A sample text set to get kids reading a lot

Earlier this year I wrote about text sets, an approach for unit-planning. Its purpose is to facilitate balance for students through reading for complexity, range, and volume. It also facilitates balance for teachers by lending itself to a mixture of whole-class, small-group, and individual work.

At the bottom of the post is an image of a sample text set. Annotations are below.

The components of a text set on adolescence

Interesting topics or questions: I’m sure some sophomore-aged students could quip infinitely on my decision to use the label “interesting,” but I believe I can craft questions and select topics that are relevant to my students’ lives and therefore interesting to many of them. In this case, the unit questions were: When do we become adults? How do we stay true to ourselves? What does voice reveal? 

A required text (excerpts, in this case): In the center is “excerpts from The Catcher in the Rye.” This was the central, curriculum-based text for the unit. Although it was the inspiration for the unit and the other texts, the novel was not the unit. The shift with the text-set is to use the text as a tool to explore interesting topics and questions.  We used these excerpts from the novel for read alouds and close reading lessons on craft.

Other short, thematically-related texts: In this case, these texts were related to the story of The Catcher in the Rye or to the topics of adolescence and self truth. This leniency in regards to the relationship between these texts and the required text at the center of the unit allows for a diverse range of reading experiences for students. Also, this allows for students to write in various genres besides literary analysis, too. For this unit, students re-wrote fairy tales in the style of Holden Caufield after we read “Catch Her in the Oatmeal.” Students debated the question of “when do we become adults?” using evidence from the two articles listed below during the speaking event.

Thematically-related independent reading books: Fortunately, there are many great young adult novels that relate to the topics of adolescence and self-truth. You can even find articles that suggest YA replacements for common curricular texts like Catcher. I used these resources along with my own reading experience to gather a list of independent reading choices for this unit.

A sample text set on adolescence, based on Catcher in the Rye as a required text.


Do you use a similar approach? Have you created a text set? Share it with me via email: contact[at]gerarddawson[dot]org or link to a Google Doc in the comments.

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