Selecting a Theme for Your Text Set
Alright, where were we in the process of building a text set? Now that you have completed the task of picking out an anchor text, it is time to select the theme or concept that your entire unit will be built around.
Remember that in today’s modern text sets educators should strive to take things up a notch from the book units of the past. A theme of “fish” should not include reading Rainbow Fish and something on SpongeBob Squarepants (‘cause the kids love him), concluding with making fishy art collages and eating goldfish crackers. The whole point of building a text set is to enrich your students’ knowledge about the world. A good text set will increase students’ vocabulary. The theme or concept you study should also help guide students on a journey through complex text so they will know how to navigate this territory on their own in the future. You could certainly develop a text set built around aquatic creatures, you would just need to make sure your unit was appropriately challenging for your little learners.
I had the opportunity to observe a team of first-grade teachers in the process of working together to build a text set. The theme was based upon their social studies standards and was titled, “Democracy.” That’s right, I said first grade was studying democracy and doing a wonderful job understanding it with the texts and tasks that the teachers had selected for their unit. Another great concept I have seen that revolved around a literacy text set for 4th graders was all about the importance of “storytelling and reading for making connections and learning.”
The Justice Project suggests reading and examining the anchor text to “identify an essential question that will be relevant and meaningful to your students. Identify the themes in the text related to the essential question.” It’s a good idea to think back to that anchor text and/or the standards that you are intending to teach with this unit when you pick out your theme that will reach out across multiple texts. The same books can always be used for different concepts you want to teach. Think about the big picture of your unit, pick your theme or concept, and GO! Next up: building your set of texts and media around the theme.