Teachers for Teachers | Text Sets – To Buy or Not to Buy?
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Text Sets – To Buy or Not to Buy?


CCSS, like any new initiative, is causing a marketing boom.  One area of marketing focus is text sets.  Many publishers are now creating text sets that can be purchased by theme, author or genre.  Purchasing text sets is certainly one way to go, but some students we met had a plan of their own….

We had been studying a text set of David Shannon’s No David! books with a group of second graders.  We were discussing the possible themes, the author’s style and how the author uses point view in these texts.  During independent reading one day, Jolena tapped Clare on the shoulder.  Clare gave her the “do not interrupt signal” and went back to her conference.  She tapped again – a bit harder.  “But this is really important – I think I made a set.”  Clare avoided eye contact and continued with her conference while watching Jolena get an index card, tape, and marker.  Jolena wrote something on the card and then proceeded to empty out a basket of books in the library.  She carefully placed those books on the floor and filled the basket with all the No David! books and Knuffle Bunny.  She taped the card to the basket and went back to independent reading.  During the group share, I took the opportunity to ask Jolena about “the set” she wanted to share.  “Well, I decided to start a new set.  I read Knuffle Bunny today and I decided it has the same theme as the No David! books so I put the set together.  Look, I put the books in a basket and labeled the theme – Parents Lose It.  All the books in this basket will be about when a parent loses it but still loves the kid in the end.”

Over the next few weeks many readers added books to this basket.  Here are some of the titles the students put in this text set:

  • No, David! David Shannon
  • David Goes to School, David Shannon
  • David Gets in Trouble, David Shannon
  • Knuffle Bunny, Mo Willems
  • When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry, Molly Bang
  • The Boss Baby, Marla Frazee
  • Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild!, Marla Frazee
  • No Nap, Eve Bunting
  • Good Night Monkey Boy! J. Krosoczka



These students designed their own curriculum!  As they created these text sets they were constructing a deeper understanding of theme and debating which texts fit the criteria of the set.  We observed students referencing the text, citing evidence to support their thinking and listening to multiple points of view.  The discussion of theme they were having was meaningful and purposeful to the students so they were highly engaged in the process of learning.  What better assessment of our students’ understanding of theme is there than them constructing their own text-sets?  This experience is causing us to pause and think about ways to involve our students in the process of organizing our books and use what could be viewed as “the next jargon coming down the pike” as a wonderful learning experience with our students.






  • Avatar
    Elisa Waingort
    Posted at 13:27h, 05 January Reply

    What a great literacy story! Would love to hear how you might use this classroom experience (that could not have been planned) to assess students’ understanding of theme across texts. What lessons or activities would you plan? Or what situations might you set up so students can naturally demonstrate their understandings?

    • Avatar
      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 18:17h, 05 January Reply

      Hi Elisa,
      Thanks for your questions. It will be great to see how students apply this knowledge about theme when reading new texts. When learning is in the students’ hands we learn so much.

  • Avatar
    Rose C.
    Posted at 13:34h, 05 January Reply

    So wonderful when students show us the way! Love their choices. I can see where some may go a step further and write their own stories to fit the theme.

    • Avatar
      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 18:19h, 05 January Reply

      Wouldn’t that be a terrific next step – I would love to read the stories they write about this theme. On another note – Loved your Nerdy Book Club Post today. So many wonderful new titles for us.

  • Avatar
    Betsy Hubbard
    Posted at 14:00h, 05 January Reply

    I love how this fell into place and you let the student lead. Great book choices too!

    • Avatar
      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 18:20h, 05 January Reply

      Book choices are so important. We love when we find those books that help kids think beyond plot.

  • Avatar
    Holly Mueller
    Posted at 14:20h, 05 January Reply

    This is GREAT!! In addition to her insight, I love your student’s patience and persistence. 😉

    • Avatar
      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 18:21h, 05 January Reply

      She does have persistence and patience. She will probably do amazing things in this world.

  • Avatar
    Posted at 14:42h, 05 January Reply

    The thought that went into the creation of that basket (and the incredible name of it!) reflect evidence of a lot of teaching and learning. Wonderful!

  • Avatar
    Tammy and Clare
    Posted at 18:22h, 05 January Reply

    Isn’t that name hysterical? Kids come up with the best ideas.

  • Avatar
    Amy Rudd
    Posted at 19:45h, 05 January Reply

    What a great story! Kids have such great ideas when we take the time to listen. I see that text sets created by kids shows application of their learning! I also find joy in how the reader so named the basket-too funny! Thank goodness she persisted and felt confident in going forward with her idea! Thanks for sharing!

  • Avatar
    Posted at 19:59h, 05 January Reply

    How insightful that “parents lose it” but still love the kid at the end is a second grade topic! By the books added I am guessing that this is very “real” to this group of students! These kiddos don’t need a “test” to know if they “understand theme!”

    I think it would be fun to have the students reorganize the entire collection as the year progresses. I always love the student perspective of learning. Thanks so much for sharing this story!

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