Teachers' Helpers: A Resource Guide to Materials Centers

Article excerpt

You enter the classroom, lesson plans in hand, clear goal in mind: achieve the lesson objectives. The ideal is to reach each student in your class, stimulate their interest and motivate them to learn as you provide information relevant to real workforce needs. If it is simply up to you and your lesson plan, the ideal can seem beyond reach. A teacher can't always be all things to all students.

Fortunately, there is a wealth of instructional materials available to teachers who invest the time to look.

Instructional materials are tangible resources whose purpose is to organize teaching, support learning experiences and increase teaching effectiveness. Teachers have far more resources available today than audiovisual equipment, teacher guides and student handouts. Today's learning aids also include audio and video tapes, video disks, microcomputer software and manipulative aidsmaterials such as models, hand tools and machinery that let students manipulate concrete objects.

Curriculum materials center directors across the country see several trends on the horizon, including the alignment of materials with the national standards initiative, segmented curriculum for customized time frames, individualized learning plans that hold students accountable for competency attainment, work-site learning activities and more technological delivery formats.

The makers of these resources haven't forgotten that education is a process whereby teachers teach and students learn. Instructional materials are not designed to become substitutes for an effective teacher. When they do take over the complete job of instruction, they are not being used properly. Nor are they designed to supplant the textbook. They are intended to supplement the process.

During the last 50 years, a significant body of research shows that instructional materials can provide concrete experience, motivate and arouse interest, provide variety in learning, save instructional time and increase retention.

Seek and find

The first thing you have to determine is how much time you have. If you plan to devote a two-hour block to the lesson, a video that takes the full two hours may not be helpful. Another constraint is lead time. If you want to teach a lesson in two days, you could not consider using a lending library resource that had to be ordered through the mail.

If you plan to show a new function of a spreadsheet software package but do not have access to enough terminals for all students, the demonstration will do little to accomplish lesson plan objectives. Consider the facilities your school has available. If you need a classroom in which the seating configuration can be changed to accommodate a small work group, you must determine whether you have access to a room that meets those conditions. …

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