Kids: check.

Text: check.

Totally comprehensive knowledge of everything related to the topic at hand: um, check please.

So you've got your structure, but something's still missing. The textbook can't cover everything you want. Because it's a text, not a miracle worker. This is where the fine art of supplementation comes in.

Why supplement? Sometimes it's because students need information on a more graspable reading level, and sometimes because they need to be challenged. Sometimes you do it because the textbook just gets a little bland and you want to spice it up.

Before getting into specifics, looking at these questions about what type of supplemental source can help meet your objectives might help out in the decision-making process:

  1. Does the source fit the objective? If the book in your hand is chock-full o' materials that relate to elephants, but you're trying to teach your kids about the South American frog, then it probably doesn't fit with what you're aiming to accomplish. It's time to find a new source. Even if those are very handsome pictures of elephants.
  2. Does this source hit different learning styles than the ones you've already covered? We're thinking radio clips, videos, infographics, and anything else that presents information in ways that will engage different parts of your students' growing little minds.
  3. Does the source meet the needs of your student? If you need to support a lower or higher level of reading, comprehension, or creativity, does this source do that? Considering your students' needs and how to tie in objectives and learning styles accordingly will help you choose an effective source.

Those questions got you thinking? Good. Next step is to sally out in pursuit of these hallowed sources of effective pedagogy. There's nothing like the World Wide Web to help you out, but we have a few go-to places within the web that we think are extra special:

  1. The Smithsonian. Whether we're talking museum, mag, or website, this gamut of possibilities covers just about everything you could think of from dinos to artwork to science and space. The Smithsonian opens up the world and focuses on education as well as cutting-edge science and technology. And did we mention that its tagline is "seriously amazing"? Now that's seriously amazing.
  2. YouTube. Sure, it'll be extra helpful if you're teaching about lolcats or how to write a rap about George Washington, but hey, don't knock it until you've tried it in the classroom. YouTube as a whole may not be the paragon of education, but with your expertise, you can filter out the muck to find some real gems. Seriously, the range of vids you can find have got information on just about everything. Plus, it's bound to wake up some of your bigger sleepyheads.
  3. NPR. Radio can really help auditory learners, and NPR often reports on the latest happenings in science and politics, as well as more out-of-the-way (but inevitably fascinating) tidbits about this great country we live in. Their reporting tends to be a bit more in-depth, helping the listener get a more nuanced understanding than otherwise, and some of their podcasts like Radiolab and This American Life, for example, can give a personal perspective on a historical moment that you won't find in any textbook we can think of.
  4. Local newspapers and museums. We hear it all the time: make your lesson relevant to your students. What better way to do this than using local news and happenings just around the corner? You'll be surprised by what you find in the local historical society's archives or down at the art museum. And chances are, so will the kids.
  5. Hello? Shmoop. Our #1 goal in life is to help you help your students. Subscribe to our premium products, or get your school or district to hook you up.

Ultimately, supplementation is up to you. You get to decide what works and throw the other stuff away. Supplementation can be a great way to help your students deepen their knowledge and meet your objectives. And if it gives you the chance to sneak in a relevant lolcat from time to time, all the better.