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The Different Kinds of Instructional Materials

August 4, 2021 | Classroom Tips

Imagine trying to teach your students without any instructional aids. No books to pull research from, no whiteboard to draw on, no screen to project slideshows or movies, no colorful graphics to illustrate your concepts — just you, speaking in front of the class for hours on end.

That sounds quite difficult, right? You can probably imagine how much of a challenge it would be for your class, too.

As a teacher, you understand the power of using excellent instructional materials — and you also understand the limitations of having suboptimal resources. Depending on their quality, teaching aids can either engage or demotivate students. 

When you invest in first-rate resources that inspire your students, you increase their capacity to learn and retain information, laying the groundwork for their successful educational journey for years to come. By equipping yourself and your classroom with a wide range of top-quality instructional materials, you can develop curriculum foundations with ease. 

Are you ready to learn about how instructional materials benefit you and your classroom? Let’s dive in!

Educational Teaching Aids and Instructional Materials

Is there a difference between teaching aids and instructional materials? Yes and no.

Traditionally, teaching aids and instructional materials have been viewed as separate entities:

  • Teaching aids are devices used to deliver information and are not necessarily designed to fulfill course-based goals. Promoting mental stimulation and sensory engagement, teaching aids enhance the overall classroom instruction experience. Classic teaching devices include whiteboards and projectors. Computers, tablets and other interactive objects add to the classroom experience, as do scientific tools like microscopes and telescopes.
  • Instructional materials are resources with embedded information used to meet specific course-based learning goals, outcomes and objectives. If a teacher uses selected resources to teach their students during instruction and active learning, it’s instructional material. This includes assessment and testing items that help students retain information. 

Today, it’s fair to say the separation has blurred. With advances in educational technologies and the ever-growing interactivity of resources, conventional teaching aid and instructional material designations overlap significantly. With an incredible amount of student learning taking place online, now more than ever, teachers rely on multiuse, highly adaptable tools to reach students in a classroom setting and virtually. Digital media, computers and other resources offer both “delivery of” and “interaction with” information for students.

Examples of instructional materials include:

  • Traditional resources: Textbooks, reference books, lesson plans, workbooks, flashcards, charts and supplemental reading materials
  • Graphic and interactive materials: Physical objects, photographs, illustrations, charts, graphs, maps, multimedia, movies and games
  • Presentation items: Lecture notes, slideshow applications and interactive presentation software like PreziPear Deck and Canva
  • Tests and assessments: Classroom assignments, quizzes, essays, standardized tests and group projects

Let’s explore how you can utilize various instructional materials to boost your teaching strategies.

4 Main Types of Instructional Materials

The right materials save you time creating lesson plans and assessments so you can focus on what you love most — teaching! Check out these core instructional material types with resource examples, and learn how these resources will support your instruction.

1. Print Materials

Whether it’s a textbook, handout, pamphlet, manual, study guide, assignment file, syllabus or rubric, print materials are — you guessed it — any resource a teacher uses that is printed on paper. 

Educational texts have been used for centuries. Considered the foundational backbone of instruction, books continue to steer and supplement course foundations and lesson plans. 

While digital texts have their benefits, studies show that reading print materials offer significant learning advantages over their digital counterparts. Students who read print books score better reading comprehension and retention scores than those who read the same material digitally. And print resources improve reading attention and cognitive focus.

Incorporate these valuable print materials into your teaching experience: 

  • Books: Use various print textbooks and supplemental books focused on subject fundamentals, problem-solving, skills practice, student activities and differentiated instruction. Books speed up your course planning — many offer time-saving step-by-step lesson plans, worksheets, testing and assessment materials. From breaking down math basics to exploring the world of science, harness the power of books in print.
  • Reference books: Carry a variety of up-to-date reference materials in your classroom. By teaching children how to look up vocabulary information, read maps and interpret reference details, you’ll set them up for a lifetime of research and discovery. Include an area where students can access grade-level-specific essentials like a world atlaschildren’s dictionary and student thesaurus. Use a vocabulary builder to help students boost their vocabulary skills and prepare for standardized tests.
  • Workbooks: Help your students strengthen their skills while having fun using workbooks. Frequent, focused practice through weekly activities increases learning retention and leads to subject mastery. Supplement your science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum with grade-appropriate math workbooks for students to practice quick problems each day of the week. Science workbooks provide weekly science units, daily worksheets and hands-on experiments that are easy to incorporate into the classroom.
  • Practice sets: Upgrade your curriculum daily with 180 days of exercises. Ideal for use in the classroom and at home, practice sets build students’ language, reading, writing, grammar, mathematics and science skills every day for the entire school year.

2. Electronics, Technology and Media Devices

Digital and instructional devices support teachers and learners, diversify student engagement and encourage learning outside of the classroom. Quite the step up from notebooks and chalkboards, electronic teaching tools have changed the game significantly. Today, you can link to professional resources, digital data, software and systems in seconds with the click of a mouse or swipe of a finger. And you can share course materials with your students just as quickly.

Computers, smart devices and research equipment empower teachers to incorporate multimedia during instruction and monitor students’ progress easily. Teachers can easily transport laptops from home to school with ease, making lesson planning, grading and feedback easily accessible. 

In the lab, in the classroom or at home, the right tools help teachers find unique approaches and make learning fun. Embrace a spirit of connected, immersive teaching with these classroom staples:

  • Computers, laptops and tablets: Computers link teachers and students to a massive knowledge base. One-to-one technology means each student uses one device as a tool for course training, and you can create customized lesson plans for each student. Research shows that tablets encourage independent thinking and improve computer skills, and since they are portable, these devices can strengthen learning at home. Make it easy for students to charge and store tablets in class using a charging and storage cart.
  • Microphones: Ideal for student testing, language training and recording lesson plans, a high-quality microphone is an excellent addition to a teacher’s toolkit.
  • CD and cassette players: Play music and audio media for enriched learning. A Bluetooth-capable boombox can conveniently stream audio from your computer, tablet or smartphone. Create a group-friendly listening center to allow multiple students to listen to CDs, audiobooks and more using headphones without disturbing classmates.
  • Other audiovisual media: Create a sensory experience for your learners with moving pictures and sound. While multimedia tools work wonders to engage the entire class, these resources are especially beneficial for learners who speak English as a second language (ESL) and students with learning disabilities, language disorders, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), hearing impairment or Down syndrome. Captivate young learners with interactive DVDs that feature educational songs and animated characters that teach skills in a fun way.
  • Calculators: Whether you need basic calculators for young learners, more advanced scientific models or graphing calculators for calculus students, equip your mathematics students with these crucial handheld devices.
  • Binoculars and telescopes: Encourage students to explore the world around them with young-learner binoculars and telescopes with knobs designed for small hands. Watch your little explorers identify native animals, explore the details in the moon and delight in curiosity in the wonders of our planet — and beyond!
  • Microscopes: Watch your students zoom into science as they participate in hands-on learning. Microscopes bring your lessons to life with the power of observation. With models available for all ages, even very young students can experience the world of the close-up with a microscope designed for pre-K students.

3. Visualizations and Graphics

It’s no secret that images capture students’ attention — and quickly! The brain can process images seen with the eye and attach meaning to them in mere fractions of a second. Because visual representations of information associate concepts with symbols, they naturally play to the strengths of human biology to help your students better absorb and recall new information.

The majority of your students are visual learners — approximately 65% of learners need to see graphs or pictures to grasp a concept. And research shows that teaching with visual aids stimulates thinking, improves the learning environment and helps students develop a deeper personal understanding of the topic.

Tap into the processing power of visualization tools to help students connect more deeply with your content:

  • Infographics: Using a combination of images and words to explain text-based information, infographics are ideal for explaining statistics, breaking down complex concepts, illustrating unseen processes or telling a story to convey content in a dynamic way. 
  • Graphic organizers: Tables, flow charts, diagrams and graphs are great examples of graphic organizers — that is, visual explanations of statistics and other data. 
  • Other helpful visuals: Use maps, photographs, illustrations, transparencies and real objects to supplement your lessons.

4. Games and Interactive Resources

Game-based learning improves problem-solving skills and makes it possible for students to learn through experiences. Ignite your children’s imaginations and boost that brainpower by teaching with interactive game resources:

  • Games: Games remove the intimidation factor of learning and turn complex concepts into play. From teaching young children to count with exciting number pattern games to improving essential STEM skills with quick-thinking 10-second challenges, games can enhance learning in every area of study at all grade levels.
  • Role-play: Role-play allows kids to process and apply information in a simulated real-world environment. Whether children pretend to shop for groceries or treat sick stuffed animals at an animal hospital, the act of role-playing in the classroom gives kids plenty of learning opportunities. They can learn how to respond to new situations, communicate with classmates, work out solutions and imaginatively explore course concepts. Consider building social, storytelling and oral language skills using puppets. Encourage your young learners to role-play with veterinarian and doctor playsetstool sets and food sets.
  • Learning placemats: Students can write on educational placemats with dry-erase markers or washable crayons, providing an interactive visual aid for practice and study. Use map placemats for geography lessons or put the periodic table of the elements at your students’ fingertips in science class.
  • Puzzles and brainteasers: Build your students’ creative and critical thinking skills using puzzles, writing and logic challenges, wordplay games and “what if” questions.

10 Tips for Choosing Effective Instructional Materials

With countless instructional materials available, how do you determine which ones are best? Follow these tips to evaluate your options to make sure you select the most effective, high-quality resources:

  1. Connect with the curriculum: Instructional materials must support the curriculum’s learning objectives, activities and assessments.
  2. Choose valuable resources: Information presented in your instructional materials must be factual, trustworthy and relevant. And aesthetics matter — pick eye-catching, beautifully designed toys, games, tools and supplemental resources to hold your students’ attention. 
  3. Align with ability levels: Choose resources appropriate for your class’s age, grade and social development levels. 
  4. Diversify tools and approaches: When evaluating materials, it’s good to have a range of options. Consider different styles of learning, levels of difficulty, varying points of view and student interests.
  5. Develop critical thinking skills: Materials should encourage curiosity, exploration and evidence-seeking. Teach students to examine and evaluate information to empower them to make independent judgments as informed decision-makers.
  6. Foster respect for diversity: When students see themselves or their families represented in instructional materials, they connect more personally with the content. Ensure materials respectfully portray a variety of family groups, people with disabilities, various cultures, minority groups, genders, ethnicities and social groups. 
  7. Motivate student reflection and responsibility: Activities like role-play build empathy and help learners examine their behaviors, attitudes, responses and duties as productive members of society.
  8. Evaluate using IMET: Created by Student Achievement Partners to support educators and administrators, the Instructional Materials Evaluation Tool (IMET) is a handy set of rubrics you can use to evaluate the alignment of textbooks with Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
  9. Identify high-quality materials with EQuIP: Identify and review instructional materials’ quality to ensure they fulfill CCSS requirements using Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products (EQuIP) tools.
  10. Support your district: Make sure materials align with the educational goals and philosophy of your school district. Before you add new instructional resources, review existing materials in the district that may meet the above criteria. Remember to replace any damaged or outdated materials.

Find Incredible Instructional Resources for Teachers at The Classroom Store

Are you looking for top-quality, innovative instructional materials your students will love? The Classroom Store can help! Whether you teach one subject or all, we’ve got you covered. From workbooks to graphic organizers, playsets to placemats, we have a massive selection of over 15,000 instructional resources, including closeout, hard-to-find products

As your classroom partner, we pride ourselves in supporting teachers by offering a one-stop-shop experience, providing a large selection of teaching supplies from a diverse array of manufacturers. With our focus on making education an accessible, hands-on experience for all age groups, your young learners will benefit from our selection of easy-to-use STEM tools designed for small hands, like our children’s telescopes and microscopes.

Explore our instructional teaching materials and aids today, or contact us to learn more about how The Classroom Store can equip you and your classroom for teaching success!

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