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What are Instructional Materials and Why Do They Matter?

Instructional materials, also known as instructional resources, are all of the tools a teacher uses in teaching a lesson. These materials can include materials that students bring from school as part of a project, textbooks, homework assignments, and other types of resources. Selection, modification, and effective utilization of the right materials can increase student engagement and learning.

Types of Instructional Materials

The three main categories of instructional materials are:

  • Traditional resources (textbooks, anthologies, and workbooks): These resources are structured creations that are meant to provide structured, pre-approved educational experiences. Textbooks provide detailed information about a topic and may provide questions or assessments for students to improve their learning. Anthologies provide reading passages or other resources to display examples of themes, presentations of specific topics, and other educational subjects. Workbooks are mostly dedicated to providing opportunities for the demonstration of knowledge. At times, sets of textbooks, anthologies, and workbooks come together. At other times, educators must pick and choose individual resources from each type of traditional material.
  • Graphic organizers: These resources may be created by teachers, but they are usually made by students under the advice of an educator. Students are enabled to organize and present the information in a way that works best for them. This helps students to comprehend knowledge in a way that works with how they think.
  • Teacher-made resources (worksheets, handouts, projects, assessments): these are all materials created by the instructor to test the knowledge of a student or provide support for their methods of learning the information.

Graphic organizers and teacher-made resources are not traditional because they are not created in a structured format. These tools are used to:

  • Help students teach themselves the information relevant to certain objectives in the way that will best suit them
  • Assess the progress of an educator’s students in regards to their knowledge of the curriculum

Evaluating Instructional Resources

Instructional resources and materials should not be used blindly, even if they are traditional. Educators should evaluate the material they use based on several criteria. Teachers should evaluate their instructional resources for maximum effectiveness. They should also align the resources they use and create with all relevant learning standards. Furthermore, instructional materials should not be used for their own sake. Educators should ensure that the resources they use to support learning fulfill that purpose rather than distracting from students’ learning.

When creating instructional materials such as assessments, educators should make sure that they ask their students a wide range of questions. Some students will respond positively to certain types of questions than others. Also, instructors should ensure that the resources they create are usable by students with special needs. If they are not, modifications will need to be made to enable use by students with special needs. Thirdly, if time and resources permit, educators should make multiple resources to teach the same subject. Similar to how students respond differently to different types of questions, there are multiple ways to learn. Some students learn visually while others learn auditorially. Still, others learn through physical contact. Educators should ensure that all types of students are able to learn the required material.

When educators are assessing and selecting traditional resources to use to teach their students, the most important factor that they should consider is the ability of the assignment or passage to help students fulfill a learning standard. If a traditional instructional resource does not adequately meet the needs and requirements of current standards, it should probably not be used without significant modifications. If it cannot be modified, non-traditional materials may be a better fit for the needs of the classroom.

Instructional Materials Examples

Many types of instructional materials can be used to teach students about one subject. Teachers can use exclusively traditional materials, graphic organizers, or teacher-made resources. However, this is not the most effective way to teach. The most effective educators will use a wide range of materials that teach in a variety of ways to effectively influence students to learn the materials and concepts required by standards.

For example, the first standard of the English Language Arts Standards related to History and Social Studies for grades 6 to 8 is that students should be able to ”cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.”

Examples of traditional materials that can help students accomplish this standard include:

  • Textbooks that discuss information about time periods that are relevant to the primary source being analyzed
  • Anthologies or readers that have primary sources about a particular time period that can be analyzed and compared with each other
  • Workbooks that encourage students to answer a variety of questions regarding primary sources

Examples of graphic organizers that can assist students in fulfilling this standard include:

  • Venn diagrams that can be used by students to include evidence for and against certain arguments regarding a primary source
  • Charts that allow students to list and elucidate evidence for certain arguments
  • Timelines that allow students to track relationships between events that occurred close to each other in time
  • Maps that allow students to examine the spatial relationships between primary sources and events they discuss

Examples of teacher-made resources related to this standard include:

  • Quizzes that assess how much information a student has retained and learned from a specific primary source
  • Projects that require a student to perform an in-depth analysis of a particular primary source

Lesson Summary

Instructional materials are all materials used by teachers and educators to teach lessons to their students. These can include textbooks, tests, homework assignments, and other materials. Traditional materials have been used for decades to assist students in learning school lessons. These types of resources include structured workbooks and textbooks on subjects including math, spelling, language, and literature. When evaluating the use of traditional materials, educators should ensure that the material and reading will assist students in attaining an objective specified by relevant standards.

In the present world that is constantly undergoing modernization, non-traditional materials are being increasingly used inside and outside of the classroom. These resources include materials created by teachers. Teacher-made resources should be carefully created to ensure that they account for students who have special needs. If a resource cannot be used with special needs, alternative resources should be created or a way to modify the resource should be supplied. Teachers should use more than one resource so that students who learn in various ways can all learn the necessary information. For example, a resource should ask students many different types of questions. Resources such as graphic organizers that assist students in organizing information in a way that works for them should be assessed to ensure that their visual aspects are useful in teaching information. Visual distractions should be avoided. Most importantly, educators should ensure that their resource addresses the objectives of the curriculum as well, or more efficiently than, traditional materials.

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