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The Chicken or The Egg? Where to Begin with Text Sets

February 12, 2017

Time to talk more about text sets! The first step is a bit of a chicken vs. egg quandary. When planning a text set do you begin with the books OR do you begin with the standards? While this is a great question, it is not one that I will directly answer for you. We will instead look at the validation for each method instead of wasting our time arguing the case for either side (as I have witnessed some educators do).

Begin with the Books

You are creating a set of various texts and media to build your students’ vocabulary and knowledge about the universe around us. What do you need first? BOOKS of course! An anchor text is the piece of literature which is usually read first and anchors all the other resources used in a text set. I will talk specifically about anchor texts and their purposes in an upcoming blog post. When you are creating a text set, though, you need vetted texts and media to build your unit. Sometimes teachers who begin with the standards get very focused on the idea of what they want to teach and just throw some books in the mix that were not well researched. If you are building a quality text set to use in your classroom you simply must have quality texts. Beginning your planning with the books helps you to not lose sight of this idea.

Start with the Standards

Many will be familiar with the idea of beginning with the end in mind. How do you pick texts to use in your classroom if you do not know what you want your students to learn? This is a great point! I have had the opportunity to view a team of educators planning a text set together and they began with the standards- alternating between a social studies or a science theme each nine weeks. In reality, a good text set will cover numerous teaching standards across various subject areas. Can you pick out standards before you pick out the books? Sure- do it. However, be very careful of “making” a book fit a standard. Teachers are known for our creativity- but in this case, creative thinking could derail you from designing an effective text set to share with your students. If you start with the standards, you still must carefully consider the texts and media you will use in your text set. You should not just pick a book because you personally like it. The book has to hit a standard (or two or three) and starting with the standards themselves can be beneficial.

So where do you begin?

There really is no right or wrong answer here. You need both a range of quality texts and strong standards in mind to compile a text set. Do yourself a favor and do not get lost in the back and forth of which comes first- just be cognizant of what you are going to use and the rationale of why you are going to use it and you will be off to a wonderful start! Don’t get your feathers too ruffled or crack your shell in the meantime. I’ll be back soon! 

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