If you have the option of choosing
the textbook to use for your course, I recommend the following strategy:
- Gather as many books from which
to choose as possible. Some sources might be from textbook companies,
who are more than happy to send you desk copies for examination,
fellow teachers, who have books they have chosen for various reasons,
or local bookstores, who might have books that are applicable
- Make a list of content criteria
that you have for your course text. What are the areas of content
that are absolutely necessary for your course? What are areas
that you could easily supplement if necessary?
- Next, go through the books only
looking at the content. Immediately eliminate all of the books
that do not cover your minimum content needs. The remaining books
should cover the material necessary for your course.
- With the remaining books, select
the one that is the most reader-friendly for your students. You
might consider the following:
- What is the readability level of the text?
- How difficult or easy is it for your
students to read? In general, how complex are the sentences
and how difficult are the vocabulary words?
- How "reader friendly" is the
- What is the overall organization of
the text (chronological, categorical, etc.)?
- Are the sections and chapters organized
What are the learning features
in the text?
Are there chapter previews,
summaries, review questions, etc?
Does the book have a
glossary, index, appendix, maps, etc?
How does the text look visually
Are there engaging photographs,
charts, comics, etc?
Is there space in the
margins in which students can annotate or is it too dense
How is vocabulary handled
in the text?
How does the book represent
diverse cultures, races, ethnicities, languages, abilities,
genders, etc.? This might be reflected in the content or visuals.
- If you are still debating between texts
that seem equal, consider choosing the one that is the lower-priced.
Using Difficult Texts
If you must use a text that you
know is difficult reading for your students, this section will discuss
ways to assist your students with their assignments.
- How difficult is my text?
While there is some controversy regarding "readability"
scales, you might find it helpful to do a simple estimated readability
analysis in order get a general idea of the reading level of your
textbook. (Please be aware, though, that there are many other
components that make a text more or less difficult than sentence
length and syllables.)
Here are two methods you can
use to get a quick estimate of a readability level of your textbook:
- Microsoft Word
- Believe it or not, if you go to
"tools", then "preferences", select
"spelling and grammar" and check off "show
readability statistics" Word will calculate the estimated
readability of a text.
After setting up the
step I just listed, type in 100 words of your text.
Then, under "tools" select "spelling
and grammar." Word will take you through a spelling
and grammar check. When the check is complete, Word
will display an estimated readability score of the text.
I recommend doing this
three times for your text, taking a 100 word passage
from the beginning, middle and end of the book, then
averaging the estimated reading level Word displays.
- The Fry Readability Formula
- Select three 100 word
passages from the beginning, middle and end of the book.
- Count the total number
of sentences from each and average them.
- Count the total number
of syllables from each and average them.
- Plot the results on
the following graph for your text's estimated readability.
- Teach your students specific reading strategies
for approaching your course's textbook.
Please see the ReQuest, SQ3R and REAP strategies
discussed in detail in the Reading Strategies section of DREAM.
Assignments for your Textbook Readings
I like to use the following types
of assignments because they help make students accountable for
their reading and follow the three stages of the reading process
(before reading, during reading, and after reading).
Note: Each of these assignments
requires teacher modeling.
- Outline of the chapter
- I teach students to create a formal
outline of the chapter using the headings, subheadings and
sub-subheadings, etc of the textbook. Students write a brief
summary of each section after they read it.
- To build on the preview, read, review
concept, you can have your students create the skeleton
of the outline in a preview, then go back to fill in the
summaries in each section as part of the read, then review
and re-read all their notes of the chapter.
- As further motivation, I give a quiz
on the chapter at the beginning of class. Students may use
their notes while taking the quiz but not their textbooks.
The quality of their notetaking usually improves dramatically
after students understand their usefulness.
- Regarding the grading of these assignments,
I quickly scan over the outlines and check them off with
a score of 4, 3, 2 or 1. As an assessment tool, it is terrific
because it is very difficult for a student to make an outline
of something she doesn't understand. When reading over the
outlines, you will easily see the students who are having
great difficulty understanding their text!
- Concept Map, Timeline, or Summary of the
These can be used as options
to the outline assignment or to introduce variety to the assignment.
Depending on the individual student, one method of notetaking
will be more preferred over the others.
- Chapter Responses
Less formal than an actual
outline or notes on an entire chapter, this allows students
to make a personal response to their reading.
You can ask students to make
questions, appreciation's, confusions, relate the information
to another text, write about a memory it triggers, make a
collage based on the information, list their favorite or least
favorite quotation from the reading, list the sentence that
gives the most important idea from the reading, etc.
These responses also provide
you with immediate class discussion materials (Since students
have their prepared comments sitting in front of them, it
is easier for them to speak up than having to remember the
text in class and formulate a comment on the spot.). You can
collect the responses and read from them randomly, ask students
to discuss their responses with a partner or small group or
open it up to a class discussion. (This need not even take
more than a few minutes of class time).
Close this Window