CommonLit's Next Frontier: Building High-Quality Curriculum

Teacher and students laugh around table with laptops open to CommonLit lesson.

When CommonLit’s website first launched in 2014, the organization had an ambitious goal — provide teachers with access to high-quality reading passages. Five years later, CommonLit has grown in many exciting ways.

Our website now includes over 1,500 reading lessons for students in grades 3–12 — in both English and Spanish. What’s more, CommonLit resources are used by over 9 million students and teachers in over 60,000 schools. In short, CommonLit has become a go-to resource for literacy teachers across the United States.

In 2019, CommonLit is setting its sights on a new ambitious goal: To develop a comprehensive curriculum and assessment program that could profoundly improve reading instruction in any district.

How far are we in this work? In 2018, we began the work of designing and prototyping an ELA curriculum, starting with high school. We built and tested this curriculum in partnership with several local schools. There are three key principles that have guided our team’s work:

Units Built Around an Engaging Theme or Topic

The best ELA curricula allows students to engage deeply with big ideas and make meaningful connections between texts and their lives. The best English classes are collaborative and discussion-rich. They include passionate debates, authentic writing opportunities, and texts that students are eager to read. In the first semester of high school, students analyzed North Korean authoritarianism, explored why people follow the crowd, and traced the evolution of the American criminal justice system.

Texts and Activities that Match Grade-Level Rigor

CommonLit believes that while lessons must be accessible for all students, the lessons must ultimately aim towards grade-level expectations. Each lesson includes pre-reading activities, scaffolding questions, and graphic organizers to support struggling readers, but each lesson ultimately ends with an Exit Ticket that measures student performance on 1–2 target standards.

Teacher and Student Materials that Are Easy to Use

There are many ELA curricula available. The problem is that most cannot be used without significant amounts of professional development. Since our ultimate goal is to create a curriculum that serves teachers in thousands of districts, we’ve placed a premium value on ease-of-use. This means that more novice teachers have a streamlined set of materials that are simple to understand and routinize best practices. It also means that advanced teachers can edit, build upon, and infuse their own personality and style into our curriculum.

A student works on her assignment.

Set up a Call to Learn More

If you share our vision and you’re excited to learn more about how you can pilot our new curriculum in your school or district, we’d love to talk to you soon. To start the conversation, set up a call by clicking here.