By Felicia Ostrom, Choices Teaching Fellow

I love the Choices approach to teaching historical and current events, and I am so excited about the new iBooks format.  Whether you are a 1:1 iPad school, are working out of a cart of iPads, or just have a handful to use in your classroom, there are so many ways to use the iBooks Textbooks to make the material more engaging.  I’m excited to share with you some of my favorite features of the iBooks Textbooks, and some ideas for making the most of the features in your classroom.

Embedded Scholars Videos

One of the great resources of the Choices program is the Scholars Online videos.  Whether you show them in your classroom or post a link on your website for students to access, we know that they are a valuable teaching tool.  However, the videos are short and depending on when students access them, may be removed from the content.  With the iBooks Textbooks, the corresponding scholars videos are embedded in the text, along with a focus question.  This allows the students to view the video as they are reading the related material.  I believe this helps enhance the student text, and allows the students to establish connections and relevance between the text and the video.


Dictionary and Web Search

The Choices text is written at a high level, and probably contains at least a few terms with which students are unfamiliar.  The dictionary feature allows them to define a term with one click, making them much more likely to seek the meaning of a word.  This feature also allows the reader to immediately look up the term on Wikipedia or takes them to general web search results.  These tools are especially helpful if the students is seeking the meaning of a broad term, historical event or period, or person.


Media Galleries

Some students may be likely to skip the pictures in text, but I find students less likely to skip over pictures when they are “clickable” (let’s face it, students love to click and touch with technology).  The iBook version of Choices curriculum contains media galleries that allow the students to view a series of images.  For example, in the Human Rights iBook there is an image gallery of human rights throughout history.  This series of four images tells a story, and could be the source of great classroom conversation.  This may have been something an individual teacher would have had to compile in the past, but now Choices has it put together for you.


Text Selection Features

These are my very favorite aspects of using iBooks Textbooks in the classroom!  With the text selection and highlight features, students can use these tools in a variety of ways.  Highlighting is a simple feature and it is not unique to iPads, but it is a valuable tool for helping students to be active, engaged readers.  Some ideas for using the highlight feature:

  • If your students are working off an iPad cart, and you have multiple sections using the iBooks Textbooks, the highlight feature can be a tool to encourage collaboration between sections.  Assign a different color to each section.  Ask students to highlight sentences/phrases that they think are most important, and leave a note about the importance of what they highlighted or further questions.  Students get excited to see what the other students highlighted and wrote, and it is all entirely based on the text.  You can have each section comment on whether they agree or disagree with the other students’ highlighting, and have them write to each other. 
  • For Part III of the iBook, the case studies, have students choose two colors.  One color is for arguments in favor of the focus question and one color is for arguments against the focus question.  As students read the summary and primary documents associated with the case study, they can highlight important information to help form an opinion on the focus question.
  • Part IV of the iBook is the options portion.  Students can use the highlight and study card feature to help with their oral presentations.  We want our students to reference the text and have opinions rooted in fact.  This feature allows the students to highlight a quote in the text and then summarize it in their own words, write a question, or write an argument based off the quote.  It will then be generated as a study card with the text quote on one side, and the student’s note on the other side.  These digital cards will help the students during the role play.


Resources for Activities


Chapter 6 of the iBook contains many of the documents included in the Teacher Resource Book.  Your students will not require hard copies of the documents to use with the iBook material, and you will save yourself a trip to the copier.  I love that all the information is in one place, so students can combine their notes and study cards for the different sections.

The Choices iBooks Textbooks combine great features with the wonderful curriculum we’ve come to expect from Choices.  Your students will benefit and have fun learning with this interactive resource.

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