Teaching on Embracing Individual Differences

This text set is developed for a three to on a group of students from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. The text set is developed on the premise that students need to read from a wide range of content areas in order to enhance their knowledge and skills. Actually, it is important for students from all grade levels to read a wide range of texts and content areas. According to Opitz (1998), text sets are used during supervised reading instruction and involve grouping students together to help them become readers and understand the learning material. The process of developing this text set has involved identifying a suitable multicultural or social justice theme i.e. embracing individual differences in the classroom or learning environment. Once the theme was identified, a wide range of texts was selected to appeal to these students with different interests and ability levels.

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Overview of the Target Students

The text set was developed to target middle school students i.e. those in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. These students are aged between 10 and 14 years and have varying levels of maturity and comprehension of educational material and content. This development stage and schooling period is usually characterized by significant growth and change. The varying literacy levels of these students are brought by the differences in personal characteristics of early adolescence that they are experiencing and the involvement of their parents in their education/learning process. In this classroom, most of these students are interested in nearly everything and show an incredible desire to learn. These students tend to ask questions about everything because of they are interested in a wide range of things and issues. However, some of them, especially sixth graders tend to appear and act like children. As a result, they consider the teacher an unquestionable leader and the center of knowledge. Generally, these students enter their middle school years as children and leave as young adolescences because of development of their cognitive ability, maturity levels, and literacy levels.


The targeted middle school students come from different social settings, families, and communities. They come from multicultural communities and societies that are characterized by people from different religions, nationalities, ethnicities, religion, and races. One of the social factors that are evident in these students’ lives is the multicultural environment where they are brought up in and learn. Similar to their communities, these students are in a learning environment with people from different races, religions, and ethnicities. Consequently, they have different lifestyles because of the influence of social and cultural factors in their upbringing. Additionally, these students come from different family backgrounds that include single parent families and families with both parents. Some of these students are from families where parents have separated or divorced while others are orphans or have lost one of their parents or have both parents.

Annotated List

As previously mentioned, it is important for students to read from a wide range of content areas in order to enhance their knowledge and skills. This is particularly important for middle school students because they are in a developmental stage where they are seemingly interested in and curious about everything. The identification of texts from a variety of content areas will help these students to explore different issues relating to their areas of interests or curiosity. However, it is vital to ensure the variety of content areas is based on a specific theme that is identified based on the students’ academic levels and developmental stage.

Reason for Choosing this Topic

For this text set for a 3-5-week learning period, the text set will be on the theme of embracing individual differences across various settings including at home and in school. According to Frederick County Public Schools (n.d.), the modern generation of middle school students will live and work in a society that is becoming increasingly interdependent and global. Consequently, these students will need to learn and become culturally competent in addition to being skilled problem solvers and creative thinkers. Given this trend, school programs should be designed to help middle school students develop and enhance their cultural competence in order to prepare them for life and work in an increasingly multicultural environment. This also helps towards enhancing educational equality and empowerment by giving students from different social-class groups, races, ethnicities, and languages a suitable school culture and social structure (Banks, 2002).


As a result, the topic of embracing individual differences was selected to help in enhancing the cultural competencies of these middle school students. Additionally, this topic was selected to help these students develop skills for creating relationships based on mutual respect for each other. This is an important factor in their developmental stage because these students are currently learning in a classroom comprising of students from different backgrounds and cultures. Therefore, learning to embrace individual differences is crucial to help in embracing diversity and the development of meaningful and suitable relationships in the classroom environment.

List of Books for the Theme Unit

To effectively address this theme unit in the classroom, different texts have been identified based on their relevance to the topic and their link to the achievement of the overall objective of this class. Actually, the issue of children’s literature has developed to become a major issue for reading instruction because of its centrality as essential learning material (Martinez & Mcgee, 2000). During the selection of this culturally rich literature for this classroom, several factors were considered including authenticity of the text in showing diverse cultures and accuracy of messages based on the students’ lives and cultural consciousness (Livingston & Kurkjian, 2005).


The main read aloud book for this topic is Wonder by R.J. Palacio that highlights the social experiences of August Pullman who faces significant challenges in going to a mainstream school because he was born with major facial deformities. While this book is not listed in Caldecott prize, Newberry prize and , it is a suitable text to use as the foundational book for teaching this topic. The book is relevant to the topic because of its focus on highlighting the challenges Pullman experiences simply because of his extraordinary face. It highlights the struggles in showing compassion, acceptance and empathy, which is a major issue in today’s learning environment, especially for middle school students. Through this book, the need for friendship and embracing an individual despite of his/her unique differences will be highlighted and used as the premise for encouraging compassion and acceptance among these middle school students.


The other books incorporated in teaching this unit of embracing individual differences to these middle school students include…


Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan which was written by Mary Williams and illustrated by Gregory Christie, will be used in this class because it highlights the spirit of brotherhood or friendship as an important aspect of embracing individual differences across all settings including at home and in school. This book will be vital in teaching this topic because it shows the significance of friendship and mutual support in achieving common goals and objectives. In this case, the book highlights the role faith and mutual support played in enabling Garang and his friends find a new home after walking thousands of miles looking for safety. The book will be used in book clubs, which basically entails reading, writing, by students, and instruction (Raphael & Mcmahon, 1994). Students will be divided into different groups where they will read the book, write down lessons gained from it, discuss their insights in their groups, and participate in whole-class discussions and instruction on what they can learn about friendships from this book.


The second book is Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement that was written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Ekua Holmes. The book basically provides a significant visual encounter with Fannie Lou Homer, a Civil Rights icon. Apart from showing the power and bravery of Fannie Lou Homer, the book also highlights the importance of community based on Hamer’s fight for the rights and liberties of the African-American community. It will be used as a silent reading book through which students will be required to read and write their insights from the book, especially with regards to equal treatment of all individuals and communities despite of their differences. Through this book, students will learn the significance of community and how embracing individual differences help in establishing a community where all people live in peace and harmony.


The third and final book in this text set on embracing individual differences is Grandfather Counts, which was written by Andrea Cheng and illustrated by Ange Zheng. The book basically highlights the story of how Gong Gang learns English from Helen as a special bond between them develops and grows. The use of this book in teaching this group of middle school students is because it shows how two individuals can cross the boundaries of culture and language through embracing each other and working around their individual differences. The book will be used in reading groups to help these students learn how they can overcome and embrace their individual differences through love and helping one another. The lessons learnt from this book will be crucial for these students to learn the significance of helping each other in the classroom setting despite their differences and diversities. From the example of Gong Gang and Helen, these middle school students will learn that language and culture as well as other individual differences should not be used as obstacles towards living and working together but as stepping stones for developing relationships based on mutual respect. In the reading groups, students will discuss how insights from the book are applicable in the classroom environment.

Concluding Reflections

The process of developing this text set for a multicultural theme i.e. embracing individual differences was successful. The success of this process was based on the fact that relevant texts/books that focus on different aspects relating to the topic were identified and included in the learning process. Additionally, the success of the process emerged from the use of different methods in incorporating the books into the learning process i.e. as book clubs, silent reading, and reading groups. The use of these different methods helped in enhancing the effectiveness of reading instruction in this classroom environment and making learning more exciting and engaging to this group of curious middle school students. However, I would expand the literature search to other areas or libraries where more books can be identified rather than restrict the search to Caldecott prize, Newberry prize or Coretta Scott King book lists. This would help in ensuring that a diverse range of literature is identified and included in the text set. This experience has helped me learn about the important of developing a text set in planning for reading instruction. I have learned that the development of a text set helps an educator or teacher to effectively prepare relevant educational material that helps in teaching a particular topic in line with the students’ learning needs.


Banks, J.A. (2002). Dimensions and School Characteristics. In An introduction to multicultural education (3rd ed, Chapter 3, pp.30-38). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Allyn & Bacon


Frederick County Public Schools. (n.d.). Middle School Overview. Retrieved December 22, 2016, from http://www.fcps..cfm


Livingston, N. & Kurkjian, C. (2005). Circles and Celebrations: Learning About Other Cultures through Literature. International Reading Association, 696-703.


Martinez, M.G. & Mcgee, L.M. (2000). Children’s Literature and Reading Instruction: Past, Present, and Future. Reading Research Quarterly, 35(1), 154-169.


Opitz, M.F. (1998, April). Text Sets: One Way to Flex Your Grouping: In First Grade, Too! The Reading Teacher, 51(7), 622-624.


Raphael, T.E. & Mcmahon, S.I. (1994, October). Book Club: An Alternative Framework for Reading Instruction. The Reading Teacher, 48(2), 102-116.