Master Teaching

a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher

Adapting and Supplementing Materials: A Quick-start Guide

Materials are anything used in a lesson to transfer knowledge and/or skills to the students. The most common materials are print. The most common of those is the textbook.

The role of the textbook

The ideal role of the textbook is as a structuring tool. This does not mean that the textbook controls the teaching process but that it establishes the structure and predictability that are necessary to make the learning environment comfortable for students. The textbook also serves to grant students a measure of autonomy because it becomes the map or plan of what is intended and expected. Finally, it allows them to see where a lesson fits in the broader context of the course.


Goals (course level) and outcomes (lesson level) act like a filter. All teaching materials go in and what is useful to your purposes comes out the other side. Much of what comes out will be immediately useful, but some of it will require adaptation or supplementation to better satisfy student needs as well as goals and outcomes.


Three major areas of useful adaptation are to change the skill being practiced, to match the material to the perceived level of the students, and to move content from the superficial into the moral dimension. There are several options for tailoring materials.


  1. Modification: especially of traditional textbook exercises in an effort to get students more involved.
  2. Replacement: items are replaced with others that are more suitable to the skill being practiced.
  3. Repurposing: take an exercise intended to practice one skill and use it to practice another.


  1. Addition: add items or exercises where coverage seems inadequate. In multi-level classes, have additional challenging questions/exercises for early finishers.
  2. Reduction: shorten an activity to give it less weight or emphasis.
  3. Re-ordering: if the order in which the materials are presented isn’t suitable, plot a different course through the materials than the writer’s.

Moral dimension

  1. Omission: leave out things deemed inappropriate, offensive, or unproductive for the particular group.
  2. Extension: an activity is lengthened in order to give it an additional dimension.
  3. Branching: add options to an existing activity or suggest alternate pathways through the activities. Going deeper in Bloom’s Taxonomy, for example.

SupplementationThe major difference between adaptation and supplementation is that with adaptation you are altering what you have and with supplementation you are acquiring new content. There are two major ways to supplement content in a lesson: create it or borrow it.


  1. From scratch: this is the time consuming, high energy, humility inducing option. Be prepared to write, test, and revise.
  2. Cut and paste: piece together a text, activity or exercise from multiple sources. This option requires some work to make content cohesive.
  3. Use a model: this is my favorite. Find a text, activity, or exercise that is well executed and use the format to introduce new content.


  1. From supplemental texts: consumable, usually photocopiable.
  2. From internet sources: bookmark 3-5 favorite websites.
  3. Assemble a kitbag: a collection of resources from anywhere and everywhere. The connection could be as strong as an article from a professional periodical or as loose as a brochure from your favorite coffee shop. Organization is particularly important for this option.

When we choose to adapt or supplement our existing materials we exercise control over four areas that are naturally governed by the text itself, content (what), order (when), pace (how fast), and procedure (how). With that in mind, you are well equipped to strengthen the building block that is your textbook.

Further exploration

What’s your perspective?

  • How do you feel about your textbook(s)?
  • What do you think the Master Teacher would have you do with your assigned textbook or curriculum?
  • Does viewing your textbook as a structuring tool rather than a dictator free you?
  • What’s in your kitbag? Or what do you dream of acquiring for your kitbag?

Post Author

Kimberly Todd

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on October 22, 2014 by in adapting and supplementing materials, building blocks of teaching, Kimberly Todd.



Photo Credit: Eric Fischer via Compfight cc
%d bloggers like this: