16 Lesson Ideas for CommonLit Texts

Black and white photo of two teenage students looking at CommonLit lesson on laptop.

In this post, teacher Leah Dekle shares ideas for using CommonLit texts.

When I started teaching, I felt pretty isolated because I was the only 9th grade social studies teacher at my school. Planning alone as a new teacher was difficult. Two years later, I was thrilled to join a school network where I shared a curriculum with other teachers. I was part of a team teaching the same topics to the same grade, and the chance to collaborate and share was exciting.

I did have one concern going into this new collaboration: if we were teaching the same material, would our lessons be personalized enough for our individual students?

When we met to debrief our lessons a week later, my fears were abated. Even though we were all teaching the same text about Malala Yousafzai, we had all brought different purposes to our lesson based on what we knew about our students and classes. One teacher pre-taught vocabulary for her ELL students. Another teacher created an extension activity on tone for her advanced readers. I knew that my students loved discussions, so I added additional questions and planned for time to discuss Malala’s life post-reading.

Even though as teachers we were sharing resources, we had all tailored our lessons to our class to meet the needs of our students. We brought our own unique purposes to the text, and that influenced how we structured our lessons.

To capture this idea and share it with all of our teacher users, CommonLit has developed a Purpose Guide to help teachers explore all of the ways CommonLit texts can be used with their students. The Guide contains two Purpose Wheels, each of which comes with a sample text containing eight different lessons. For each Purpose for Reading, we have selected the CommonLit Tools that best serve the lesson.

How to Approach the Purpose Wheel

A section of the "Purpose Wheel" about Guided Reading Mode and practicing summarizing the main events in a text.

If you want students to practice summarizing main events in a text, you could assign Guided Reading Mode to help them build understanding.

A section of the "Purpose Wheel" about Discussion Questions and essential questions and themes.

Or, you might want to focus on the unit’s Essential Question while reading a text, so using CommonLit’s discussion questions will help students make connections to the larger themes addressed by the reading passage.

Many Options for Flexible Planning

Altogether, each Wheel contains eight different purposes for reading coupled with the best CommonLit tools. This Purpose Wheel for Literary Texts can help you brainstorm how to use reading passages in your class.

The full "Purpose Wheel" for literary texts.

To provide additional examples, we have created a Purpose Wheel specifically for the short story “Home” by Gwendolyn Brooks, and we developed eight sample lesson plans for “Home,” all of which can be found in our Purpose Guide. We have done the same for the text “Alexander Hamilton” to model how to bring different purposes to reading an informational text.

Choose the Best Purpose for Your Class

This guide does not claim that there is a “best” way to teach a text. Some teachers may find that they need to focus on reading standards and use our Assessment Questions to measure student mastery, but others might want to read a text to further expand upon an author study their class is completing. Both of those are great reasons to read a text with your class, and you can pick and choose how to use CommonLit’s tools to achieve each purpose.

We value making resources that can be used flexibly because every lesson and class needs something different, and no online resource can replace the time teachers spend planning to deliver material to the students they know best. We hope that the Purpose Guide and our sample lessons help you refine your lesson planning when you are using CommonLit during this school year! If you would like to use our lesson plan template, you can download your own copy here.