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My district is doing textbook adoption this year – we do this every six years ago. It’s something that has a huge impact on our students and our teachers, so it’s something that has to be taken seriously. I was on the textbook adoption committee six years ago and the one before that…so this isn’t my first rodeo! There are some things I wish that I had known when I first started, things that I’ve learned over the years as an experienced teacher.
What to consider when starting the textbook adoption process
One of the most important things to keep in mind when starting the textbook adoption process is that your state and district almost certainly have a very specific process that must be followed. You will likely have to sign paperwork about the process to be followed, and you will have to follow their procedure. Talking to the textbook company representatives outside of the process is going to cause problems, so don’t do it! In our district, textbook companies are asked to make proposals for each level and teachers can’t even start looking at materials until those proposals are received.
Once the process has started and you and your colleagues are given the opportunity to begin looking at books, you should consider what exactly you are looking for. There is one huge question that needs to be considered before anything else: what is your district or school’s goal for the program? Are you looking to grow the program? To get students to the AP level? To provide a useful skill for as many students as possible, even if they only take two years of the language? This choice will affect profoundly affect your view of different programs.
Criteria used for textbook adoption
Once you’ve got those things sorted out, you can start considering the things you find important in a textbook program. Make a list of the things you care about and sort them into things that you find absolutely vital and things that aren’t all that important. Things that my colleagues and I have considered during our textbook adoption process include:
- Does the scope and sequence match what the district curriculum is? Is it in a similar order? Changing the order or the material would mean completely rewriting our district final exams.
- Does the program align with your local, state and national standards? Honestly, this one is pretty much always going to be “yes” because textbook companies know that if they don’t match the standards, nobody will buy their matierals.
- Does the program have a good online component? If your students will be using the online materials for assignments, is it easy for them to use? Is it easy for you to use as a teacher? Is everything clearly arranged and laid out?
- Does the pacing and amount of material match what your students can do? Some teachers may prefer to cover less material more in-depth while others have more fast-paced programs.
- Does the cultural component of the program match the goals for your program? In Spanish programs, there has long been inclusion of a variety of countries. In French programs, it is only recently that programs are focusing on locations other than France and (maybe) Québec. With Africa being the fastest-growing part of the Francophone world, this should be included.
- Do the assessments match the goals for your program? If your district is using IPAs and evidence/standards-based grading, you won’t want to have to build it all from scratch. Some programs include assessments for both grammar/vocabulary/discrete tasks and IPAs, while others don’t.
- What sort of ancillary materials does the program have? If there is a video program, is it interesting? Will students be able to understand it?
- Does the program get your students to the exit level you hope to reach? And what is the appropriate exit level that can realistically be reached?
Making the final choice
One thing to keep in mind during textbook adoption is that you will never be 100% satisfied with a program. Every single time I’ve participated in the textbook adoption process I remember feeling excited and confident in our choice. And every single time, after spending a couple of years with the program there are things that I really dislike. Of course, there are also things that our teachers end up liking – but it’s very hard to know what it will be like to use a program until you’ve spent at least a year using it.
One thing you can do to get an idea of what real teachers in the trenches think about the program is by looking on Facebook – there are several textbook-specific groups that you can visit. Textbook adoption is brought up frequently in groups such as French teachers in the USA, and you can search for the program and find plenty of comments.
No matter what textbook you choose, nothing is perfect. No textbook will match your curriculum or goals exactly, or provide the perfect amount of content and practice for your particular students. You will always need to adapt and adjust based on your student needs.