Forums / Elementary Science / Use the textbook a lot?

Elementary Science

Use the textbook a lot?

Author Post
Elaine Thomas Elaine Thomas 1525 Points

I am a pre professional teacher and am curious to know if teachers utilize the textbook a lot during the class session for facts or do teacher refer the children to the textbook for further clarification?

Kimberly Glover Kimberly Glover 1825 Points

I teach 5th grade science. We don't use textbooks at all. We use STEMscopes exclusively.

Virginia Harris Virginia Harris 935 Points

I teach 5th grade science and we hardly ever use the textbook. I use power points, podcast, and lots of interactive resources. The textbook is for some vocabulary and some times I will use the chapter test as weekly assessments. I think I would use the textbook more if it were up to date but as of now we are using the same textbook my daughter used when she was 5th grade, guess what, she is in her last year of her master's program.

Debbie Pentecost Deborah Pentecost 6238 Points

I assign the textbook for homework reading. I don't use it in class. I use interactives, research projects, inquiry, video clips from discovery education and other sources, and modeling activities in class. There are some features of our textbook, like interactive powerpoint lessons, simulated labs, etc, that I use in class.

Brandon Ishikata Brandon Ishikata 330 Points

In the school district I am in, the textbooks are not updated and aligned with NGSS. With that in mind, we do not use the textbooks on a constant basis. My teacher has mentioned to me that he copies pages from science textbooks so the amount of pages does not overwhelm the students.

Erin Jasso Erin Jasso 380 Points

We use the textbook just to skim and scan and find interesting pictures and charts. The actual learning is done through short passages followed by a worksheet or activity to further understanding. The textbook is mainly just for pictures.

Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points

Depending on what other materials I was using besides the textbook determined what purpose I used it for. When I was in the classroom the science textbook was quite old and material in it was outdated. Science moves and develops so quickly that a teacher needs to be aware of these new developments and not make the mistake of using old information in a textbook. I mostly used my textbooks as a resource reference. But a new teacher might find this difficult depending on how comfortable they are with teaching science. So depending on your comfort level, you might want to use the textbook more when you start teaching and then branch out more on your own as your resources and experience grow.

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Hi Elaine, You pose a good question. The newer science textbooks are very expensive and usually school districts go through an arduous process choosing them for their science curricula. Once purchased, the major textbook companies usually provide inservice to the teachers to highlight the features that make the texts more useful to students and their learning. Teachers are fortunate that excellent teaching and learning strategies are embedded in most K-8 science textbooks. I hope you will be fortunate to have an up-to-date, accurate, and colorful science textbook at your disposal when you start your teaching. As you gain more experience, you WILL probably find less need to rely as much on a text. Students need practice reading nonfiction, so their science texts are an excellent way to practice various reading strategies and increase their reading comprehension. I also used classroom sets of science journals to give students additional practice in reading and comprehending nonfiction. Carolyn

Kathryn Mahoney Kathryn Mahoney 1590 Points

At the school I am student teaching at, they just bought books that connect science to the common core curriculum. Therefore, it has become a subject easily tied into the day because it focuses so much on literacy. It has been a useful tool but I think that science is a subject that requires a lot of resources. Teachers should be prepared to bring in concrete objects, find videos to match a lesson, and use articles on relating topics.

Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points


You make a very good point and I would like to add that it is important to keep up with the daily advances in science via news sources such as TV, Internet, and newspapers.

The November issue of Science Scope (NSTA middle school journal) has lots of articles that could help you with this.

 Nathan Spriggs 500 Points

Great question! This is my 5th year teaching the same subject. I have used the textbook less each year. There are some good resources such as facts or illustrations in the book. I have even created my own resources and used reproducible books. The textbook is 10 years old and is showing its age. I encourage you to get comfortable with the standards. Then assess the textbook and decide how effective of a resource it is.

Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 37248 Points

Why not consider using books from NSTA's Outstanding Trade Books. You will find quality books for all grade levels. For example, if you want to use a piece of informational text to help address 2nd grade earth systems as explained below you should consider using a book called: [u]Volcano Rising [/u] Students who demonstrate understanding can: 2-ESS1-1. Use information from several sources to provide evidence that Earth events can occur quickly or slowly. [color=red]Clarification Statement: Examples of events and timescales could include volcanic explosions and earthquakes, which happen quickly and erosion of rocks, which occurs slowly. Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include quantitative measurements of timescales.[/color] [b]Science and Engineering Practices[/b] Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions Make observations from several sources to construct an evidence-based account for natural phenomena. (2-ESS1-1) [b]Disciplinary Core Ideas[/b] ESS1.C: The History of Planet Earth Some events happen very quickly; others occur very slowly, over a time period much longer than one can observe. (2-ESS1-1) [b]Crosscutting Concepts[/b] Stability and Change Things may change slowly or rapidly. (2-E I might consider using the same book for : [b]4-ESS2-1. Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.[/b] [color=red] Clarification Statement: Examples of variables to test could include angle of slope in the downhill movement of water, amount of vegetation, speed of wind, relative rate of deposition, cycles of freezing and thawing of water, cycles of heating and cooling, and volume of water flow. Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to a single form of weathering or erosion.[/color] []NSTA Outstanding Trade Books 2013-2014[/url] I hope this helps. Kathy

Maureen Stover Maureen Stover 41070 Points

Hi Elaine,

Like many of the other teachers who responded, I do not use textbooks much. From my experience, the nest way to teach science is through exploration and inquiry. I generally use the textbook as a guide for what we will learn, but my lessons tend to come from hands-on activities, videos, and explorations. My students always keep journals, too. This not only helps them record what they are learning, but helps start the foundation of good technical writing. Pairing science with literacy is another strategy that I enjoy using to teach science concepts. Kathy provided an outstanding list of trade books to use in science instruction. NSTA has several resources that provide ready to go lessons linking science and literacy. Some of these are: Picture Perfect Science Lessons and Teaching Through Trade Books.


Emilia Centeno emilia Centeno 1125 Points

I have read some really good tips for my future classroom. I agree and think that it is very important to have the textbook as a guide in what we are teaching our students, but I also agree that students learn through hands on activities and videos. It is very important for students to be able to experience every type of way to enhance their learning.

Jennifer Murillo Jennifer Murillo 1290 Points

In my field school the teachers rarely used the textbooks as a means to achieve understanding and learning for the students. The textbooks were a place to use as a reference for students in order to refresh their memory on how certain strategie are used for mathematics or when reading about history or language arts.

Jennifer Murillo Jennifer Murillo 1290 Points

In my field school the teachers rarely used the textbooks as a means to achieve understanding and learning for the students. The textbooks were a place to use as a reference for students in order to refresh their memory on how certain strategie are used for mathematics or when reading about history or language arts.

Janine Fernandez Janine Fernandez 1890 Points

I rarely use the textbook when I am teaching since it is so outdated and not really engaging for my students. I use it when I have a substitute or students need to use the glossary, but that is about as far as the textbook can take us. I use the series Picture Perfect Science, PBS Learning, and other internet resources. I also use to find ready made lesson plans. The more you get use to other resources you will find that you will even be able to create your own lessons incorporating ideas you find from others.

Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 37248 Points

I think it is difficult to know how to moe in terms of published materials, escpecially at this time of transition to the Next Generation Science Standards. Many of the quality materials that are out there now for elementary students were kit based were built around the older standards. Now I do not think we should throw out all those materials. I think we need to look at them with through a critical lens to see if the materials match some of the work I am currently doing around science in the classroom. For example, most 4-5 th grade elementary students study ecosystems as part of the their life science. I would continue to do this familair unit but begin to move towards a more NGSS like unit.. When I was in the classroom, I used the STC materials which included pieces of informational text to support the science instruction. I ALWAYS used these pieces for science but did not necessarily use them for teaching reading. Why not develop some quality text dependent questions to check in on students understanding of the text, as well get to to the depth of learning in the science. So in my case I would start using materials I aalready had and figure out how to give them a NGSS flavor. So, not all textbooks will have pieces that will fit that easily...but there MAY be a place for some of the current instructional materials. Kathy

Lisa Liss Lisa Liss 230 Points

This one is always a funny one to me. My students will often say that we "never" do Science. Then, when I remind them that we hatch salmon and steelhead in the classroom, planted a class garden, studied all the essential elements, have read a ton of Science books and more, they will respond with, "But when do we use the textbook?" It is a shame that like tests, our students only know one way to learn right now...out of a textbook. Students are bored to tears when we read the textbook, but they are involved and eager when we do a Science experiment. Lisa

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Hi Lisa,
It is interesting that you mentioned how many of our students have a difficult time with nonfiction and science textbooks. There is an excellent article in the Dec 2013 Science and Children about how nonfiction eBooks are being used to engage students in meaningful science research and helping them with literacy skills as well. I offer it up as perhaps the new way our students will look at texts in our digitized world. The EBook Hook

Eileen LaTorre Eileen LaTorre 855 Points

Hi to all, In my district we have just begun implementing the Readers/Writers workshop out of the Teacher's College at Columbia in NYC. The idea to build lessons from non-fiction trade books is fun for the students as well as the teachers! We are moving away from the text in most subjects since there are some great trade books that our students enjoy. I have also found the NSTA list of trade books to be very helpful! I've purchased so many myself. At present we are doing a chapter on volcanoes and I am not using the text book at all. ERUPTION! Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives by E. Rusch with great pictures by T.Uhlman is one of a few resources we are using with great results. Eileen

Michaela Baca Michaela Baca 325 Points

I am currently student teaching a 4h grade class. I have seen my guide teacher use the textbook after they do an "exploration" activity to clarify what they noticed during the activity. To me, it seems like the textbook is used more for clarification purposes.

Denise Theriot Denise Theriot 1080 Points

We do not use textbooks. Instead, there are a variety of hands-on materials to follow-up with the lesson, student research, reading articles or books on topic. Our last activity for the school year was having small groups (students: grades 4,5,and 6) build a working trebuchet (using a counterweight, designing the throwing arm, deciding on a projectile, etc., and demonstrating for distance and accuracy).

Claire Reinburg Claire Reinburg 495 Points

Hi, Elaine, Here is another link to information about the Picture-Perfect Science Lessons series that Maureen mentioned. This page on NSTA's website has more background information as well as links to sample lessons from each book: Claire

Tomika Altman Tomika Altman-Lewis 15020 Points

We do not have science textbooks in my district. We do have lots of resources that we utilize to support our students' science knowledge. For example, we have science kits that are developed by teachers, science administrators, and with the support of a local science museum (The Museum of Life and Science). These kits contain materials and an instructional guide that has teaching ideas, supplemental worksheets, notebooking strategies and more.

Sarah Keever Sarah Keever 550 Points

I agree with many of the other posts. In fact, students will ask to borrow a book over the summer to prepare for the next year. We typically use the book to reinforce a lesson or activity. They learn mainly from experiments, research, and hands-on activities. The book serves as a guide. Once they have me as a teacher, they understand that the class is not heavily reliant on the book but it is difficult to explain to them beforehand!

Deborah Rudtke Deborah Rudtke 1165 Points

We only use the textbook as a reference - usually, we only take it out for some vocabulary work. Our textbook does not align with the standards. I use a lot of trade books (I love the Picture Perfect Science sets) and AIMS activities.

Brianna Gage Brianna Gage 600 Points

In the classroom that I am student teaching in, we do not use a textbook. For the majority of our lessons, we have been retrieving them from will modify the lessons to fit our classroom structure and the students will always create a two column organizer in their Science notebook to record their activities and notes. Also, we engage in a lot of classroom discussion to help elaborate on ideas and my guide teacher or I will model the notes that they should be writing  in their notebooks. 

Laura Palermo Laura Palermo 655 Points

I do not think the textbook should be used much at all in the classroom. Students should be engaged in activities, making models, developing explanations, and involved in investigations. The textbook may need to be used for referencing, but it should not be the primary source of instruction. 

Lauren Boggs Lauren Boggs 725 Points

I'm in a 5th grade Science and Reading classroom (weird combination but it works) and we just started using the STEMscopes notebook. I have never seen a Science textbook in this classroom.

Haley Brooke Haley Brooke 10 Points

Textbooks are excellent teaching aids. They're a resource for both teachers and students. A textbook is only as good as the teacher who uses it.

Visit our page here

Diana Santos Diana Santos 275 Points

I rarely us the textbook.  However, I do use the textbook for the mini-lab ideas and vocabulary.  If we are being provided by this resource might as well and take advantage of it even if it is only once a week.

Monica Humphery Monica Humphery 250 Points

We also rarely use the text book in class. Each student gets one and they are able to write in it and take out pages. What we do is use the science book to cut out pictures related to our assignment or we tear out pages for the students to use for homework.

Post Reply

Forum content is subject to the same rules as NSTA List Serves. Rules and disclaimers