100+ Resources for Teaching Without Textbooks

What would your classroom be like without your students cracking open their oversized textbooks everyday? Probably a lot more interesting, especially for the kiddies. There are so many other resources out there for teachers to use, online and off, that teaching without textbooks is becoming more and more acceptable. If you don’t believe us, scroll down this list of over 100 different resources — including websites, iPod lectures and field trips — that will encourage you to toss out your textbooks.

Understanding How Students Respond to Technology

Before you can toss out the textbook and replace it with technology tools, you’ll need to understand how your students — whatever their age — respond to and work with technology.

  1. Assessing What Students Learn in Technology-Based Learning Environments: Read this report to understand what students gain from technology tools in the classroom.
  2. GT Prof: Students Learn Better Via iPod Versus Lecture: This article from Campus Technology cites a Georgia Tech professor who believes that iPods are more effective teaching tools for some students.
  3. Critical Issue: Using Technology to Improve Student Achievement: Chapters in this report include "Technology and Youth: Wired Schools and Wired Lives," and "Inclusion: Reaching All Students."
  4. Effects of Technology on Classrooms and Students: From change in student and teacher roles to more collaboration with peers, this report argues for using technology in the classroom.
  5. Students’ Evolving Use of Technology: This article considers a study of how college students use and benefit from information technology systems.
  6. Kids Outsmart Web Filters: Sometimes, teachers are faced with students who know way more about technology than they do. Learn how to prepare yourself by reading this article.
  7. In Class, I Have to Power Down: This article questions "why are schools lagging so far behind" their students when it comes to using and understanding technology.
  8. Better Students Through Technology!: This guide helps teachers in their plan to implement technology-rich lesson plans and environments.
  9. College Students Score Higher in Classes That Incorporate Instructional Technology Than in Traditional Classes: ScienceDaily reports that technology in higher education classes is very beneficial to older students.
  10. Regular Computer Use for Work, But Not Play, Aids Student Test Performance: Find out how computer practice helps students perform on standardized tests.

Virtual World Tools and Communication

Teachers at some of the best online schools are ditching traditional textbooks in favor of virtual worlds and other innovative communication tools listed below.

  1. Class Home Page Builder: Creating a class home page and website is a great idea for a teacher of any age group. This tool will help you get started.
  2. Second Life: There is no limit to the kinds of educational opportunities you can set up for your students in this virtual world, including museums, simulated cities, stock markets, libraries and a lot more.
  3. Virtual Companion for Choosing a Virtual Communal Space for Your Course: Use this guide to introduce you to the world of virtual teaching and learning.
  4. Teen Second Life: This version of Second Life is exclusively reserved for teens, so all your environments, platforms and projects can come with teen-oriented avatars and other features.
  5. Whyville: This educational platform is designed for kids aged 10-16 and incorporates many scientific challenges and activities.
  6. The Sims Online: This extraordinarily popular virtual game is a great tool for social psychology classes, political science courses, economics, social studies and other subjects.
  7. ClassNotesOnline: This platform lets teachers communicate with parents or even students through a free website.
  8. activeCollab: College professors or high school teachers working with small groups on a project can use this project management and collaboration tool to assign and prioritize tasks, send e-mail alerts, manage time tracking, and communicate remotely.

Mobile Tools

Stay connected to your students and your lesson plans with these mobile tools.

  1. iPod: iPods are catching on as an effective teaching and learning tool, and professors are even making their lectures available on iTunes so students can download them.
  2. Twitterberry: Post to your Twitter account from your BlackBerry to send students updated homework assignments or class discussion questions.
  3. Google Maps Mobile: Perfect for field trips, this tool will keep you and your students on track.
  4. Viigo: View RSS feeds and get "one-click access" to news alerts, package tracking and other services with this mobile app.
  5. Facebook for BlackBerry: If you communicate with your students over Facebook, use this tool to reach them wherever you are.

Library and Reference

Reference books are often too heavy to trek back and forth to the classroom, so use these websites for easy-to-access dictionaries, word puzzles and more.

  1. Library Spot: This site has links to all kinds of reference sites like the Library of Congress and Britannica, as well as a Reading Room, where you can search for journals, literary criticism, newspapers, books, speeches and more.
  2. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition: This Bartleby.com reference has over 90,000 entries that include audio pronunciations, word-root appendixes, usage notes, world history notes and more.
  3. Rhyme Zone: Rhyme Zone is a fun tool for teaching synonyms, rhyming patterns and word definitions.
  4. ArtLex Art Dictionary: Use this reference tool to quickly search for "definitions for more than 3,600 terms used in discussing art / visual culture, along with thousands of supporting images, pronunciation notes, great quotations and cross-references."
  5. Google Scholar: Bring up academic journals and other scholarly material online by using this quick search tool.
  6. WebMath: This online math tutor has conversions, self-help questions and answers, and even explanations for problems in different math textbooks, from K-8 mathematics to calculus to polynomials to geometry.
  7. Fact Monster: Use this tool to help your students learn about different countries, the city you live in, geography projects, history lessons, science questions, word definitions and everything else.


Access these educational games online, and let your kids have fun during their activity periods or lead one for the whole class as part of a lesson.

  1. Educational Insights: Browse the online store for creative classroom games like Classroom Jeopardy, grammar games, math games and more.
  2. Daily Dose – Brain Teasers: Start your class off with one of these online brain teasers and puzzles.
  3. Free ESL Games: ESL teachers can turn to this resource for word games, team quizzes and brain teasers.
  4. Funschool: sue this website during break time to play games like Lightning Librarian; Michael, Michael, Go Recycle; and Super Hyper Spider Typer.
  5. Earth Day Games: Teach yours kids about recycling and the environment with this collection of computer games.
  6. Buy It: You can get your entire class to play this no-frills money counting game at once, asking them to tell you how many dollars and cents make up the sale price of each item.

In Class Presentations and Ideas

From PowerPoint presentations to guest speakers, here are even more in-class ideas that don’t require textbooks.

  1. Presentations for Teachers: This site has over 3,000 presentation ideas for science teachers alone. Browse other categories like English/Language, Art/Music, Tech and Social Studies.
  2. Teaching With Technology: Lights Out!: This low-tech idea works best for small children. Find out how an overhead projector and a flashlight stimulate students’ learning abilities and interest.
  3. Pete’s PowerPoint Station: Check out these free PowerPoint presentations that you can use to teach lessons in science, math, social studies, language arts, social skills, reading, world culture, drama, or during the holidays.
  4. PowerPoint Tutorial: Oregon State University has published this online tutorial to teach instructors how to use PowerPoint.
  5. Write a collaborative story: This project works well as a grammar and spelling exercise for younger students and as a character development and plot structure lesson for older students in a fiction writing class. Have each student write a sentence or chapter before passing it along to a classmate.
  6. Cook a different food for each continent or country: As a class project, cook a different food that represents each continent or a different country as long as your social studies unit lasts or as long as the school year lasts. Search for recipes here.
  7. Invite a guest speaker: If you’re planning a lesson on healthcare, invite a local nurse to speak to your class. Ask a detective to give a presentation about crime or safety. Your students will learn way more from a real-life presentation than a boring chapter in a book.
  8. Smithsonian Images: Find beautiful photographs of space, American history, sea life, U.S. presidents, nature and fireworks to add to your presentations from this site.
  9. Put on a skit: Have your students put on a short skit and then go over the lesson it teaches or dissect its cultural and historical themes.

Web 2.0 Teaching

Catch up with your students’ Internet savvy and try out tools like diigo, Twitter and Ning. If you don’t have any idea what we’re talking about, you’d better read below.

  1. Twitter: Twitter is starting to make a name for itself in the higher education world, as professors can quickly reach their students and students can track down information for research papers and class discussions almost instantly.
  2. Top 5 Quiz Generators for Online Educators: All teachers can use these quiz generators to post practice tests and study guides on their class websites or let college students take tests online.
  3. diigo: Diigo is an excellent tool for teachers and students: you can highlight, annotate and bookmark websites and specific content, then organize your material in groups to share with classmates or start a study guide.
  4. Zoho Meeting: Distance educators and college instructors can reach their students at any time with Zoho Meeting’s Web conferencing capabilities.
  5. Edublogs: Teachers and students can create their own blogs on this site, which features support tutorials and allows podcasting, image uploading and videos.
  6. Ning: This clever site lest you "create your own social network for anything." You can open it up to your students, your school, or to teachers in your field around the world.
  7. Monkey on Your Back: Sending a forgetful student a "monkey on their back" is the newest way for teachers to get results and keep students prioritized. You can use a different monkey for each task and set up e-mails to a student (or fellow teacher) whenever he or she is about to miss a deadline.

Materials and Books Online

Sometimes you do need to access the text from a book, but you can use these websites to find whatever you’re looking for without searching for a hefty reference book.

  1. TeacherTube: This site connects you to the videos you want, without having to search through all the crap on YouTube.
  2. Google Books: Access summaries and even whole texts of classic literature, math books, physics books, philosophy books and more here.
  3. The Writer’s Block: Chat live with a librarian, find links to college writing centers online, find online references and more on this site for English and writing teachers.
  4. ClassZone: Select your school subject and your state to find online resources for your textbook. If you don’t feel like using the textbook, you can just use the test practice, and unit summaries online.
  5. Children’s Storybooks Online: While it’s certainly beneficial for a child to interact with a physical book, this online database of ebooks has plenty of free storybooks for several age groups that you may not find at your library.

Sites to Bookmark

Bookmark these great sites for finding innovative teaching ideas, accessing tools for your presentations and more.

  1. YouTube: There is a lot of crazy junk out there, so make sure you’re the only one searching for instructional videos before you let your students watch.
  2. Google Image Search: You can find gorgeous pictures on any subject by using this specialty search engine.
  3. Education Search Engines: If you only want to bring up information meant for teachers and students, use these search engines for academic materials and indexes.
  4. Podagogy: This blog is "where podcasting meets teaching and learning." You’ll get updates on how to podcast, cool iPod learning tools, and more.
  5. Web 2.0 Teaching Tools: This blog is designed to give higher education teachers insight into new Internet tools that help them connect with and keep up with their students.

Websites and Online Lesson Plans for Teachers

Visit these sites to access thousands of lesson plans on every subject.

  1. Education World: Lesson Plans: From maps to holiday ideas to printable work sheets to writing prompts, this website has all kinds of lesson plan ideas for teachers.
  2. Teaching History with Technology: This entire website is devoted to K-12 history and social studies teachers who want to access PowerPoint tips, lesson plans, teaching online ideas and more.
  3. Teachnology: Browse lesson plans by subject, like computing, holidays, language arts, mathematics, health, ESL, world languages, music education and a lot more.
  4. MyProjectPages.com: This site was designed by teachers to help other teachers "create structured online inquiry-based learning activities" for their students. You don’t have to know HTML coding or any other technical skills: this site does it all for you.
  5. Mindomo: Lead brainstorming activities in your classroom with this tool, or invite your students to set up their own mind mapping project to help them with papers and research.
  6. Notemesh: Help your students organize their notes by using this collaborative note taking tool online. Students and teachers can share their notes to create one mega study guide.
  7. Teachers.net: The lesson plans on this site have been submitted by actual teachers, and you can find ideas for pre-school, kindergarten, elementary, middle school, high school and higher ed.
  8. The Lesson Plans Page: Search over 3,500 lesson plans on this site, all of which are free to use.
  9. Hot Chalk: This online learning management system features news videos from NBC, a library of lesson plans, and student and parent access to grades, homework assignments and notes.
  10. A to Z Teacher Stuff: Find lesson plans, work sheets, word search maker tools, and science experiment ideas here.
  11. Notecentric: Notecentric is another online note taking site that lets you share notes with students and encourage collaboration.
  12. edHelper: Toss out your textbooks and access word and phonics games, coloring books, foreign language lessons, special ed activities, puzzle makers and daily skills review helpers.
  13. The Teacher’s Desk: Teachers of reading, spelling, English and writing will find exercises lesson plans here.

Classroom Essentials (Besides the Books)

Check this list to make sure your room is stocked with the newest teaching essentials.

  1. PBS Resources: PBS encourages teachers to sign up in order to access their digital media educational tools.
  2. CutePDF: Create your own PDFs for free with this secure tool.
  3. Plum: Get all the teachers in your department to use Plum, which features a DropBox for your friends to leave you notes and refer you to websites that will help you lesson planning. The Shoebox feature lets you safely store and organize photos, websites and other favorites to save for later use.
  4. Empressr: If you’re sick of PowerPoint, use this free tool to design "visual storytelling and presentations" online. You can also share your creations with other teachers or distance learners.
  5. Writeboard: Writeboard is an excellent tool for all teachers, but college or high school instructors working on projects with their students can use it to store all edit changes, manage project collaboration and share drafts with others.
  6. Assignment Calculator: Keep yourself and your students on task by using this assignment calculator, which also helps you find study resources by subject.

Planning Field Trips and Excursions

Get your students out of your stuffy classroom and into a museum, aquarium, park zoo or any other place that presents a learning opportunity.

  1. Field Trip Planner checklist: Print out this sheet for a mock up permission slip and a check list for planning and what to pack.
  2. Field Trip Ideas: This guide starts you off on brainstorming for field trip ideas, including a trip to the post office, picnics in the park, and adopting a tree.
  3. Elementary School Field Trips: Off-site Ideas and Resources: This guide links to typical field trip locations and gives more off beat ideas.
  4. Field Trip Ideas: From zoos to museums to special park events, this list has lots of great ideas.
  5. Why Take Field Trips?: If you’re not convinced that a field trip would be a good activity for your class, read this guide, which also gives tips for planning the entire day.
  6. Planning a Museum Field Trip: Get tips on taking students of all ages to a museum here.

Teaching Real-Life Lessons

To teach real-life lessons, you don’t need a textbook. Plant a garden, adopt a rainforest or even teach Internet safety tips.

  1. Plant a garden: Teach your kids about the environment, photosynthesis, ecosystems, and responsibility by growing a class garden.
  2. Invest in a stock project: Research, select and buy a stock as a class, and then analyze its progress over the school year.
  3. Figure out your classroom’s carbon footprint: For a lesson on conservation and protecting the environment, figure out your classroom’s carbon footprint.
  4. Adopt-A-Rainforest: This official group invites school groups and other philanthropists to raise money for a specific part of the rainforest. You can raise money by washing cars or writing an producing an environmentally-themed play, and then study the culture and ecosystems of the area you’ve adopted.
  5. Biography Project: Have your kids select a famous person to research, and then have them give a presentation to the class about that person.
  6. Research family tree: Let your kids tell you more about their family history by organizing a family tree research project.
  7. Adopt a City Block: Find out if your class or school can adopt a city block, and then volunteer to have various clean-up days throughout the year.
  8. Local social studies project: This project works for students of all ages: as a group or as individuals, your class can research your school neighborhood or different areas of your city to analyze demographics, culture, poverty, and other statistics.
  9. Online Safety and Logic: This article urges teachers to teach their students "critical thinking online" so they aren’t vulnerable to sexual harassment, e-mail scams or viruses.

Miscellaneous Guides and Resources

For even more guides and resources to help you teach without a textbook, read this list.

  1. 10 Ways to Take Charge of the Web: Learn how to set limits, avoid plagiarism, and understand search engines before you let your students go crazy with the Internet in class.
  2. SchoolNotes.com: Post your notes online so that students and parents can study any time…even if a forgetful child leaves his notebook at school.
  3. Wiki Becomes Textbook in Boston College Classroom: This Computer World article explains how one Boston College professor has started using wikis as a "primary teaching tool," in place of textbooks.
  4. School Says Goodbye to Books: Read about how this school went materials-free and relied on e-resources and conversation to teach.
  5. No Books, No Problem: Teaching Without a Text: This chemistry teacher maintains that "the less I use the book, the more they learn." Find out why by reading this article.
  6. OnCourse: OnCourse tools in this award-winning system include an online grade book, a discipline tracker and lesson planner.
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