Textbooks can take a big bite out of your school budget, and they often end up shoved in a locker or collecting dust under a bed. In fact, students often resist carrying them to class because they are usually big and heavy.
Fortunately, there are many free online options for science textbooks that are high quality. I use OpenStax Biology 2e for my AP Biology class. However, this book is way too advanced for my freshman biology and introductory biology classes.
The introductory biology class at my school is a series of 4 semesters that covers biology, earth science, chemistry, and physics. This class is recommended for students in the vocational education program because it satisfies the minimum requirements for science. Students in the college-prep track will take a whole year to learn biology. Because the time frame is so short, I really focus on major concepts using anchoring phenomenon and following the NGSS framework. The class does not have a textbook, so I went online to find free options.
Open Source Textbook
I did want to give students chapter readings to help reinforce concepts, and found an excellent resource at CK12. This organization provides free open source resources for all subjects. You can even assign them through Google Classroom or other LMS. You can also customize chapters and create your own textbook by stitching topics together.
I didn’t want to use the digital version because my students didn’t have devices (originally). So, I created chapters with sidebars that contained questions from the reading. These could be handed out on paper. Now that my students all have Chromebooks, I can switch to the digital version which includes its own end of chapter assessments and an excellent teacher dashboard to monitor progress.
Though I have this option, I still appreciate the paper handouts. They can keep paper organized in a binder and have a way to easily reference past topics. Plus, I got the impression at the end of this year (2022) that students were burnt out on digital resources that were being used in almost all their classes.
You can find all of my chapters for this semester long class in my Google Drive. They are in pdf format, and you will need to copy them or download them for use. These are customized chapters, that follow the curriculum for the class. The intro bio page includes all of the activities and slides I use in that class