Pairing Literary and Nonfiction Texts for Deeper Understanding

Common Core Reading Lessons: Pairing Literary and Nonfiction Texts to Promote Deeper Understanding
By Stacey O’Reilly and Angie Stooksbury
(Routledge, 2014 – Learn more)

anne anderson 2014Reviewed by Anne Anderson

Common Core Reading Lessons: Pairing Literary and Nonfiction Texts to Promote Deeper Understanding is a winner! Stacey O’Reilly and Angie Stooksbury (teachers at Big Walnut School District, Ohio) take a positive, practical approach for dealing with the Common Core State Standards emphasis on nonfiction. Their book is packed with easy-to-implement strategies to help teachers make the shift to more nonfiction.

ccss lit nonfic andersonO’Reilly and Stooksbury’s positive attitudes are evident from chapter one, “Don’t Fight the Common Core!” They attack the naysayers head-on. “We can make compromises in the traditional classroom to accommodate more nonfiction.” (p. 2) More than once, they reassure teachers that they don’t have to abandon the classic literature selections. Instead, O’Reilly and Stooksbury feel that success lies in making “…old texts relevant with new nonfiction connections.” (p10) 

Then, they show fellow teachers how they pair nonfiction with fiction.  While some readers may view the Unit and Sample Lesson Plans as overly ambitious, the fact remains that these two teachers/authors are building analytical and critical thinking skills with their students.

By sharing their lessons, they provide the rest of us with a starting point.  Each lesson (chapter) contains the focus standards in “Our Own Words.”  O’Reilly and Stooksbury then share examples, advice, and their rationale for the unit.  In addition, there are handouts, rubrics, and suggestions for extending the activity.  The Appendix contains a list of the nonfiction resources used with these lessons.

Common Core Reading Lessons: Pairing Literary and Nonfiction Texts to Promote Deeper Understanding is filled with practical advice. 

  • “There are no shortcuts for students when critical thinking is the objective.”  (p. 9)
  • “We must do more than simply throw in nonfiction.”  (p. 22)
  • “Too often we rush to a finish, losing significance because we haven’t given students time to allow the information to sink in.”  (p. 53)
  • “Notice that no matter the students’ level, the key is to empower their learning and the writing through choice.”  (p. 75)

While not a beach read, this is definitely a book to read this summer!  The useful strategies O’Reilly and Stooksbury include will position you and your students for a successful 2014-15.

Anne Anderson finally got out of the 8th grade after 24 years and 9 weeks. She spent the next 9 years sharing her expertise in literacy and writing with K-12 teachers and administrators throughout the district. She credits National Writing Project and Poetry Alive! as turning points in her growth as a teacher. She now shares her expertise nationwide as an educational consultant and through her website and her bi-monthly newsletter, Spotlight on Success.



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