Alternative Resources

image-b Alternative ResourcesAs you try to provide your students with multiple pathways to knowledge, and as a result increase their engagement in learning, it is important to remember that there a number of resources that can guide your efforts. In order to keep both your advanced and struggling students engaged there are materials that you can use, other than the chosen textbook. These include but are not limited to:

Any of these resources can also make content area information accessible to students who have difficulty reading and/or comprehending the textbook.

The Internet has an almost endless selection of articles, videos, blogs, etc. that can provide material that complements, refutes, or supports the information within any content area. Using the Internet as a resource provides you with the opportunity to discuss, with your students, the validity and reliability of sources of information. This gives your students access to a preferred learning source while developing their critical reading and analysis skills.

Your school library and the media specialist are also wonderful resources. Most media specialists (formerly called librarians) are eager to help teachers and students access the materials available in the library and are usually knowledgeable about resources available outside the library.

In Vito Perrone’s article How to Engage Students in Learning, note the list of eight common elements that students said engaged them both intellectually and emotionally. Five of these elements are student-centered approaches to learning—including students helping to define the content.

Encouraging students to initiate or adapt activities and projects on their own will require some parameters from you, of course. Their choices must, for example, enhance their understanding of the material and offer rigor (sufficient challenge that requires them to really think). The opportunity to customize learning has the built-in advantage that each student will make it relevant (personally meaningful) to himself or herself.

Individual learning contracts (working agreements between the student and the teacher) hold students accountable to work and help to ensure that the students meet the activity’s learning objectives. In the learning contract, students should share how they will learn, what materials they will need in order to learn, and  demonstrate that they have learned. Learning contracts shift the onus of responsibility from the teacher to the student and create opportunities for students to engage cognitively with the material on a personal level that provides relevance for each individual.