As you know, I work with ELL students who have problems reading the textbook fully. They have not been taught the skills needed to read a textbook so I have to take time to do it. I recently came across a book titled “Differentiating Textbooks” by Char Forsten, Jim Grant, and Betty Hollis.
Until I’d run across this book, I’d never heard of differentiating textbooks. The only method I know to use when reading a textbook, especially a math textbook is what I learned back in high school. We just read it. In college, I learned to go over examples but not to do much more.
This book has so much information from grouping students to creating smaller books to techniques and graphic organizers.
I like a couple suggestions made by the authors in chapter two on selecting and adapting textbooks. I do not have time to create new textbooks but I like the suggestion of substituting headings and subheadings in the form of questions. This simple move requires students to find the answer to the questions.
They also suggest that students circle and box their math problems because this helps reduce on careless errors. They suggest circling one type of problem while boxing another type of problem so as to distinguish between the two. Students work all the circle ones first and the other ones second.
The rest of the book is divided into pre-reading, reading, and post reading strategies with examples. One of the pre-reading strategies is the Clear Up Math Visuals one. It is suggested that students had the word problem and then together decide on the visuals one should use to represent the problem. This is one I need to use with my students. Its perfect and has them taking more ownership of their work.
A during reading strategy which resonates with me is called Power Thinking. Students use powers to indicate main idea down to details all on the same idea. So Power 1 is the big thought such as sports. Power 2 might be Wrestling while Power 3 names some of the wrestlers they see on television. Another Power 2 could be Basket Ball while the Power 3 could be the teams.
In math it might look like Power 1 is exponents. Power 2 might be positive exponents, Power 3 could be examples. So over all it could appear like this:
Power 1 Exponents.
Power 2 - Positive
Power 3 - Makes the result bigger.
Power 2 - Rational
Power 3 - Seen as Fractions
Power 3 - Represents roots.
Power 2 - Negative
Power 3 - represents fractions
Power 3 - numbers get smaller.
This is a nice way to summarize the material.
For the after reading strategy, you might try three facts and a fib where people create groups of four facts but only three are true. The other people have to determine which is wrong. This one could easily be used in math. For instance:
A pentagon is made up of 3 triangles.
A hexagon is made up of 5 triangles.
A decagon is made up of 8 triangles.
A octagon is made up of 6 triangles.
A student has to decide which one is wrong.
Although not all of the suggestions can easily be used in math, there are enough suggestions that I can use in the classroom to make this worth it. I would also say that this book is not so much about differentiating the textbooks as giving students additional reading strategies they can apply.