Tip 10: How Not to Use a Text

Sometimes we as teachers do not get to pick the textbooks. We don’t always like the ones that are chosen. So, when it is not our choice of text, what do we need to do?

Don’t ignore it. The students paid money for the book. Make sure it is integrated somehow into your classroom. Even if you hate the book, there ought to be at least one section or one feature that you can take advantage of.

Then, when the work in the text is finished, let the students know they can go sell it back. That way, if the text is being used again, their texts will be purchased.

Don’t use the textbook as your lecture notes.

Your lectures should be more complete or, at least, different from the textbook. Do not use the textbook without supplementation. This doesn’t mean that you have to lecture, just use an activity or a project or an assignment that isn’t covered in the book.

I usually use the book, in a composition class, to introduce the basics. I hit the highlights in the book and make sure the students know that if they did not understand a portion of it, they can go back and read later. Then I introduce my assignments with handouts I have created or been given by others.

If you simply read the text, as I had teachers do, the students are wasting their money.

Don’t assign it as extraneous material. Make it an integral part of your course.

I have also had professors who assigned the book as a reading assignment and never discussed the information covered in the text. I figured that meant they hadn’t had a choice and were giving it to me to read so they wouldn’t be in trouble for not using it. I hated it.

If you have a textbook that you don’t love, find the best parts of it and integrate those into your syllabus. Use the text. Someone, at one time, went to a lot of trouble to put it together. And someone in your department thought it was worthwhile to use. And, most importantly for your students, they had to pay for that book, often more than $100 for a sometimes fairly simple text that has been out for twenty years. We don’t want our students to feel that our class is a waste. Let’s not give them an indication that the textbook is.

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