Studying a topic in depth is engaging for students. They are able to use their background knowledge each time they interact with a new text or piece of information. Text sets are one way to support ELLs. A text set is a collection of books, articles, and multimedia such as video clips about a topic. Using text sets with ELLs helps to lower their affective filter when they are reading. You can start off by reading aloud a book or showing a video clip. Then have students read books connected to the same topic.
You can use text sets for a unit study about a topic. You can also use them on a much smaller scale. Look for books about a topic to group together.
Build Background Knowledge
Students have varying degrees of background knowledge. Using text sets allows you to expose all students to the same content information. As students read multiple texts about the same topic they will be able to use their new background knowledge to help with comprehension.
Decodable and texts written for low reading levels often do not have complex vocabularies. You can introduce students to a topic through a read-aloud. Then when the students are reading a book at their instructional level use oral language to talk about details in the pictures using the new vocabulary. Blevens (2016) describes the benefits of using a read-aloud as a way to increase the vocabulary discussed in a decodable text.
Introduce students to Content Vocabulary
As students read multiple texts they are introduced to content vocabulary more than once. This helps them to retain these new terms. Each new text gives them a new opportunity to practice the content vocabulary.
Scaffold More Complex Texts
For struggling or beginning readers texts sets create a built in scaffold. A student that might not be successful reading a grade level book about bugs will have more success if they have recently watched a video clip and heard read alouds about bugs. You can give emergent readers a decodable text about the topic. Then later use shared reading for a more complex book.
Include video clips, podcasts, photographs, or paintings in your text sets. These help build student’s background knowledge of the topic and are highly engaging. Students can practice their oral language skills by retelling details from a podcast or discussing the details from a photograph or painting. Students can talk and write about pictures.
Pair Fiction and Nonfiction
One way to use text sets is to match up fiction and nonfiction books. The nonfiction book can help with content vocabulary. The fiction book exposes them to a story structure. Students have varying interests. Pairing fiction and nonfiction increased the chance that students will be interested in or able to connect with what they are reading.
Readworks and Whole Phonics set up a great fiction/nonfiction text set. Each fiction Whole Phonics book is matched up with nonfiction articles for students to listen to. The articles are free and there is a free digital book for each vowel.
Read Works– Fiction and Nonfiction articles at a range of reading levels.
Newsela – News articles at different reading levels.
Kids News– There are three levels of text difficulty (unfortunately not for each article). There is also an audio recording to go along with the text.