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October 31 - November 2, 2014
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"The ASCD Annual Conference changed my practice and my life!"

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First Aid for Textbook Fatigue

Jasmine Sanborn

In her Saturday morning session, ReLeah Cossett Lent made a critical diagnosis: Teachers are suffering from an extreme case of textbook fatigue. But what is textbook fatigue exactly?

It's not just the "tired of textbooks attitude," but the idea that there is "a hopelessness brought on by robotically following the sequence," said Lent. Textbook fatigue sets in when textbooks begin to control the content. The lesson is no longer content-driven, but is instead a process of slogging through the chapter and sticking to the schedule—even if it means losing student comprehension along the way.

With the right tools though, textbook fatigue is easy to combat, said Lent.

Focus on Student Engagement

Lent recommended keeping student engagement front and center at all times.

"For every year that you are older, that's a minute added to your attention span up until you’re 18," she said. After 18, it generally levels out. This means that the best way to keep young students engaged is to break lectures up. Talk for 12 to 20 minutes and then turn the lesson over to the students to discuss. This approach allows them to bring in their own opinions and breaks them away from the desire to zone out.

Building a strong culture of literacy in all content areas is another thing Lent recommends. When students bring up relevance and question why they need such a skill, teachers should create a bridge that connects them to content even though it seems distant from their own lives.

Collaborate on Lesson Planning

The biggest tool to fight textbook fatigue is letting teachers work together to create lesson plans, said Lent. Many schools are facilitating this method by implementing professional learning communities (PLCs). Studies have shown that teachers who are able to engage in strong interdepartmental collaboration are more satisfied with their work, have higher morale, and are absent less often.

The key to these collaborations is knowing that schools cannot follow prebought programs, but must customize and tailor professional development to suit the needs of both teachers and their students, she explained. Teachers should work together to create lesson plans that span across curricula and find intriguing supplemental reading to replace summarized textbook reports.

Lent compared the wave of change in textbook education to one of her favorite Bob Dylan songs: "You'd better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone ... for the times, they are a-changing."