Stop Letting Your Textbook Tell You What To Teach

When I walked into my first science classroom, my “curriculum map” was a table that listed topics and textbook chapters.  I was a new teacher and didn’t know what else to do, so I ran with it. Yet every day, all I could remember thinking, was, why am I teaching this? Who cares about whether this mineral has conchoidal or fibrous fracture? 

I sure didn’t.

I know my students didn’t.

Why was I teaching this!?

Because my textbook told me to.

*face palm*


Stop Letting Your Textbook Tell You What To Teach

Our textbooks are loaded with facts and figures. They are piled high with details that may or may not be relevant to your students lives.  They are likely written well above your students’ reading levels. And in many many many schools across our country, they are seriously outdated and in need of a refresh.

So why are we allowing them to determine how we meet the needs of our students?

The Next Generation Science Standards – not a curriculum, but a set of standards – focus on the big ideas, the core knowledge and skills our students need to graduate. But big ideas can be understood from a variety of focuses.

I can understand how the systems in the body work together by investigating the immune response to disease or I can study how what we eat affects our heart. Different systems, different phenomena, but same big idea.

We don’t need to take a textbook approach when it comes to the NGSS.


But then, where do we start?

I get it – we rely on textbooks because they provide structure. A framework for our lessons. A guide.

It’s scary – the big, open unknown.

But the NGSS writers have provided a great tool to help us figure out some of the details we might want to focus on within our big bundle of Disciplinary Core Ideas.

The Evidence Statements.


How Can We Use The Evidence Statements?

The Evidence Statements are so valuable. They can

  • help you identify the details and set content boundaries
  • craft your assessment tasks
  • identify “look-fors” in student performance

In this replay of a video training I held inside the NGSS for Middle and High School Science Teachers group, I challenged you to set the textbook aside and instead, break down your Evidence Statement. Watch how I do it here.