CommonLit CommonLit 360 Secondary Classrooms "Coming of Age": A Short Story Unit from CommonLit's 360 Curriculum that is Perfect for the Beginning of 10th Grade

This ELA Unit includes high-interest short stories about growing up from contemporary authors like Jason Reynolds and Lucy Tan that’ll hook your students.

What Is CommonLit 360?

CommonLit 360 is a free English Language Arts curriculum for grades 6-12 that includes content-rich units and compelling texts. Each fully-built out unit integrates reading, writing, listening, and speaking lessons. It is easy for teachers to use, with clear facilitation tips, actionable assessments, and ready-made tools to support differentiation.    

Why Unit 1 Is Perfect for Back to School

The first unit in 10th grade contains short stories in which teenage protagonists face life-altering realizations about the adult world as they come of age. Students will love reading stories from popular authors like Jason Reynolds that feature protagonists with diverse experiences and backgrounds that they can relate to. Students will incorporate their life experiences and opinions to reflect on what it means to come of age and how people become adults. This unit bridges the gap between literature and reality, as students learn what it means to grow up as they grow up themselves.

The Core Texts in This Unit

  • Safety of Numbers” by Lucy Tan: a short story that explores growing up as a second-generation immigrant and balancing your own goals with your parents’ goals for you as the narrator navigates studying for the SAT under immense pressure from her mother
  • Through the Tunnel” by Doris Lessing: a suspenseful short story about a coddled boy’s quest to follow the lead of an older group of boys and swim through an underwater tunnel, and how his mother learns to let go as her son grows up
  • Eraser Tattoo” by Jason Reynolds: a realistic and respectful portrayal of young love focused on two teenagers facing separation due to gentrification and wondering if their love can survive
  • Marigolds” by Eugenia W. Collier: a story about a Black woman who reflects on her childhood growing up in rural Maryland during the Great Depression and her regrets about throwing rocks and destroying her neighbor’s flowers for entertainment purposes
  • American History” by Judith Ortiz Cofer: a short story set against the backdrop of President Kennedy’s assassination, where a young girl’s innocence is completely shattered by the story’s events
A screenshot of the "Eraser Tattoo" text on

These compelling and engaging texts allow students to consider the experiences and events that lead people from childhood to adulthood. There are also three informational texts in the unit that provide meaningful background knowledge for the texts, including letters from Americans reflecting on how President Kennedy’s assassination impacted them and a text about the pivotal events that contribute to coming-of-age.

In addition, this unit includes five supplemental texts in English and three supplemental texts in Spanish. The supplemental texts cover topics such as differences in coming of age across different cultures, a psychologist’s perspective on growing up too soon, and a short story that takes place during the Great Migration, in which the main character encounters discrimination. These supplemental texts can deepen students’ understanding of the core concepts in this unit.

How Unit 1 Drives Student Success

The Essential Question in this unit is: “What experiences lead us from childhood into adulthood?” In this unit, students will practice reading skills such as analyzing the themes within a text, the complexities of characters, and how the author structures a text to create particular effects. Students practice their argumentative and expository writing, with lessons on introducing evidence with context, blending quotations into context, and writing engaging introductions.

After reading each short story, students will be asked how the author develops the theme in the story. For example, after reading “Eraser Tattoo,” students are asked: “How does the symbol of Dante’s scar develop the theme?”  After reading “Growing Up: Key Moments,” students will be asked if they agree with the author’s claim about the transition from childhood to adulthood.

As students near the end of the unit, they’ll take part in a class discussion, answering the question: “How is growing up in today’s society similar to and different from what characters experience in this unit’s texts? What unique burdens, challenges, and advantages exist for us?”  

The end of the unit essay asks students to: “Write an essay in which you explain your perspective on what it means to come of age and how we become adults. Use evidence from multiple unit texts and your own experiences to support your argument.”

The Related Media Exploration will ask students to engage with a video called “3 Benefits of Taking Risks,” and have students discuss the risks taken and benefits reaped in the short stories “Safety of Numbers” and “Through the Tunnel.” Students will also watch a video called “Why the brain has an evolutionary advantage,” and discuss why teenagers are more likely to take risks than adults. Finally, students will watch a video about the power of peer relationships on risk-taking before writing about if risk-taking is a necessary part of growing up.

A screenshot of the Related Media Exploration slideshow on a tablet.

Additionally, the unit also includes:

How Unit 1 Drives Teacher Success

CommonLit 360 provides a wealth of tools that will make the beginning of the year a breeze. Each comprehensive unit is set up for teachers and includes everything from fully-fleshed out lesson plans to vocabulary quizzes to discussion prompts and more. If your school purchases our School Essentials PRO package, you can access our Professional Development Portal. These self-paced tutorials are specifically designed to help teachers utilize all CommonLit 360 has to offer in their classroom.

Additionally, digital grading and feedback tools, interactive reading and writing lessons, and data tracking can save you hours previously spent on planning and grading. Working within contract hours will no longer be an unattainable pipe dream, and you can use the extra time to continue to focus on relationship building in your classroom.

Next Steps

Sign up for a CommonLit 360 webinar to get a comprehensive overview of how the curriculum works and how to use the digital platform.

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