12 CommonLit Texts Elementary School Teachers Will Love

Students and teacher discuss lesson around table.

New to CommonLit? A long-time CommonLit fan looking to refresh your lesson plans? Use these amazing texts in your elementary school classes!

New unit time: a blur of lesson planning, bulletin board refreshing, and hope that your students will like the stories you’ve chosen and the projects you’ve prepared. I know the routine well — when I was teaching, I remember not really knowing where to start. At the beginning of each new unit I would find myself struggling to identify the perfect text that would get my students excited and assess whether they were mastering the skills I was teaching.

That’s where CommonLit — and this list of amazing elementary school-level texts — comes in. This blog is part of a 3-part series on our favorite CommonLit texts — be sure to check out our middle school and high school favorites, too!

“Jasmine Girl” by Jey Manokaran (3rd grade)

This sweet Highlights Magazine story follows the strong friendship between Shanti and Jodi. As they read, students can take notes on how Shanti’s internal conflict reveals the overall theme.

After reading the story, you can have your students turn and talk about a time they’ve made a sacrifice for a friend.

“What A Pro Knows: Playing to Win” by Christine Louise Hohlbaum (3rd grade)

Catchings dribbles the basketball and is wearing a jersey with number 24 on it.
“Catchings wears number 24. Her dad wore 42!” courtesy of Frank McGrath/Pacers Sports & Entertainment is used with permission.

This article about Tamika Catchings, a retired WNBA all-star and an Olympic gold medalist, discusses her accomplishments and all she had to overcome during her life. Tamika was born partially deaf and faced challenges in school and on the court. She was bullied in school for being hard of hearing, leading her to turn to basketball, and ultimately her teammates, for support.

You could encourage students to take notes on the difficult challenges Tamika faced and how team sports helped her overcome them. What does it mean to be a part of a team? How can you support your teammates and classmates?

“After the Rain” by Caryl S. Ulrich (3rd grade)

In this beautiful poem by Caryl S. Ulrich, the speaker describes how the world smells and feels after the rain.

Using the annotation tool, students can take notes on the rhyme scheme and highlight any figurative language the author uses to reveal meaning in the poem.

“Making Books in Brailleby Sara Matson (3rd grade)

This informational text follows Laurie Lower, a braille transcriber, as she makes books for people with vision loss. The technology she uses allows her to transcribe hundreds of books and make libraries more accessible for everyone.

You could have students take notes and describe how they would feel if they walked into their library and couldn’t read most of the books. How would that make them feel? What are some ways you all could work together to make your own classroom more accessible for folks with vision loss?

“The Champion of Quiet” by Tracy Stewart (4th grade)

This heartfelt Highlights Magazine story follows Maggie, the Champion of Quiet, as she overcomes her shyness and volunteers to be team captain in gym class. She uses her newfound voice to make others around her feel included.

During a post read discussion, you could ask your students: why was Maggie’s choice to be team captain brave?

“Learning About the Solar System” by Barbara Radner (4th grade)

Four folks look up at the night sky.
“New Mysteries Surround New Horizons’ Next Flyby Target” by NASA is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

This text is a perfect introduction to a unit on space and our galaxy. Radner details what makes our galaxy unique and all the ways life on Earth is affected by our place in it.

You may ask students to take notes throughout the the text on key facts about our planet and galaxy.

“Cobra Kite” by Mahani Zubaidy Gunnel (4th grade)

In this memoir, Mahani Zubaidy Gunnel discusses growing up in Malaysia and flying kites as a young girl. She recalls what it felt like to be a young child during a kite fight and how older people around her doubted her abilities to fly or catch a kite.

You could ask your students how adults can underestimate the capabilities of kids. How does it make them feel when someone underestimates them because of their age? How can kids change the world?

“Fly High Bessie Coleman” by Jane Sutcliffe (4th grade)

Bessie Coleman was the first African American woman to receive her pilot license in 1921. This informational text discusses her life growing up in a segregated town with dreams of doing something different and exciting for a career.

You could show the video “The First Female African American Pilot” to give your students additional information about Bessie’s life. How did racism influence Bessie’s path to becoming a pilot? How did she overcome those obstacles? What does her accomplishment mean for female pilots today?

“Peaches” by Adrienne Su (5th grade)

Peaches
“Peach” by Jackson’s Orchard is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Adrienne Su is a Chinese American author who grew up in Georgia. In this beautiful poem, she describes her experiences growing up as a child of immigrants.

You can lead a discussion with your students about the significance of food and community. How can food be something that can make people feel more at home? How can sharing food from one culture create community?

“Frida Kahlo” by Jessica McBirney (5th grade)

Portrait of Frida Kahlo
“Frida Kahlo, Autoretrato (1926–1954)” by Rael Garcia Arnes is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Frida Kahlo was a famous painter who explored a variety of themes including gender, class, and race in Mexican society during the 20th century. She was a pioneer for female artists to receive international recognition for their work.

This biography is also available in Spanish on our site — check out our Spanish library!

“Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros (5th grade)

In this short story by Cisneros, a young girl considers the meaning of her birthday and growing up.

As your students read, ask them to take notes on how the narrator reacts to the red sweater. Why does she react this way? What does this mean about her growing up?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Changing America by Barbara Radner (5th grade)

Photo of MLK.
“Martin Luther King Jr. 1964 (source: Library of Congress)” by Mike Licht is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In this biographical text about MLK, there is an emphasis on his beliefs about equality and non-violence. The text details strategies that MLK used as an activist in the Civil Rights Movement.

As your students read the text, ask them to take notes on the problems that African Americans faced during the 1950s and 60s and the strategies that Dr. King used to create social change.

Next Steps

Looking for more great texts to share with your students? Check out our CommonLit library!

If you’re interested in learning all about CommonLit’s free digital literacy program, join one of our upcoming webinars!