Bringing Your Textbook to Life! 15+ Tips & Resources

"Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important." ~ Bill Gates

Your textbook is just another tool in your teacher's kit of ways to engage learners. The problem is that for many of us it becomes a crutch when we first begin our planning. The textbook can be very useful for planning our curriculums and lessons. It is a framework and guide that provides us a general overview of what should be covered within our classes. However, for our learners the textbook is often boring and tedious. No learner wants to spend hours sitting down reading or answering questions from a textbook for an entire year. Even if the textbook was full of vampires or adventures, the students would get bored and not retain any of the information. Here are some tips and resources that will have your learners engage with their textbooks. These tips I hope show you how to bring this tool to life for more hands-on, student-centered learning in the forthcoming school year! Watch the recording of my recent webinar on this topic here!

Bringing Your Textbook to Life: 15+ Tips & Resources from Shelly Terrell

Tips and Resources
The following are a few ideas to get you started in bringing your textbook to life:

#1 TOC (Table of Contents) – What do you know?

  • List the chapter titles on the board
  • Under each title, students write down anything they know about the topic even if it doesn’t show up in the chapter
  • Students stay around the board and guess who wrote what
  • The student who wrote the info talks more about it
  • This will get your students to tie prior learning to new learning they encounter for those chapters!


  • Students can write information on a Post-it note
  • Pass the note to another learner who guesses what chapter the information would relate to

#2 Post links to web 2.0 sticky board sites like Linoit, Wallwisher, and Pindax or have students create a Pinterest board

  • At the introduction to any chapter, have students find a link on Google that relates to the chapter topic then post on a stickyboard
  • Linoit and Popplet both have free mobile apps

#3 TOC (Table of Contents) Photo of the Week

  • List the topic of each chapter on a calendar
  • Create a Flickr group where students add images that describe the topic

#4 Teach chapters in groups

  • Divide students in small groups according to the number of readings and have each group be responsible each week for teaching aspects of that chapter to the class
  • I gave my high school students requirements, such as they had to have the class participate in at least one hands-on activity, give us a timeline, use multimedia materials to present information, give an interactive assessment/reading/listening
  • Give guidelines, rubrics, checklists, and examples on what students need to complete their task

#5 Use Word Cloud Tools

  • Divide students in small groups according to the number of sectioned readings in the chapter
  • Students create word clouds of the text and pass onto to another group who tries to discover what that section is about
  • Several Word Cloud tools and ideas in my Pinterest

#6 Use Graphic Organizers

#7 Create Concept Maps

  • Twiddla is one of my favorite tools for getting students to collaboratively mindmap online. They have voice features, no registration is required, and students can add images to their boards. Must take a screen shot of the board if you are not registered.
  • Popplet is a collaborative online tool and free app on the iPad to get students collaborating for free!

#8 Create Crossword Puzzles

  • Students create these and must add clues they came up with
  • They pass onto their friends and this counts as the vocabulary or pop quizzes
  • Armored Penguin and Hot Potatoes are 2 good sites

#9 Play Games

#10 Create/Play Board Games

  • Trivia Pursuit, Apples to Apples, Monopoly, Clue, Twister, and other board games are great ways to support materials
  • Have students create their own board games related to chapters at Boggles World

#11 Jigsaw It

  • Divide students into small groups, give chapter sections into topics each group is responsible for
  • Each group must make a presentation and the other groups critique/take notes as they prepare for their comprehensive assessment with each groups’ findings
  • Resources on Cooperative Learning here!

#12 Have Students Make Readings Come to Life

  • Divide students into pairs and have them bring a section reading to life with multimedia or relating the information to modern terms
  • They could even create short videos of the information to make it more accessible and memorable

#13 Play Jeopardy

  • Jeopardy is a great way to review material! Have students work in pairs and groups to answer questions.
  • has templates you can use to easily have students create their own questions and pass onto another group

#14 Modernize Dialogues

#15 Ken Wilson‘s Post-It Idea (modified)

  • Each student gets some Post-It notes
  • They write down 5-10 facts they know about the chapters in the TOC
  • They make 2 copies of these facts they’ve written down and hide these sticky notes in those chapters
  • With the duplicates they hide those in another friend’s book
  • Throughout the year they will run into those sticky notes and it will be a nice surprise to remember what they wrote or their friend wrote.
  • They can ask their friend to explain the information.
  • A class discussion will arise every chapter in relation to those notes!

#16 Use Polls

  • Several poll tools make it easy to poll students about chapter materials
  • Try developing opinion polls or have students create their own opinion polls and poll another class in the same subject
  • Find several polling tools here!

#17 Create Your Own Textbook or Mini EBooks

  • Encourage your students to collaborate to create multimedia books of each chapter or as supplements to chapters.
  • They can even create
  • They can store these online in Dropbox, on their desktops, mobile devices, flash drives or tablets so they have the materials everywhere they go
  • Several free sites support collaborative writing! Check for examples and tools here!

Every Friday I conduct a Free Webinar thanks to American TESOL. Please check the Livebinder for times, video archives, and more.


Try any of these ideas or tools with your students this year and tell us how it went.

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Shelly Terrell is an education consultant, technology trainer, and author. Read more at