BY CHRISTOPHER PANNA

It’s surprising how many teachers either don’t know about textbook companion websites or don’t bother to check them out. These are websites that publishers offer to accompany the material in a textbook. They vary in quality, but if you have a good one, your students can access some really useful supplemental material. Check the first few pages of your book and see if there’s a web address. Your companion website may have some of these features:

Summaries

A fantastic tool to improve comprehension or help with review. Summaries may take the form of outlines, slideshows, or even MP3s (think audio books). Your students can download audio summaries to their smartphones or iPods, and while they won’t start rocking out to physics or world history, they’ll be able to listen anywhere and anytime.

Interactives

Whether maps, diagrams, timelines, or games, these activities can be used in the classroom or for students to review at home. They’ll most likely be organized into the same sections and use the same vocabulary terms as your book.

Quizzes

The online medium makes quizzes more engaging, as they may have sounds, graphics, or extra factoids after each question. But the most useful feature is score reporting via email, which allows students to send their quiz scores to you. My students take the quiz after they read and only send me their score once they achieve 100%. That might mean doing it several times, but they always come out with a better understanding of what they read.

So take a look online — there could be a powerful resource waiting for you. I’ve only described some of the tools your companion website may have. I’d also recommend spending a few minutes of class showing everything a companion site offers. If your students like what they see, they may start using it even when you don’t ask them to.

Photo credit: wohnai on Flickr.