Write Your Own Book?
Today's guest post comes from John Brishcar, a CK-12 Champion, with a whole lot of passion for teaching and integrating technology to improve the classroom experience for his students.
I wrote my own science book. No, I’m neither a major publisher, nor a great typist. I am a 6th grade science teacher that is frustrated with a resource that is static, heavy, expensive, and out of date the day it was delivered to my school – which was nine years ago. So what do you do? You either use what you have, purchase new, or “creatively acquire” resources. I chose to “creatively acquire” resources! I wrote a science book.
I always thought that only the big publishers would have the wisdom and resources to provide teaching materials for us in the trenches, but come to find out that they too make mistakes (remember the social studies fiasco a few years ago?). I remember saying, “Hey! I could vet a book better than that company”, and then it started to creep into my mind that I could actually write a science book.
I was almost doing it already – writing worksheets, graphic organizers, quizzes and tests based on a book that was written well over the heads of some of my 6th graders. I took samples from the book and it showed a lexicon reading level of grade 9-11 grade. I needed to translate it into 6th grade.
I started to organize my teaching resources into modules of printed packages. It started out as an answer to “I don’t have that page…", "I was absent that day", etc… Having a package got around the “Please send work home…” They already had it.
I started with unit one – Atoms. It included a summary reading about atoms, and two starter worksheets or bellringers. I then wrote a cloze activity about the reading, and an actual question worksheet to slow down the kids enough that they would actually read the material instead of ‘treasure hunt’ for answers. It worked well. It took a bunch of time and energy to put together, but when it was done, it was great! I found that I taught off that instead of reading the book or having kids read popcorn style. With having only a classroom set of books, there was no more “read this for homework”, books never left the classroom.
This was the start of my own book. Because I scanned worksheets and then printed them, it was now all digital. I could literally cut-and-paste pages in and out. I owned the blackline masters for the worksheets so converting them to pdf files was easy – and legal! Over the years, I tweaked it, added to it, wrote more, made drawings, and condensed it to make it more user friendly. Printing two sided, three hole punched and stapled made life easier. I put my old science book away – all 635 pages of it. It’s still on a shelf somewhere.
In college you can write on books – highlight and summarize in the margins. Now I could teach that and actually have the kids highlight and summarize. A whole bunch of skills are needed to do both - and a lot of processing too! My single page handouts for each concept fit in their three ring binders. They could highlight, scribble notes in the margins, include drawings and then color the pictures. They could also do it at home.
This took a year. Actually, it’s still going on. It is totally digital and available today at BrishLab.com and is free to anyone that wishes to use it. Because it lives on only ONE place, I can make corrections, add to it or modify it at once. It is internet aware but can also be used in a totally paper version – by design. If you’ve been following my book, you can see the progression through the school year. It was relatively easy – find something already done, and make it the way you want it – cut and paste, swap around, and change some of the wording.Thanks to CK12.org for providing guidance and content so that I never have to invent the wheel from scratch.
A former Aerospace and Nuclear engineer, John “Coach” Brishcar is now a 6thth grade Science teacher in Virginia and has taught Middle School Science for over 18 years. He has won numerous awards for the integration of technology in the classroom and was recently recognized by the National School Board Association as one of “20 to Watch for Technology in the Classroom – 2012 ”href="https://nationalschoolboardsassociationstplusl220.eduvision.tv/Default.aspx?q=h%252bbv42DLMWxTe3gvl%252fcR9A%253d%253d">video here). Coach Brishcar operates a wireless Moodle based classroom, the BrishLab, with 25 laptops, four laser printers and a fileserver that he sourced and operates at zero cost.