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Frustrations #4 - It's impossible to finish my textbook in one year!

How can you make the best of a textbook when there's far too much material to cover in your classes? Amanda Robustelli-Price is back with advice for dealing with this common teacher frustration.

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When I was teaching, I never finished a textbook within a school year. None of my colleagues did either.  This created some serious frustrations:

  • - There were gaps in instruction between levels.
  • - We never finished our pacing.
  • - The end of the year was rushed to complete skills included on our common assessments.
  • - It led to purchasing of two levels of text for one year to bridge the gap, leading to double the cost.

As a department, we liked our textbooks.  This common resources made it easier for students to switch between instructors and helped us to plan collaboratively. (If you want to read my thoughts on textbooks, please see my prior post on the topic.)

Before I share more about the common teacher frustration of not finishing the textbook, let me state, clearly, that I believe that the curriculum, not the text, should drive instruction, and that a quality textbook can be a useful tool to complement the curriculum. 

First, I want to ask the question: Why don’t teachers finish the textbook?  There are many reasons:

  • - There is too much extra material in the text.  Teachers who use the textbook for all activities are unable to get through the book because it is just too long for completion in one school year.
  • - The pacing in the text is too dense.  I find that many textbooks pack too much into one level, focusing on breadth as opposed to the depth of the material. 
  • - Teachers rely too much on the text and not on the curriculum.  A thoughtful curriculum should guide instruction.  Sometimes teachers do not use the curriculum because it is not a helpful resource or perhaps there is not enough time or structure for using the document. 

What are some solutions for not finishing the text?

  • - Use the textbook as a resource that enhances the curriculum.  It is not necessary to complete every activity in the text, nor to follow the pacing recommended by the series. 
  • - Maintain focus on communication.  Design instruction to practice the skills necessary for real-world communication, staying away from activities and assessments that do not mimic real-world tasks.  This pointed approach to planning will help to choose the relevant activities from the book.
  • - Pick a textbook that can complement the curriculum.  When selecting a resource for your class, think about what tools would be most helpful to your students. 
  • - Update your curriculum to make it a useful and usable document.  Instruction should be shaped by proficiency.  The Ohio Foreign Language Association has a great resource here.

When I was teaching, I was unable to finish my textbook during the school year.  With a high-quality curriculum focused on proficiency and a carefully crafted text that complements that curriculum, finishing the textbook within a year would be more possible and also less important.


Amanda will be back next week with her final frustration: when students can't communicate!

© Cambridge University Press 2014