I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.

I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn. ~ Albert Einstein
Our course book is one tool to help us engage and inspire our students. Often, it becomes our crutch. We lean on it when we lack time for lesson planning or fall behind in our curriculum. It is easy and quick to use the activities laid out before us, but are they the most engaging for our students? After my first year of teaching, I made a goal to lean less on the course book and incorporate activities that would get students to think about the content and make connections to the learning. Below are a list of 20 activities I have used to engage students. I challenge you to try one of these ideas a week to help you bring your course book to life. Find these ideas explained in detail in this webinar recording and feel free to download the slides in my presentation, Bringing Your Textbook to Life.  You will find more activities like these in my blog, Teacher Reboot Camp and free newsletter.
20 Ideas and Resources
#1. TOC (Table of Contents) – What do you know?

  • List the chapter titles on the board.
  • Under each title, students write down anything they know about the topic even if it doesn’t show up in the chapter.
  • Students stay around the board and guess who wrote what.
  • The student who wrote the info talks more about it.
  • This will get your students to tie prior learning to new learning they encounter for those chapters.
  • Here’s what this lesson looks like with my students on a white screen. This would be easy to do on an interactive whiteboard or take pictures and upload to Evernote.

#2. Passing Notes

  • Before studying a topic, have students write what they know about the topic on a piece of paper or sticky note.
  • Students pass their notes to another student who has to write a question related to the information on the sticky note.
  • Students pass their notes again to a different student. This student finds the question or information in the chapter.

#3 Collaborative Class Bookmarking

  • Create a collaborative bookmarking account for students to contribute videos, links, blog posts, podcasts and other resources they find about the topic.
  • In the past my students used Pinterest, because it is visually interesting. Unfortunately, you cannot embed your Pinterest boards, therefore, I recommend Listly, Educlipper, PearlTrees, or Livebinder. All these tools are free, allow collaborative bookmarking, and have free mobile apps.

#4 Sticky Boards of Information

  • Before teaching a unit or chapter, create a sticky board using these free tools- Linoit or Padlet. Students don’t have to register. They just need the link to your wall to post information. With Padlet, you can password protect the wall. These walls are embeddable and accessible on mobile devices.
  • You can have students find specific information to post on the wall. For example, get  students to find videos, podcasts, or images about the topic. You can challenge them to find real world examples or resources that are less than 2 years-old.

#5 Photo and Video Challenges

  • For each unit or chapter, you can post photo and video challenges for students. You can set these up through an Instagram or Flickr account. Basically, it will look like this- Challenge: Snap a photo of a fraction, then write a word problem inspired by this image.

#6 Students as Teachers

  • Divide students into small groups according to the number of sections of a chapter. Each group is responsible for teaching that section to the class. In the past, I’ve done this with my World Religions and History classes. Students followed checklists and guidelines. They had to create the assessment, have us participate in a ritual, give a short presentation and assign homework that was engaging (like play a game or respond to a video). Worksheets were not allowed. Each task was assessed by group members, the class, and me. I gave them examples of a good lesson before they did this. This was a project for later chapters so they could learn by my example.

#7 Use Word Cloud Tools

  • Divide the readings in the chapter. Each student is given a section and asked to create a word cloud with this text. Post these word clouds where each student can have access (a blog, wiki, the board). Each student reads the word clouds and must come up with a few questions they will seek the answer to in the text. Find several Word Cloud tools and ideas in my Pinterest board.

#8 Use Graphic Organizers

#9 Create Concept Maps

  • Popplet is a collaborative online mindmapping tool and a free app on the iPad. Students can add images, videos, drawings, and links to support any topic. This can be exported or embedded for them to study later.

#10 Create/Play Digital Games

#11 Play Classroom Games

#12 Create/Play Board Games

  • Trivia Pursuit, Apples to Apples, Monopoly, Clue, Twister, and other board games are great ways to teach concepts from the book and get students moving.
  • Students can create their own board games related to the topics at Boggles World.

#13 Modernize Dialogues

#14 Make it into a Movie or Film Clip

#15 Use Polls

  • Poll students about chapter topics and post the findings to encourage discussion and debate. Students can create their own opinion polls or poll another class to collect data. They can use this data to create an infographic. Find several polling tools here.

#16 Create Infographics

  • Have students collect data through a Google form or other free survey tool or through research and show this through infographics. Find various lesson ideas in my presentation on infographics.
  • Piktochart is my favorite free tool for creating infographics.

#17 Create Your Own Textbook or Mini EBooks

  • Encourage your students to collaborate to create multimedia books of each chapter or as supplements to chapters.
  • They can store these online in Dropbox, on their desktops, mobile devices, flash drives or tablets so they have the materials everywhere they go.
  • Several free sites support collaborative writing! Check for examples and tools here!

#18 Create a Podcast

#19 Translate it into a Comic

#20 Invite a Guest Speaker

  • Have students learn from a guest speaker through Skype or Google Hangouts. Many parents would be thrilled to share their expertise or try calling up a local company and asking if they would visit your class virtually.

Find more ideas in Vicky Samuel’s post, Coursebooks as Guides; Lizzie Pinard’s post, Course Books in the Classroom! Friend or Foe?, and Rachael Roberts’ post, The Coursebook.

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