The Book Fort

Instructional Ideas for Immediate Implementation

Welcome to The Book Fort: Issue 29

Big picture

Week 29: Ditching That Textbook

Big picture

Revolutionize Your Classroom

Feeling the apathy oozing from your students? It is that time of year, friends, the Spring Slide, when the weather is starting to warm up (well, unless you live in Ohio like me), the hormones are raging, and the countdown until the last day of school is posted in the front lobby. With roughly nine weeks to go for most, this is the time of the school year when everyone, students and faculty included, gets restless. The thing is, there are still NINE WEEKS LEFT. Some view that from a deficit perspective, as is easy to do when you’re feeling like you’d rather be enjoying the sunshine than be stuck indoors all day. This week, I challenge you to look at this as a benefit — you still have nine weeks to positively change the lives of students.


To help propel you over this mountain, I have reviewed the fantastically talented Matt Miller’s Ditch That Textbook: Free Your Teaching & Revolutionize Your Classroom (2015). I have had the opportunity to get more acquainted with Miller’s work lately through my work with Kim Strobel, Happiness Coach Extraordinaire. Strobel and Miller have teamed up for #DitchSummit and a recent Twitter Chat, #DitchBook, and I was so impressed with the practicality and heart in Miller’s work that I knew it would be perfect to help us through the spring season. Use this time to try out a few new things, reflect on their effectiveness, and decide how they might enhance your instruction next year.


I have chosen several parts of each of the three sections in the book to share with you, but you really must check out the book for yourself here. Also, the blog will lead you to frequent updates and Google resources for free. Follow @jmattmiller on Twitter, and jump on #DitchBook and find even more.


Miller, Matt. (2015). Ditch that textbook: Free your teaching and revolutionize your classroom. Dave Burgess Consulting Publishing, Inc.: San Diego, CA.


*Note: page numbers are absent, as I reviewed the digital copy of #DitchBook. I refer to the sections and chapters of the text instead.

Big picture

Section I: Why Go Digital?

Most educators have accepted the reality that technology is now part of the daily academic experience of most students, even if they are of the mind that cell phones and tablets have no place in the classroom. There are educational technology standards in most states and many classrooms are equipped with wireless Internet at the very least. Some are one-to-one and teachers are expected to utilize tech regularly to facilitate and enhance instruction. The problem generally is, how can this happen without making the devices just a fancy, expensive version of the pencil, as Miller puts it? Also, some teachers are uncomfortable with a non-traditional approach in which they aren’t the sages on the stage anymore. Engaging learning requires a release of control in some ways, and that can be messy.


We must use technology strategically and teach students how to use it in ways that prepares them for their realities beyond the classroom. Here are some of Miller’s thoughts from Section I about why we should go digital.

Big picture

Section II: Ditch That Mindset

Just to be clear, this book isn’t about throwing all the textbooks out the window or having a bonfire to celebrate their obsolescence. While I can certainly hope for such a day (I mean, I let my Journalism students build a Book Fort out of old textbooks!), many teachers are required to use them. This book is so much more about the teacher mindset and attitude, which can be very traditionally set in “textbook mode”: start at page one, lecture on content, assign homework questions, check them half-heartedly even though 90% of the students copied or Googled the answers, give them 10 points, unit test at the end of the six-weeks, rinse and repeat. Who wants to do that for the 27 or so years it will take most teachers to retire? More importantly, what kid wants to do that up to 7 times a day 180+ days a year? We know what that’s like and it makes a mockery of the capabilities and talent of teachers while also alienating the students. Life is about making connections, folks, and we all need more of that than maybe ever.


Here are just a few of Miller’s thoughts from Section II, coupled with my own implementation ideas.

Big picture

Section III: Ditch That Textbook

This section offers more of the practical, instructional suggestions for how to innovate as an educator. I have chosen only three; the resources Miller offers abound in this book and on his blog. The digital version of the book hyperlinks many of those resoures.

Website of the Week

Big picture

National Geographic Education

Looking for cross-curricular content? Check out National Geographic Education here. This website offers rich media, free teacher resources, and countless other supplemental texts that make science, social studies, and geography come to life. If you're taking Matt Miller's advice to go digital, why not create a Padlet that features content area topics that relate to your touchstone text(s) for each instructional sequence? Grab some of Nat Geo's content to engage your students in making connections.

EdTech Tool of the Week

Collaborize Classroom Topic Library

In the same vein, if you are searching for ways to collaborate digitally, but aren't up to creating all new content everyday, borrow some ideas from the Collaborize Classroom Topic Library. This global repository of collaborative digital lessons spans diverse content and all ages, including adult learners. There is even a set of lessons for professional development, which we all know can use something different now and then. Check it out today!

Missed Previous Issues?

Big picture

Kristie Hofelich Ennis, NBCT

In an effort to systematically study relevant research and stay connected to the teachers I greatly respect and with whom I have worked for years to successfully implement independent reading, this newsletter came about. It will offer research and practical ideas for quick implementation and may prompt further discussion or study with your colleagues. I hope you'll find it useful and thought-provoking; I also hope you will stay in touch if you implement any of the ideas with your students. They are, after all, why I do what I do!