You may refer to it as a text set, but in our district they are often referred to by a far prettier name…the text bouquet.
No matter what you refer to it, this can be a handy tool to help with your social studies instruction. A text set is centered around an anchor story, text, or topic. They allow for students to have multiple different access points to the issue or topic and can include multiple points of view on an issue. Text sets can include news stories, videos, music, short stories or poems, political cartoons, statistics, primary sources, podcasts, and photos. When I have created text sets they usually are made up of 4-6 pieces. The one thing that they have in common is that they all connect back to your anchor topic or text.
Besides having multiple entry points for students to gain new understandings and encounter multiple points of view on an issue, text sets can also allow you to save instructional time and focus on targeted skills that aren’t currently being assessed. A couple years back my school district was looking to include more writing in social studies. Initially I started having students do research papers. This was a BIG mistake! This took a great deal of time because students needed to be taught to find and evaluate resources. These are definitely important skills, that I do teach, but it can muddy the waters of what you are assessing because if students found bad resources their writing would be flawed from the start. The text set rescued me. I was able to focus on teaching writing and could address finding and vetting resources in other lessons. Since this initial foray into text sets, I have become a fan and use them frequently.
To create a text set through a Google search can take a while, so knowing good spots to look for resources to include can help a great deal. This post will feature my “go to” resources for assembling text sets for my social studies classes. The types of resources that I will address are current events/news articles, videos, political cartoons, statistics & infographs, primary sources, and podcasts.
Current Events/News Articles:
Newsela This is absolutely the first spot I go to when assembling a text set. The website is amazing and they keep adding new content and resources every day. The site originally focused on taking current events stories and creating leveled texts with comprehension quizzes. Now there is so much more. Newsela currently features leveled primary sources, biographies, famous speeches, myths & legends, and issue spotlights. My favorite type of article is the PRO/CON ones that present two different points of view on the same topic. These are great for classroom debates. They also now have lesson ideas to target specific close reading strategies. If you are looking for premade text sets, Newsela has those. If you want to create your own text set of their materials you can do that too and then share the link with your students. Newsela is truly an invaluable resource for teachers!
TweenTribune This website is a publication of the Smithsonian and also features leveled texts on a variety of news stories that cover a wide variety of subjects. It is free and easy to use for both students and teachers.
CNN10 CNN 10 used to be known as CNN Student News. This is actually a 10 minute news broadcast that is geared towards junior high and high school students. They recently also put the broadcast into podcast format too. The great thing about this is that not only is it in an engaging and easy to understand format but, they also have transcripts for each of their archived episodes as well.
All Sides I recently learned about this website. The site presents 3 versions of each news story, one from the left of the political spectrum, one from the center, and one from the right. This site again is fantastic for adding multiple points of view on a topic or issue.
Listenwise This website features NPR news stories on a wide variety of topics. In addition to the audio podcasts of the story, the website also features comprehension questions, discussion questions and a Socrative quiz for each story they feature on the site.
Common Lit Although this site doesn’t really focus on current events, it does have countless non-fiction stories that cover a wide variety of social studies topics. Each story has an overview of the topic which has guiding questions, discussion questions, and assessment questions accompanying the overview story. They also have paired texts, related videos, as well as teacher and parent guides.
TED-Ed This video site contains short videos, geared towards junior high and high school students, that cover a variety of topics. In addition to the videos they also have comprehension and discussion questions for each video. If you click on the dig deeper section they detail and link to numerous other resources that connect to the topic the video is about.
Crash Course This YouTube channel has 10-15 minute long videos that feature author John Green. The videos are funny and students love them. The only issue is that John can talk fast! I usually play them with the closed captioning on.
Hip Hughes History This YouTube channel is run by history teacher Keith Hughes. He provides flipped classroom videos on U.S. history, world history, civics, and current events.
Statistics & Infographics
The CIA World Factbook Up to date stats from across the globe.
If It Were My Home Compares living conditions in your own country to those of another.
GapMinder Graphs statistics over time for countries and compares them to other countries across the world. Added bonus on this site is Dollar Street in which they have over 30,000 photos of over 240 families illustrating daily life of people across the world. There are also resources for teachers and videos on the site too!
Country Meters More up to date stats and graphs about countries across the globe.
The Washington Post Graphics Data and infographs from The Washington Post.
The New York Times Graphics Data and infographs from The New York Times.
DocsTeach Is part of the National Archives and has primarily a U.S. focus.
Hidden Brain Examines the causes of human behavior
99% Invisible Unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world
Planet Money In an easy to understand fashion this podcast explain the forces that drive our economy.
Stuff You Missed In History Class Explains often overlooked aspects of our past.
Back Story Examines issues from U.S. history.
History Pod Presents an approximately 5 minute long account of a key event from each day in history.
I have had great success with using text sets in my social studies classes. Ideally, once you teach students how to locate and evaluate resources, you could have them curate their own text sets. Jennifer Gonzalez ( @cultofpedagogy ) has a great blog post and podcast on how to go about doing that here.
What are your go to places for resources that you could use in a text set?