Text Sets: Individualize Learning + Spark Interest

I love using text sets to individualize learning and spark student interest but what the heck is a “text set”?

Text Set - Cambria Bridget.png

This was the first questions that ran through my mind when I first heard of the concept. I understood that it was a set of texts, but couldn’t see the application. Sure, we give students sets of readings and texts all the time - so what makes this one so special?

Well, first off - text sets can be organized in so many different ways and each teacher can modify it to fit his/her classroom. At their core, text sets are used to build content knowledge, organize a series of texts (which can include cartoon, images, videos, art, etc.) that progressively become more advanced, and provide an alternative perspective to a subject or theme. Some have a primary text with supplementary texts are intentionally build in order to increase complexity, vocabulary, content, and understanding. Personally, I do a combination of the two strategies!

In our most recent unit on the ideas and thoughts that have influenced the world, we have began discussing the development of human rights and analyzing that human rights looked like at various time frames of history (specifically Medieval, Renaissance, and Modern). I front loaded the student with some background knowledge on the general concept of human rights; but, then used a text set to individualize the student learning and spark student interest by selecting several “texts” that address human rights in the Medieval Ages. My theme was “Feudalism and Human Rights”.

From here, I selected FIVE “texts”.

  1. Political Cartoon: I chose a cartoon that analyzes the relationship between social hierarchy and wage.

  2. Short Video Clip: There was a short clip from The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) that highlights the varying social structures and access to resources (such as food and water) during the Medieval Ages.

  3. Articles (2) with relating video clip: Using two articles on the Black Death/Plague and a corresponding video, students read articles on statistics from the Plague and the perspective on the Church

  4. Article (1): Incorporating Feudal Japan, I selected one article that related the two subject matters and compare/contrasted them to one another.

  5. Excerpt from Novel and Historical Background Article: With an excerpt from The Canterbury Tales and an article on the history background, students analyzed Medieval society through the lens of various characters, genders, and social classes and the impact of these factors on daily life.

  6. Primary Source Document: Lastly, students had the option to read the Magna Carta and analyze specific highlighted sections that serve as a corner stone for other key documents, such as the Declaration of Independence and The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The texts progressively get more difficult and of the six options, students only needed to complete 4. In addition to this, each text identified a different perspective or provided a new lens to analyze human rights, and the lack thereof, in feudal times.

Lastly, to check for understanding I create at least 4 questions that accompanied each text that required students to apply critical thinking skills and identify the role of culture and human rights on Medieval society. Students used time in class to work on this project individually, but were able to collaborate with peers as I walked around the room and worked with them one-on-one.

Text Sets can be built and developed in numerous ways and are very adaptable to any classroom and content area. You can arrange it via theme/topic, specific individual, historical time period, or even a specific book itself.

Overall, the students loved the text set because they had the opportunity to individualize their learning and spark student interest. I was able to differentiate and focus more on checking for understanding by working one-on-one with students, helping target them towards their academic readiness, and assess comprehension via written response.

What do you think about Text Sets? What questions do you have? Is this something you would add to your classroom?