Solutions When Textbooks Run Short
What can you do when textbooks are in such shamefully short supply? After all, a 2002 national teacher survey, conducted jointly by the National Education Association and the Association of American Publishers, found that 34 percent of teachers note a marked increase in scholastic failure when sufficient textbooks are not provided for every student.
The ideal solution is for schools, districts, counties, states, and the federal government to spend enough money so that every student has at least two copies of required textbooks — one copy assigned for classroom use and one copy assigned for home use. However, since this ideal seems unlikely to be achieved in many districts, you'll probably have to come up with your own solutions if you're short on textbooks.
When it comes to photocopying books, what is fair use?
Under United States copyright law, fair use is a legal doctrine whereby teachers may photocopy and use copyrighted materials such as textbooks for educational purposes without securing permissions from writers and publishers. But if you're in doubt, consult your principal beforehand.
The simple, immediate, low-tech solution is to have students double up on textbooks. Usually, you'll be given enough books to distribute one book to every two students for daily classroom use only, not for home use. It's not fair, and it's not a perfect solution, but kids are pretty adaptable, and they're often surprisingly willing to share textbooks when asked to do so.
Another rough-and-ready solution is to spend each morning photocopying sufficient copies of the textbook pages your kids will need for each day's lesson. Again, this is far from a perfect solution and you'll have to hustle to complete this task in addition to all your other work, but it's worth it if your kids can have their own materials.
Moreover, if you're willing to make a Herculean one-time-only effort, you can create your own classroom binders, one for each student, containing photocopies of all the textbook pages they'll need for the current academic year. The beauty of this solution is that these three-ring binders can be used repeatedly for several years before they show signs of significant wear and tear.
A somewhat more high-tech solution is to use a presentation program, such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote, to deliver information to all your students at once. Fortunately, your classroom is probably equipped with a desktop computer and a television — most modern classrooms are; therefore, use presentation software to create slideshow presentations on your computer, then display the work on your TV. True, if you want to display large blocks of textbook information you'll have to retype it using your presentation software, but this might just be the high-tech solution you need to resolve a potentially disastrous shortage of classroom textbooks.