The other day I received an email from Michelle Brown at Harvard University. Her email was about a new organization called Commonlit. Commonlit is an organization that is building sets of thematic discussion questions to use in conjunction with upper elementary school and middle school students.
Here’s how Commonlit works. As a teacher I select a theme such as love, social change & revolution, or friendship & loyalty. Then within my chosen theme I select a discussion question. The choice of a discussion question will lead me to a set of passages for my students to read to support classroom discussion. For example, when I selected the question, “what drives a person to betray?” in the friendship & loyalty theme I was then able to choose the text of The Donkey, the Fox, and the Lion from Aesop’s Fables. Commonlit provided me with a PDF of the text to download for free.
Applications for Education
Commonlit’s thematic questions could be quite helpful in getting students interested in reading. I’ve always found that if I can get students engrossed in a conversation around a big question, I then have a much easier time getting them to read materials related to the conversation. My students tend to want to read so that they can find more ideas to bring into their arguments in the classroom conversation.