This past year I have been wrapping up a project that has been quite the labor of love: Monthly Text Sets. The monthly text sets solve a list of problems I consistently ran into when teaching 4th Grade ELA. But first, what are the monthly text sets? The monthly text sets are a set of nonfiction passages based around one topic. Students use the passages/articles to write in response to reading. The text set includes an opinion or informational writing prompt and reading comprehension questions. This means that you can use ONE set of texts to teach both reading and writing.
What does each monthly text set include?
- 2 – 3 Nonfiction Passages based around one topic
- Comprehension Questions aligned to standards
- Writing Prompt for Opinion or Informational Text-based writing in response to reading
- Graphic Organizer for Students
- Teacher Model Graphic Organizer
- Teacher Model Essay
- Differentiated for Grades 3-5
Each text set includes 2 – 3 passages/articles (texts). They are nonfiction topics and the texts are differentiated for grades 3-5. The 4th and 5th grade articles sometimes remain the same, but the questions are different for each grade level. The questions follow the type of questions students might see on a state test such as the Florida State Assessment, and are aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Even if your state doesn’t exactly follow common core standards and they have their own, the questions are based on skills as well such as main idea, text structure, cause and effect, etc.
The questions follow a system. They are divided up between each article with a heading so students know which article to look for the information. The last section of questions always requires students to use at least 2 articles. That means that you are consistently hitting the R.9 standards of integrating two texts. If you have students use the writing portion of the text sets, then you are digging even deeper into that standard.
You can see examples of the question types below. Each grade level is included. I kept it this way so that even if you teach another grade level, you can differentiate for your students if needed. Don’t forget to grab this free shark text set before you go! Click here or on any of the images.
3rd Grade Reading Comprehension
4th Grade Reading Comprehension
5th Grade Reading Comprehension
You will also get a link that gives you access to the Standards Alignment Google Sheet. This way you can keep track of which standards each text set is covering. If you wanted to cover a specific skill, you have an easy way to track and access which standards are covered in which text set.
The writing portion includes a prompt in which students will write using both texts to respond. The prompt for this text set is an informational writing prompt:
Write an essay in which you explain the importance of sharks in the ocean ecosystem.
If you are familiar with my writing units, then you know that boxes and bullets are the standard around here. I have a lot of thoughts about that, but the gist is that they are so simple and provide a consistent structure for your students. Each text set includes a boxes and bullets graphic organizer for students and a teacher example to model or guide your students. Depending on where you are in your writing instruction, you can also have students do this in their notebook.
Writing paper is also included for a final published piece. Depending on how long you have and/or if you are in test-prep mode, you may choose to have students write a rough draft on notebook paper or in their writing notebook and then write a final copy on the publishing paper. Then, display in your classroom or hallway for the world to see all of your students’ amazing writing!
Probably one of your favorite parts of the text sets is that there is a teacher example plan and essay. Teaching writing is time-consuming enough, so when you have an example then you can focus on HOW to teach it.
The plan and example essay includes 2-3 body paragraphs. So your students will be writing 4 – 5 paragraph essays. Depending on which you prefer to have your students write, you’ll just add/remove a body paragraph.
- Paragraph 1: Introduction
- Paragraph 2: Body Paragraph 1
- Paragraph 3: Body Paragraph 2
- Paragraph 4: Conclusion
There is also an editable teacher plan and essay available as a PowerPoint and Google doc so that you can edit and adapt the essay to your needs.
You might also use a Google Doc/PowerPoint to write the essay with your students and use the example as a guide.
What are the topics for each month?
One of my favorite parts about these text sets is that they have a monthly theme. HOWEVER, most topics can be used at any point in the year. Some topics are month-specific such as “Martin Luther King, Jr. Day” in January and “The Benefits of Bees” in April (it mentions Earth Day), but you can definitely fit these into to your current curriculum. And I have to tell you that even though all 12 months have been released, we’re still creating these each month.
- January: MLK Day (Opinion Writing Prompt) →Read the blog post here.
- February: Equality in Education: Mary McLeod Bethune and Thurgood Marshall (Informational Writing Prompt)
- March: Ants: Perk or Pest? (Opinion Writing Prompt)
- April: The Benefits of Bees (Informational Writing Prompt)
- May: Save the Sea Turtles (Informational Writing Prompt)
- June: Shark Shenanigans (Informational Writing Prompt) Grab this one for FREE here or at the end of this post.
- July: Hurricanes (Informational Writing Prompt)
- August: Video Games: Helpful or Harmful? (Opinion Writing Prompt)
- September: Homework: Helpful or Harmful? (Opinion Writing Prompt)
- October: Bats: Benefit or Bother? (Opinion Writing Prompt)
- November: Paid to Play: Should College Athletes be Paid? (Opinion Writing Prompt)
- December: Polar Bear Problems (Informational Writing Prompt)
WHY use monthly text sets?
Let’s talk about WHY you might want to use text sets in your classroom. While teaching 4th grade in a self-contained classroom, I consistently felt like we were giving our students too many texts to grapple with. At any point in time, we juggled some (and sometimes ALL ) of the following texts:
- Read Aloud (chapter book)
- Read Aloud (picture book)
- Writing Mentor Text (picture book)
- Reading Text Sets (passages as part of a center or independent practice)
- Guided Reading Text (small groups)
- Shared Reading Text (textbook used in whole groups or small groups)
(This is JUST for Reading)
- Writing Text Sets for test prep or writing in response to reading (In 4th and 5th Grade, this was ALLLLL the time.)
- Science Textbook
- Social Studies Text
When you list it out like that, it’s a LOT of texts. And they all serve a purpose. And they’re all important. But we continuously ran into problems.
❌We couldn’t fit them all in. (Shocking, right?)
❌We felt behind or overwhelmed because we were trying to do too much and unable to get in #allthethings.
❌Science and social studies were not getting the time they deserved. And honestly, I don’t think the future of our world can afford to not make science and social studies a priority.
The bottom line is we were trying to use TOO. MANY. TEXTS. One big issue that I began to see is that we treated the texts that we were using for writing as if we didn’t have to actually read them. As if we didn’t have to read them closely, dissect, analyze, and synthesize to produce a clear and concise essay with a controlling idea, supporting details, voice, etc. And, of course, in a way that did not copy the text. You and I both know that’s a lot to ask of a 4th grader (or 3rd grader or 5th grader or quite frankly – an adult.)
There had to be a better way. So I decided to ELIMINATE or INTEGRATE.
✅Eliminate the texts that we didn’t need to use, that didn’t support other content area standards or that didn’t offer high-engaging content or just weren’t the best quality of texts in the first place. If my students weren’t interested in it and it didn’t align to other content area standards – I needed to find better texts.
✅Integrate Science and Social Studies into our ELA curriculum.
How do the monthly text sets fit into this?
Each monthly text set can be used for both Reading and Writing. The topic of each text set is either high-engaging or supports Social Studies/Science standards. It may not directly align with science or social studies standards, but topics support those areas. For example, many of the animal topics discuss life cycles and roles in the ecosystem.
HOW do I teach writing using the text sets?
If you’re looking for more support in teaching writing, then you may be interested in the complete writing units. Both the informational and opinion writing unit include daily lesson plans, PowerPoints that help you navigate writing workshop.
Are you ready to try the monthly text sets?
If you’re ready to give the monthly text sets a try in your classroom, you can grab the Sharks Text Set freebie by clicking on the button below.
Or, if you’re looking for a yearlong resource of monthly text sets, I have that for you too. What’s even better about this resource is you can use it as consistent reading and writing practice. Think: literacy centers, whole group lessons, small group lessons, homework, etc. The possibilities are endless!
Just click here or on the image below to snag them.