We know it is important for students to get value from their book purchases. Books are too expensive and students too calculating for us to assume that students will buy and use a textbook just because it is on the syllabus. This is particularly true for handbooks, which are often viewed as recommended or ancillary. Students will wait and watch: "Do I really need to buy this book or can I do OK without it?"
The answer depends in great part on the instructor's teaching approach. One approach is to say, "Be sure to use the handbook whenever you are working on your writing." That approach effectively guarantees that students will not buy and use a handbook.
A better approach is to build the handbook into instruction. With an online handbook like Writer's Help, incorporating the handbook into class activity is easier than with a print book. Students increasingly have classroom access to tablets, laptops, and mobile devices, so there is no need to lug around a print handbook. Instructors can easily call up Writer's Help to the classroom display with a network connection. I've written in a previous Bits post about effective ways to teach with handbooks (Being Intentional about Using a Handbook).
To help instructors imagine the ways they might integrate an electronic handbook into classroom activities, we are developing and publishing on Macmillan Community a set of tested classroom activities. You'll see links to the activities on your Macmillan English Community homepage, posted by Karita dos Santos. Karita has posted two new activities, which include complete lesson plans with tips for successful teaching and learning. One is on developing thesis statements (Writer's Help 2.0 Hacker Version: Thesis Activity ) and the other on helping students with organization (Writer's Help 2.0 Hacker Version: Organizing Ideas Activity ). We will be following up with additional activities, so check out the Community page from time to time.
We would very much welcome feedback on these activities.
- Are they useful?
- Do you plan to try them?
- Do you do something similar, only better?
- Are there other topics you would like to see?
Let us know that we are on the right track. Our goal is to use classroom activities to deepen students' reliance on Writer's Help. It's central to our thinking: developing writers should develop habits of self-directed learning. We think Writer's Help is admirably suited to this goal.