Why use thematic text sets?

Jaclyn DeForgeJaclyn DeForge, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching first and second grade in the South Bronx, and went on to become a literacy coach and earn her Masters of Science in Teaching. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.  This is the fourth in a series of posts on thematic text sets.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been sharing some examples of thematic text sets, or groups of books that cover one topic and span multiple genres and multiple reading levels. Many of the coaches and administrators I’ve met with have been really excited by the prospect of planning this way, but have been (understandably) a bit overwhelmed, too.

Between choosing a topic and finding enough books from all the different genres and levels you’ll want to include, compiling these text sets can be time-consuming and potentially expensive, especially given the resources you may or may not have available. That said, the academic payoff is absolutely worth the work.  Students gain a more in-depth understanding of the topic or theme being addressed and are able to engage with said content via multiple means and modalities. As a result, they are often able to internalize a far greater amount of information.

The benefits of utilizing thematic text sets:

  • Selecting both fiction and nonfiction texts across various genres ensures you’ll be able to hit both literature and informational text reading standards.
  • Selecting texts on a variety of levels allows for differentiation (ex: a book that’s independent reading for a higher reader serves as a great guided reading text for a lower reader; advanced readers may work in pairs to tackle passages from complex Read Alouds, etc).
  • Independent reading texts reinforce the basic, foundational concepts that are later expanded upon by the more complex, rigorous Read Alouds.
  • Guided and Shared Reading texts allow teachers to address key foundational skills as well as literature and informational text reading standards.
  • Complex texts selected as Read Alouds allow teachers to address key speaking and listening standards through discussion
  • Reading a variety of texts allows for discussion or written responses on a variety of topics (ex: identify author’s purpose, compare and contrast two texts, generate persuasive opinion pieces, etc).

Text Set on the Himalaya

What themes or topics would you love to address using a thematic text set?  What are your questions or suggestions around their creation?  Add your thoughts to the comments below!

Examples of thematic text sets:

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