By Angie Gunter
Last December, 36 English language arts (ELA) and special education teachers and administrators from across the Commonwealth gathered in Louisville to embark on the Kentucky Text Set Project.
All of the educators were looking for ways to support each other in implementing the Kentucky Academic Standards for English/Language Arts. The event was planned by a group of ELA leaders working with Student Achievement Partners using tools and information provided by AchieveTheCore.org through their Core Advocate Training.
The goal of the Kentucky Text Set Project was to provide intensive training to ELA teachers and then support these catalysts in forming groups in their own schools, districts and professional learning communities to create challenging, grade-level specific text sets over a variety of engaging and important literacy and literary topics.
Text sets are a collection of resources focused on one topic that can be used with students with a range of interests and experiences. Text sets may include items such as literature, poetry, songs and multimedia resources. These text sets, however, focus on children’s and adolescent literature.
At the initial two-day training, teachers selected accountability partners to work closely with on the yearlong project. Over the course of the project, participants also collaborated with each other, discussing their progress, struggles and successes in virtual monthly meetings with the Kentucky ELA leadership team.
In this teacher-initiated project, teachers at all grade levels (P-12) were able to develop text sets, teach them, solicit feedback from students and other teachers, then revise the sets for implementation and publication. Text sets were created for use with developing argument/persuasive and informational literacy activities. The materials they developed will be free and soon will be made available to all Kentucky teachers.
Ultimately, the Kentucky ELA leadership team’s goal is to create a bank of vetted text sets appropriate for a range of grade levels and subjects that teachers can use and adapt to help their students build knowledge, interact with new vocabulary and increase reading skills. Topics for sets of studies ranged from Greek mythology to what makes people laugh, from endangered species to the American Revolution, and from overpopulation to internal structures of animals.
The Kentucky Core Advocate team is working on plans to continue the project and hopes to create an additional cohort for 2016-17.
The project also is being implemented at the district level in a couple of districts. Daviess County Public Schools and Jessamine County Public Schools are working with teams of elementary, middle and high school teachers to study reading and knowledge acquisition research, to utilize the tools from www.achievethecore.org and to develop quality text sets to be used by teachers across their districts.
Teachers have experienced success in using text sets in their classrooms and believe they are having an impact on student learning.
“Something this project helped me to realize is the importance of sequencing texts in a purposeful manner,” said Therese Payne, English department lead at Daviess County High School. “I’ve always paired texts, but intentionally sharing them with students in an order with rationale was something I never considered.
“This training also allowed me to revisit a novel and make it more appealing to students. One of the younger male middle school teachers actually commented that he would be very interested in our unit if he were still a high school student. I foresee that students will be equipped to make better connections after completing this text set unit. They will be more aware of their own metacognition because we’ll focus on their tracking their own thinking.”
For more information about the Kentucky Text Set Project, contact Angie Gunter, the ELA state lead for this project, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional information about text sets in general can be found here.