CommonLit 360 CommonLit 360: Flexibility and Teacher Choice through Supplemental Texts

Two students sitting at a table and working on their computers.

Teachers can use supplemental texts to address the specific needs of their students.

The new, comprehensive ELA curriculum, CommonLit 360, embodies the perfect combination of evidence-based practices and features students and teachers love. It provides content-rich units designed to build students’ knowledge of a wide range of interesting and relevant topics. And it provides ample support for all learners through lesson scaffolding and customization options available to teachers.

One such customization option is the availability of a set of supplemental texts. These are available for every CommonLit 360 unit.

Supplemental Texts in CommonLit 360 Units

Each CommonLit 360 unit comes with both essential texts and supplemental texts. The essential texts and their accompanying reading lessons are vital to the unit. These essential texts are referenced during discussion lessons, writing lessons, and the final essay. They are all aligned to a particular grade level and are deliberately ordered to build targeted skills and content knowledge to assist students in answering the unit’s essential question.

The supplemental text sets offer flexibility. Supplemental texts are tightly related to the unit’s content, and build knowledge topically or thematically. Texts in the supplemental set are written in English and Spanish, and vary in complexity and genre, so they can function as targeted support or extension throughout the unit. Supplemental texts offer teachers the freedom of choice for when and how they’ll be utilized within the unit.

Incorporating Supplemental Texts

To demonstrate how teachers can use CommonLit 360’s supplemental texts in their instructional planning, I will use Grade 7, Unit 2: Adolescence as an example. In this 360 unit, students will explore adolescence by reading a series of essential texts that address subjects like teen romance, popularity, and the challenges of growing up.

The description of Unit 2: Adolescence, which reads, "This humorous multi-genre unit focuses on the wild, chaotic, but necessary period of adolescence that we all must go through.
CommonLit 360 units build knowledge surrounding important, engaging, and relevant themes and topics.

First, check out the arc of reading instruction within this unit below. You can find this in the PDF Unit Guide for the Adolescence unit. Here, you will see that there are 5 essential texts in this unit, including two short stories, an informational text, and two poems.

The arc of reading instruction for the Adolescence unit.
Each 360 Unit Guide provides the arcs of reading and writing instruction and much more to assist teachers in preparing for instruction.

This unit also includes a set of supplemental texts. You can find a list of these texts on the Unit Guide, and you can preview them from the Lessons & Materials page. The supplemental texts for this unit include the following:

  • “Seventh Grade” — a high-interest, lower-complexity short story about adolescent relationships (in English & Spanish versions)
  • “What to Expect from Adolescence” — a grade-level informational text perfect for discussing the essential question of the unit: What makes adolescence challenging? (in English & Spanish versions)
  • “Momentum” — a grade-level poem that examines the challenges of navigating adolescent relationships (in English & Spanish versions)
  • “Animal adolescence is filled with teen drama and peer pressure” — an above-grade-level informational text that draws similarities between adolescent behavior of humans and animals

As you can see, these texts offer a variety of options for teachers, and they all directly relate to the unit’s theme and topic.

Using “Flex Days” for Supplemental Texts

Pacing can be a challenge. To make it easier, each CommonLit 360 unit comes with a sample pacing guide. These pacing guides are available within every PDF Unit Guide, which teachers can download from the unit’s main landing page.

A pacing calendar for the Adolescence unit.
CommonLit 360 units come with sample pacing calendars that schedule for “flex” time that can be utilized in a variety of ways.

As part of every pacing guide, CommonLit has mapped out designated days for “flex,” knowing that kids are kids, things take longer than anticipated, and plans often change. These flex days can also be utilized for teaching into the supplemental texts.

Below, I describe how two different teachers might effectively use the supplemental texts of Grade 7 Unit 2.

Approach 1: Using Supplemental Texts for Strategic Grouping

Let’s suppose a teacher is planning this unit for a class of students with varying reading abilities. The classroom also includes Spanish-speaking ELL students who are actively building their English communication skills. To support this, the teacher wants to provide students with additional independent reading practice.

The teacher sees she has room in her calendar on an upcoming “flex” day. As a next step, she designs a lesson that uses the supplemental texts to provide differentiation for students within small groups. She decides to work closely with below-level readers on “Seventh Grade,” a 6th grade level text and to focus on fluency. Meanwhile, she assigns “Animal Adolescence,” a 9th grade level text, as a challenge to her grade-level and advanced readers. The teacher also provides additional copies of “Seventh Grade” and “What to Expect from Adolescence” in Spanish to English Language Learners, who would benefit from that support.

She plans for students to take 1–2 class periods to read and answer the questions for their respective texts; then, students will gather in groups based on the texts they read to collaboratively answer the discussion questions. She believes this lesson sequence will help the students make connections between the themes and topics of the essential texts and explore the essential questions of the unit further.

Approach 2: Using Supplemental Texts to Reteach a Skill

Now, let’s consider another teacher’s approach. In preparing for the unit, he decides to hold off on utilizing the supplemental texts until a re-teaching need arises.

As the unit progresses, the teacher notices that the students are struggling more than anticipated with analyzing the unit’s two poems, “Hanging Fire” and “Saturday at the Canal.” He doesn’t want to move on to the writing lessons and informational texts without addressing this issue, so he returns to the supplemental texts to plan a lesson for re-teaching and support. He finds the poem “Momentum” from the supplemental set and believes it will be perfect for reinforcing his students’ poetry analysis. Because “Momentum” relates to the rest of the unit thematically, the teacher is able to seamlessly incorporate it into the unit.

The CommonLit lesson "Momentum."
Supplemental texts within the CommonLit 360 Curriculum include all of the familiar features teachers have come to expect from CommonLit, including guiding questions and assessment questions.

Other Approaches: Student Choice, Background Knowledge, and More

The approaches described above are just two ideas for how to utilize the supplemental texts within the 360 curriculum. We’ve also seen other great implementation methods including:

  • Assigning all of the supplemental texts as independent reading, as a way to significantly ramp up the breadth of reading within a unit,
  • Using the supplemental text to introduce student choice, like telling students to pick two from the set to read independently,
  • Selecting texts from the set for background knowledge building, focusing on cross-textual connections and rich discussion,
  • And more!

The Flexibility of Supplemental Text Lessons

As you can see, supplemental texts can fit into CommonLit 360 units in many different ways. Teachers can use the texts as homework, group work, extra practice on a specific skill, or an extension exercise for students ready for a challenge. And teachers have the freedom to incorporate these texts at any point in the unit in ways that they see fit.

Next Steps

If you’re excited about the flexibility CommonLit 360 and the supplemental text sets provide, here are some ways you can learn more:

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