How much of a textbook should one teach?

“One should not ‘teach’ any book in a writing class.  One should teach writing.  Here’s an easy test to see what kind of class you are teaching: Which text is the central, most important text in the class?  If it is not the students’ own writing, then it’s not a composition class.  It might be a class in popular culture, or technology, or women’s studies, or current events, or literature, or any number of other things, but it is not a composition class.  Whatever the teaching materials you are using in your classes, they should be secondary to the students’ own writing, and they should directly and obviously and immediately and unambiguously work to help the students improve their writing.”

“It depends on what kind of textbook it is.  If it’s huge and has a zillion readings and a zillion exercises, you’re going to kill them by teaching all of it.  And if they’re doing that many readings/textbook exercises, then they are not spending enough time on writing assignments.  But you have to teach enough justify their purchase.”

“You need to use as much of the textbook as you possibly can. That is only fair to your students. Use at least 1/3 of a textbook—more, if at all possible.

“That means not just assigning chapters. It means using what you’ve asked them to read in class.”

“Enough so that everybody doesn’t get mad they bought it.  Probably at least 20%.”

“I’d try to put myself in the student’s situation:  if the material I used in a text was readily available to me somewhere else (free), I might wonder why I had been asked to buy the textbook.  If I had been asked to buy a book from which I only used a few pages, I’d wonder why I’d been asked to buy it.

“General rule of thumb for me–1/3 of the text.  [An exception for me is the small handbook I require in 1106 (and 1105, next semester).  Materials in it are available on the Purdue OWL, but students have told me repeatedly that they like having and using the book.  It is much easier to navigate than the OWL, they feel.]

“If you’re feeling a problem with this, it’s likely because of the textbooks, not you.  Publishers seem to offer books that try to offer one-stop shopping, so to speak:  the books seem designed to appeal to multiple audiences, and thus often contain far too much material for one semester.”

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