Getting Creative with Mandated Texts

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will examine ways that students benefit when their teachers creatively use the mandated texts as a resource rather than as a one-size-fits-all curriculum guide.

Mandated Texts are a Resource and a Guide

Imagine you are hired for your very first teaching job. As soon as you sign the contract, your Department Head hands you a copy of the teacher's edition for the adopted textbook so you can become familiar with it before school starts. Within this book is everything you need to teach reading for the year, right? Well, not exactly. Textbook quality is on the rise, so you will undoubtedly find great information to get you started in the right direction. No textbook, however, is going to be sufficient as the entire curriculum for every student in your class. Mandated texts are required curriculum materials that provide guidelines and resources to assist teachers in designing lessons that meet the needs of their students. Let's look at some ways to use mandated texts to maximize student outcomes.

Backwards Design

What steps do you take when planning your lessons? Rather than hitting the teacher's edition to find out what's next, begin with the end in mind. Lesson-planning starts with a close look at the academic standards that students must master. Great teachers begin planning by determining what their students need to know and selecting assessments that align with the depth and breadth of the standard.

Once you have the assessments in place, carefully choose activities from the mandated text that align with the assessments. Although textbooks tend to be of high quality, it is likely that you will find either extraneous or insufficient information within the texts that will require elimination or supplementation. The textbook's suggested approach may not match your teaching philosophy or the needs of your students. When that happens, don't be afraid to make modifications to the curriculum.

Use Supplementary Materials

What kind of supplementary materials will you need? That depends on the textbook, the standards, and your students. In some cases, you may notice that the questions the textbook asks are primarily low-level recall questions. When that happens, modify the assignment by adding a few higher-level questions of your own.

Although the textbook publisher may be an expert on quality literature and pedagogy, they don't know your students. In addition to exposure to grade level material that the textbook provides, students need to be challenged within their zone of proximal development to continue to grow as readers. Trade books, library books, and Internet resources can be used to support individualized instruction to meet the needs of all students.

Make Connections

Students are more engaged and draw more meaning out of the text when they can relate to it. Activate prior knowledge before a new unit by using a KWL chart or an anticipation guide. These items can also be useful to find out what standards the students have already mastered so that lessons can be modified accordingly.

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