In the past year, CommonLit has added hundreds of short stories, informational texts, poems, news articles, plays, historical documents, and more to our diverse collection of texts for students. Below are the top 10 most downloaded texts this school year.
Though written nearly a century ago, Yezierska’s short essay about her experiences as a new immigrant to America still bring to life the idea of the American Dream. Share this text with students to introduce them to the memoir genre, to spark a discussion on immigration or the American Dream, or to pair with a novel with similar themes like Esperanza Rising or Angela’s Ashes.
Another memoir, this chapter from Helen Keller’s The Story of My Life tells of Keller’s early experiences working with Anne Sullivan, who helped her communicate despite an inability to hear, see, or speak. Include this excerpt as part of a unit on resilience or overcoming obstacles, or for a lesson on point of view.
If you boarded an elevator and everyone else was facing backwards, would you turn around, too? Pose this question to students before reading ABC News’ “Why Do People Follow the Crowd?” This article highlights the work of Dr. Gregory Berns who conducted several experiments using unsuspecting people. Assign this text to get students talking about social pressure, or to help them better understand why some people will follow a leader even when they know it’s wrong.
Ida B. Wells was an African-American journalist, editor, suffragist, sociologist, and an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement. This informational text is a short biography of Wells and the personal tragedy she experienced that pushed her to raise national awareness about violence and discrimination against African Americans. Share this text with your class as part of a unit on the Civil Rights Movement, to hold a discussion on social change, or to pair with historical novels like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry or Bud Not Buddy.
It seems fitting that one of our most popular poems would belong to the timeless Shel Silverstein. “Masks” is a short and sweet illustrated poem about being your true self. Introduce it to students during a unit on identity or to practice analyzing poetry.
This is one of our favorite texts at CommonLit. It’s short, engaging, and packed with literary devices for analysis. In this short story, the legendary Amy Tan tells of a Chinese-American teenager with a crush on a boy “as white as Mary in the manger.” When the boy and his family agree to come to Christmas dinner at the narrator’s house, she is mortified to find that her family has prepared a traditional Chinese meal. Assign this text as part of a unit on culture and identity, to pair with other works like The House on Mango Street or The Joy Luck Club, or to push students to analyze diction and imagery as way of conveying tone.
Our most popular poem describes what it was like as an African-American in the 19th century to be discouraged from learning how to read. The poem is a powerful way to begin a discussion with students about the power of education. Ask students, what is it about literacy that slave masters were so afraid of? Why did the slaves so desperately want to learn to read?
Another short and accessible text, this famous fable from Aesop tells of a tiny mouse who proves to a powerful lion that she is greater than she seems. Include this text as part of a unit on power and resilience, or with a class novel that champions an underdog.
Rashema Melson, a senior from Washington D.C., excelled in school despite her homelessness. This NPR News article shares insight from Melson on how she was able to succeed against the odds. Ask students to read this text and identify the characteristics and attitude that helped Melson become an inspiration for many.
Our most popular text of all time is NPR’s “Malala Yousafzai: A Normal Yet Powerful Girl.” Short and accessible, this article will not only introduce students to the achievements of the inspiring young leader but also shed light on her as a regular teenager. Share this text with students as a way to show them that young people - even those facing serious obstacles - can create powerful change in their communities.
Have you used any of these texts in your own classroom? We’d love to hear from you! E-mail us to share your experiences with CommonLit texts.