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I want to teach paired passages, but…

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Do you want to teach paired passages but don’t know how to start? Paired passages are intimidating for teachers and students. The top obstacles teachers face when wanting to teach this skill are students struggling with reading comprehension, reluctant readers and writers, and not having the right resources.

I believe teaching paired passages is very important. Students need explicit instruction on how to read and analyze a set of texts. They will most likely need to answer questions from paired passage sets on state testing. Moreover, students need to be challenged to think critically and analyze multiple sources.

The common core standards require students to “gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources.” Students should also be able to “cite specific textual evidence when writing.” These two standards can be tricky to master.

With these challenging standards in mind, I came up with ready-to-use resources for teaching these skills.

What is a paired passage?

Paired passages are text sets that complement each other. They can be compared or contrasted in some meaningful way because they share a common thread. They may have a similar topic or theme. Paired passages can be any combination of fiction or non-fiction, prose or verse.

Obstacle one: Students struggle with reading comprehension

The prospect of two passages can be overwhelming to some students; many students struggle to read one passage!

To keep things manageable, I encourage teachers to use very short passages when first assigning paired texts. When the reading passages we teach are too long and difficult, students find it hard to focus on the task at hand.

Students need repeated practice with a skill in order to become more independent and confident. Using short passages also allows for more opportunities to practice.

Students learn best when the right scaffolding is in place. I provide checklists on each page for writing responses. This helps kids keep track of how they need to respond to the prompt.

Obstacle two: Students are reluctant readers and writers

When students show reluctance to read and write, I find their reluctance stems from two main causes. One is that they don’t think that they can be successful. The other is that they don’t think the task is interesting.

Students may be intimated by long, complex passages at first. A lot of practice with short paired texts will get students ready for more sophisticated texts. Ease anxiety of reluctant readers by providing manageable texts.

They also might find the content boring. My solution is to provide interesting topics. One of my main goals when creating resources is to always provide engaging texts — that’s the inspiration for the name “Read Relevant.”

Obstacle three: Not finding the right resources

The last thing that might be holding you back from teaching paired passages is not having the right resources. It can be time consuming to try to come up with your own sets of related texts. ReadWorks has a lot of free content, but I find that these articles can be challenging because they are quite lengthy.

When I created my paired passage products, I made sure I was solving all of these problems for teachers.

I’ve seen students have a lot of success after using my paired passages resources. They are quick and easy-to-use text sets. Each set of texts includes a question requiring writers to cite evidence from BOTH passages. You can find these resources here:

If you give your students the right resources, support, and practice, they will master paired passages in no time.

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