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Textbook Assessment

Katie Castellano

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Dr. Dredger

Deciding what textbooks are appropriate and relevant for your students and curriculum

can be a challenging feat. There is so much that goes into creating and writing a textbook The

textbook I am assessing is Holt Elements of Literature: Essentials of British and World Literature,

which is an English/Language Arts textbook designed for a ninth through twelfth grade

classroom. It focuses on British and world literature and is published by Holt, Rinehart, and

Winston. I chose to assess Holt Elements of Literature: Essentials of British and World Literature

because when I first flipped through it I saw some examples of literature that I am interested in

teaching to my future students, like The Iliad (Beers et al., 2005, p. 56) and Shakespeares

Sonnet 18 (Beers et al., 2005, p. 277).

I decided to assess Holt Elements of Literature: Essentials of British and World Literature

in three different areas: its quantitative features, qualitative features, and readability. Because I

decided to focus on the quantitative features

and qualitative features of the text book

separately, I had to use two different

textbook instruments to assess the content.

For the quantitative features, I used the

Textbook Evaluation Form found in Forsten et

al.s (2003) Differentiating Textbooks: Strategies to Figure 1 Framework for Assessing Texts (Alvermann
et al., 2010, p. 164). The textbook instrument I used
Improve Student Comprehension & Motivation. I to assess the qualitative features of the textbook.

felt like this textbook instrument covered many areas of the textbook that would need to be

assessed. I used Alvermann et al.s Framework for Assessing Texts found in their book, Content

Area Reading and Literacy: Succeeding in Todays Diverse Classrooms (2010) to assess the

qualitative features in the book because the answers to the questions were more subjective

depending on the person reviewing the book.

Quantitative Features

Table of Contents

There are multiple tables of contents in this Holt Elements of Literature: Essentials of

British and World Literature. Contents in Brief (Beers et al., 2005, p viii-A2) is the first one

featured in the book, and it shows page numbers for the seven different collections literary

time periods, and what is in the Resource Center and the page numbers for each item in the

Resource Center. It is the basic

and broad table of contents for

the textbook that most people

would think of. After this first

table of contents, the authors

decided to get more specific on

what is in each collection and the

Resource Center (Beers et al.,

2005, p. A2-A25). As seen in

Figure 2 Collection 1 in depth table of
Figure 2, the section for Collection 1 shows a more in depth contents (Beers et al., 2005, p. A2-A3)

look on what specific literary works are included in this

collection, an introduction into the literary period, the extension activities provided, and a skills

review section.

The next table of contents is the Skills,

Workshops, and Features Table of Contents. (Beers

et al., 2005, p. A26-A30) The next two sets of tables

of contents are organized by genre (Beers et al.,

2005, p. A31-A37), and then by region (Beers et al.,

2005, p. A38-A42).


The textbook has two different glossaries

Figure 3 Spanish Glossary in the textbook
located in the back in the book. The first one is your (Beers et al., 2005, p.1249)

standard glossary that has the words in alphabetical

order, with their parts of speech noted before the definition. Each vocabulary word is also

spelled out phonetically, and has the phonetic alphabet and its procurations at the bottom of

each page in the glossary. The second glossary is a Spanish glossary, which I was excited to see.

It lists each vocabulary word alphabetically by the English word with the translated Spanish

word next to it, as seen in Figure 3. The parts of speech are noted and the actual definition of

the word is in Spanish.

While the book on explicitly states that there are two

glossaries in Holt Elements of Literature: Essentials of British and

World Literature, I thought the Handbook of Literary and

Historical Terms could be considered as another glossary. Found

on pages 1181-1204, the Handbook of Literary and Figure 4 An excerpt from the Handbook of
Literary and Historical Terms section in the text
Historical Terms includes the basic definition of the book (Beers et al., 2005, p.1194)

literary and historical terms mentioned throughout the textbooks, and then explains the

word/concept in detail with examples from the contents in the book. See Figure 4. It also

includes page numbers at the end of the definition for the students to find the word/concept

where it appeared directly in the text. The only thing it does not have is pronunciations of the

literary and historical terms. With this section of the book in consideration, I gave the glossary a

four because it was well thought out and easy to follow when searching for a word or reading

the definition.

Recommended Reading

There is recommended reading at the end of each collection before the Skills Review

section of the collection. There is usually four works of literature that fall under one of these

sex genres: drama, fiction, non-fiction, folklore/mythology, an epic, or a play. They give the title

of the work, the author, and a brief description of the work of literature. I gave the textbook a

three on the Textbook Evaluation Form (Forsten et al., 2003), because while they gave a good

variety, it was sometimes hard to see why they chose certain books other than it was from the

same literary period.


The Holt Elements of Literature: Essentials of British and World Literature does have

some places where a student can go online to their website (, nod) and type in the

key word given to them in the book for extra help or extension activities, but I gave it a one on

the Textbook Evaluation Form (Forsten et al.,

2003). There are a few reasons for the low

score. There are very few of them in the book,

and they are hard to find. The biggest

problem with them is the fact that the

keywords do not work anymore. Instead of

taking the student to the site showing all the Figure 5 A screenshot of the website
that shows up after you search for
activities or extra help, it takes them to a webpage the keyword. (,n.d.)

that says: The website you are trying to view has

been retired, is no longer supported, and is no longer available, as seen in Figure 5 Because of

the website being no longer active, I gave this section a one on the textbook instrument.


There are three indexes in Holt Elements of Literature: Essentials of British and World

Literature. The Index of Skills (Beers et al., 2005, p. 1261-1273) is for students or teachers to

look up specific skills taught in this textbook. The skills are split up by literary skills, reading

skills, writing skills, language, listening and speaking, and independent reading. Index of art

provides the students with the names of all the visual art and photographs in the textbook.

(Beers et al., 2005, 1274-1279) The Index of Authors and Titles lists every literary work used in

the textbook and their author. (Beers et al., 2005, p. 1280-1282) Each index has the basic

standards needed for an index (alphabetical, cross-referenced, page number, etc.), which is

why I gave it a three on the textbook instrument.

Graphic Elements

There is a large quantity of graphic elements in the textbook, with many them being

pictures or photographs of paintings and other works of art. They are all in color and are usually

located within the text that they refer, but they are rarely called out within the text. Most of

the pictures are captioned with the titles of the work of art and the artist.

Qualitative Features


As said in the introduction, Holt Elements of Literature: Essentials of British and World

Literature labels itself as a textbook that could be used in ninth through twelfth grade. Looking

at the Virginia Standards of Learning, it would be best suited for a tenth-grade class, where the

students learn about literary works from various cultures and eras, or in a twelfth-grade

classroom, where the students analyze British literature and literature of other cultures with

emphasis on the many classic works.

Holt Elements of Literature: Essentials of British and World Literature is sectioned off

into different literary periods throughout time and the last is deals with works from the modern

period, which is from 1900 to present. With that said, the most current work of literature was

written and published in 2000. The textbook was copyrighted in 2005 which makes this

textbook twelve years old. While it is understandable that there would be a lot of older texts

because it is an overview of British and World literature, the Modern texts need to be


Format of Collections

The collections can be split up into three parts:


1. Introduction: The collections all start off with a TimeLine, Political and Social

Milestones, and Introduction into the Literary Period, which covers a brief

historical background for the students.

2. Works of Literature: Organized by specific classic authors, playwrights, poets,

etc. in rough chronological order.

3. Skill Practice and Review: At the end of each section, there is at least one or two

skills practices from three different categories:

a. Writing workshop-Students work on writing skills like how to write a

descriptive essay, reporting literacy research, analyzing literature, writing

a literary essay, writing a reflective essay, and comparing and contrasting


b. Media Workshop-Analyzing and using media in their lives.

c. Listening and Speaking Workshop-Students work on things like

presenting literary research, reciting literature, presenting a literary

response, presenting a reflection, presenting and analyzing speeches.

4. The skills review is set up like a quiz/test with three parts:

a. Comparing literature with two or three texts are presented with ten

questions about the texts and then an essay question,

b. Vocabulary skills with six to ten questions dealing with context clues,

words with multiple meanings, synonyms, analogies: synonyms and


c. Writing skills, where the students are given a paragraph, and they must

answer about five questions about perspective, sentence deletion, and

other basic writing skills.


There is always a Response and

Analysis section after each piece of big

literary work in the text book. See Figure 6. The

number of questions is usually dependent on

the length of the literary work, so the longer the

work, the more questions there are. While the

number of questions varies depending on the

text, they are all at various levels of Blooms

Taxonomy, but the highest it usually goes is

evaluation. There were only a few instances in which a student Figure 6 Response and Analysis for
The Book of Sand by Jorge Luis Borges
was asked to create something. Near the back of the book, there (Beers et al., 2005, p. 1013)

is also a Test Smarts section were students can practice the skills they learned in the Skills

Practice and Review sections in each collection.


The style of the writing was overall pleasing to read. The point size of the type, length of

the line of type and space between each line all work together to produce a page that is not

only visually appealing, but also readable and accessible.


Before I even took samples from Holt Elements of Literature: Essentials of British and

World Literature to evaluate readability, I had to determine which readability formula I wanted

to use for my textbook assessment. I did a basic Google search to start off with, but I quickly got

overwhelmed. I then decided to look at, and it provided me four readability

formulas that I could measure my random samples on: Flesch Reading Ease, Flesch-Kincaid

Grade Level, Gunning Fog Score, and Coleman-Liau Index. At its core readability is measured by

the length of words and length of sentences, and I kept this in mind when choosing a

readability formula. After a bit of research, I decided on using the Coleman-Liau Index because

the formula did not involve the counting of syllables, like some of the other formulas. The

scores for my random text samples are 10.1, 13.2, and 10.2, which averages out to 11.2. I

believe that this is a realistic reading level for the textbook because they wrote it to work for a

range of grades. I do not believe that they students would have a difficulty reading the text,

because while a few words or concepts may challenge the ninth graders, it is on reading level

for the tenth graders, and below level for the eleventh and twelfth graders.

Summary Statement

Strengths and Weaknesses

After evaluating the quantitative and qualitative features in Holt Elements of Literature:

Essentials of British and World Literature with the two textbook instruments, I have determined

what the strengths and weakness of the textbook. The first strength is the literary works

included in the book. I felt like there was a large range of literary works from different regions

and genres that a teacher could use in their classroom. It allows more flexibility for the teacher

on what they can use in their class. The second strength is The Resource Center. There is so

much in the Resource Center to help the students if they get confused or need extra

information. The third strength is the style of the writing because it was informative, but not

pretentious with its tone.

The first weakness is the websites because there is a lack of internet and media integration

in this textbook. The fact that the websites do not even work anymore is a big warning sign for

this textbook. Classrooms now are so digitally focused, so the textbooks we get should be

adaptable and have activities that have computer and media involvement. The second

weakness is the Table of Contents. While I liked the fact there was a table of contents by region,

because a teacher could look at it and see if they needed any supplemental readings, there

were just too many table of contents in general. It was overwhelming and a student could get

easily overwhelmed by a teacher just asking the class to simply turn to the table of contents,

because there are five of them. The third weakness is the graphic elements. Most of the graphic

elements in the text are just pictures of visual art (photographs and paintings), and they dont

always make a direct connection to the text. Some are there to just to be there, rather than

support the work.

Pedagogical Choices

After spending time assessing this textbook, I have determined that I would not use this

textbook in my classroom. Its only strengthens are the resource materials, like the Resource

Center and the literary works provided, which could be found online or in a different textbook. I

would keep the textbook on hand in the classroom for myself and the students it as a resource

for myself or the students, but I would not use it to teach the students with.

Works Cited

Alvermann, D. E., Phelps, S. F., & Gillis, V. R. (2010). Content Area Reading and Literacy:

Succeeding in Todays Diverse Classrooms (6th ed.). New York: Allyn & Bacon.

Beers, G. K., & Odell, L. (2005). Holt Elements of Literature: Essentials of British and World

Literature. Austin, TX: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Colmer, R. (n.d.). The Coleman-Liau Index. Retrieved October 7, 2017, from

Education, V. D. (n.d.). English Standards of Learning. Retrieved October 12, 2017, from

Dorsten, C., Grant, J., & Hollas, B. (2003). Differentiating Textbooks: Strategies to Improve

Student Comprehension & Motivation. Peterborough, NH: Crystal Springs Books. (n.d.). Retrieved October 7, 2017, from