Guide to Central Text Selection

Teaching and learning with Perspectives for a Diverse America begins with the selection of an essential question and a meaningful and complex text.

Why text selection matters

According to Common Core Reading Standard 10, students at every grade level must be able to “read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.” The rigorous staircase of text complexity called for by the standards puts a new emphasis on the role of text selection across subject areas. In Appendix A, the Standards further explain the need for a thoughtful approach to text selection:

Students’ ability to read complex text does not always develop in a linear fashion. Although the progression of Reading Standard 10 defines required grade-by-grade growth in students’ ability to read complex text, the development of this ability in individual students is unlikely to occur at an unbroken pace. Students need opportunities to stretch their reading abilities but also to experience the satisfaction and pleasure of easy, fluent reading within them, both of which the Standards allow for. Factors such as students’ motivation, knowledge and experiences must also come into play in text selection.

Text selection is also important within culturally responsive instruction. Multicultural and social justice educators and critical literacy theorists highlight the role texts play in shaping our identities and creating more inclusive academic experiences for young people.

Literacy expert Alfred W. Tatum writes that students should be exposed to texts that connect with multiple identities, have personal and cultural relevance and reflect classroom diversity. Such an approach to text selection “moves beyond a sole cognitive focus-such as skill and strategy development-to include an academic, cultural, emotional, and social focus that moves students closer to examining issues they find relevant to their lives.”

Text selection takes on additional importance as America’s classrooms become increasingly diverse. The Perspectives for a Diverse America Central Text Anthology allows you to customize learning by selecting texts Emily Style refers to as “windows” and “mirrors.”

“Education needs to enable the student to look through window frames in order to see the realities of others and into mirrors in order to see her/his own reality reflected,” Style asserts. “Knowledge of both types of framing is basic to a balanced education.”

Selecting/crafting essential questions

Before you select a central text, create an essential question to guide inquiry throughout the Integrated Learning Plan. Essential questions encourage deep engagement with texts by helping students frame their reading, discussion and writing about critical themes and issues. Write or select your essential question based on the anti-bias domain and theme you planto explore with your students.

Sample essential question

Imagine you want to explore the theme of rights and responsibilities and engage several anti-bias standards in the Justice domain. Present students with an essential question that speaks to both that theme and the anti-bias domain such as, “How have people survived and overcome when their rights have been denied?”

Selecting a Perspectives central text

Texts in the Perspectives anthology were identified, analyzed and curated with several key criteria in mind. The result is a collection of hundreds of anti-bias and multicultural texts that reflect the Common Core’s approach to text complexity, range and quality.

Use one or more of the criteria below to filter for and select the best texts to meet your learning goals:

  • Text Type: Texts are categorized by text type-informational, literature, visual and multimedia. The Perspectives anthology reflects the Common Core’s expectation for a balance of informational and literary texts in elementary grades (50/50) and a shift toward more informational texts in middle (45/55) and high school (30/70). Pair texts with visual and multimedia texts to increase student engagement and teach visual and media literacy.
  • CCSS Text Complexity: Each informational and literacy text has been quantitatively analyzed and placed in a specific grade-level range. Use this feature to plan targeted instruction that challenges every student. Use the vocabulary highlighter to teach academic (Tier 2) and domain specific (Tier 3) vocabulary appropriate for that grade level.
  • Grade-level Band: Texts are organized into grade-level bands (K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12). These bands allow broader search results based on the developmental appropriateness of texts. Use these bands, in combination with the CCSS text complexity level, to differentiate instruction.
  • Anti-bias Domain: Texts are organized by anti-bias domain (Identity, Diversity, Justice and Action) and aligned to the anti-bias standards. Use the ABS highlighter to facilitate close reading, textual analysis and citing of evidence.
  • Theme: Texts are organized by theme: individual and society; membership and solidarity; power and privilege; freedom and choice; rights and responsibilities; and struggle and progress. Use these themes to integrate texts into your existing social studies or language arts scope and sequence.
  • Lens: The Anthology represents a diversity of voices and issues: race/ethnicity/racism; gender/sexism; LGBT/homophobia; class/wealth and poverty; immigration; religion; ableism/disability; and community. Use these categories to teach about diverse perspectives and important social issues.