resource. For ideas about how to teach nonfiction reading in general, check out Nonfiction Reading Strategies.
ONE CAVEAT ABOUT TEXTBOOKS:
Content-area textbooks (e.g. for science and history) typically contain lots of information but often are not well-written. Which is to say that you will find strings of facts occasionally indented, and not many effective topic sentences. If you want to teach students how to find topic sentences, you will probably have to look elsewhere, such as in magazine articles or nonfiction books. Check out Effective Topic Sentences for more information.
FOR LANGUAGE ARTS TEACHERS:
When designing lessons, while you should NOT rely exclusively on the teacher's manual, you should pay attention to what it offers. Check out PREPARING TO READ THE LITERACY TEXTBOOK in the Download Zone for a helpful checklist of how to use the teacher's manual to your advantage. (Thanks to Gwen Stephens, who collaborated on the design of this checklist!)
FOR CONTENT AREA TEACHERS:
Do not assume that students know how to read a textbook. It's a genre that they usually have little training in how to decipher. Spend time modeling how to read your textbook. Teach students how to annotate. Provide graphic organizers and guiding questions beyond the questions at the end of the chapter. Students need to learn to read textbooks FOR A PURPOSE, and you must help them see what that purpose is. Check out the GENERIC ANNOTATION RUBRICS FOR FICTION AND NONFICTION, HS Annotation Symbols (Thanks to Gillian Cartwright of TeacherU!), 5th Math Annotation Symbols (Thanks to Thomas Garza of TeacherU!) and HISTORICAL FIGURE ANALYSIS ORGANIZER in the Download Zone. ALSO: Here's a sample lesson plan that you might find useful: 6th History Lesson Plan-Using Textbook Features to Find Info (Thanks to Eleanor Brown of TeacherU!).
IN THE DOWNLOAD ZONE for Textbook Reading: