English Language Arts Standards » Standard 10: Range, Quality, & Complexity » Staying on Topic Within a Grade & Across Grades

Building knowledge systematically in English language arts is like giving children various pieces of a puzzle in each grade that, over time, will form one big picture. At a curricular or instructional level, texts—within and across grade levels—need to be selected around topics or themes that systematically develop the knowledge base of students. Within a grade level, there should be an adequate number of titles on a single topic that would allow children to study that topic for a sustained period. The knowledge children have learned about particular topics in early grade levels should then be expanded and developed in subsequent grade levels to ensure an increasingly deeper understanding of these topics. Children in the upper elementary grades will generally be expected to read these texts independently and reflect on them in writing. However, children in the early grades (particularly K–2) should participate in rich, structured conversations with an adult in response to the written texts that are read aloud, orally comparing and contrasting as well as analyzing and synthesizing, in the manner called for by the Standards.

Preparation for reading complex informational texts should begin at the very earliest elementary school grades. What follows is one example that uses domain-specific nonfiction titles across grade levels to illustrate how curriculum designers and classroom teachers can infuse the English language arts block with rich, age-appropriate content knowledge and vocabulary in history/social studies, science, and the arts. Having students listen to informational read-alouds in the early grades helps lay the necessary foundation for students’ reading and understanding of increasingly complex texts on their own in subsequent grades.

Exemplar Texts on a Topic Across Grades K 1 2-3 4-5
The Human Body

Students can begin learning about the human body starting in kindergarten and then review and extend their learning during each subsequent grade.

The five senses and associated body parts

  • My Five Senses by Aliki (1989)
  • Hearing by Maria Rius (1985)
  • Sight by Maria Rius (1985)
  • Smell by Maria Rius (1985)
  • Taste by Maria Rius (1985)
  • Touch by Maria Rius (1985)

Taking care of your body: Overview (hygiene, diet, exercise, rest)

  • My Amazing Body: A First Look at Health & Fitness by Pat Thomas (2001)
  • Get Up and Go! by Nancy Carlson (2008)
  • Go Wash Up by Doering Tourville (2008)
  • Sleep by Paul Showers (1997)
  • Fuel the Body by Doering Tourville (2008)

Introduction to the systems of the human body and associated body parts

  • Under Your Skin: Your Amazing Body by Mick Manning (2007)
  • Me and My Amazing Body by Joan Sweeney (1999)
  • The Human Body by Gallimard Jeunesse (2007)
  • The Busy Body Book by Lizzy Rockwell (2008)
  • First Encyclopedia of the Human Body by Fiona Chandler (2004)

Taking care of your body: Germs, diseases, and preventing illness

  • Germs Make Me Sick by Marilyn Berger (1995)
  • Tiny Life on Your Body by Christine Taylor-Butler (2005)
  • Germ Stories by Arthur Kornberg (2007)
  • All About Scabs by GenichiroYagu (1998)

Digestive and excretory systems

  • What Happens to a Hamburger by Paul Showers (1985)
  • The Digestive System by Christine Taylor-Butler (2008)
  • The Digestive System by Rebecca L. Johnson (2006)
  • The Digestive System by Kristin Petrie (2007)

Taking care of your body: Healthy eating and nutrition

  • Good Enough to Eat by Lizzy Rockwell (1999)
  • Showdown at the Food Pyramid by Rex Barron (2004)

Muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems

  • The Mighty Muscular and Skeletal Systems Crabtree Publishing (2009)
  • Muscles by Seymour Simon (1998)
  • Bones by Seymour Simon (1998)
  • The Astounding Nervous System Crabtree Publishing (2009)
  • The Nervous System by Joelle Riley (2004)

Circulatory system

  • The Heart by Seymour Simon (2006)
  • The Heart and Circulation by Carol Ballard (2005)
  • The Circulatory System by Kristin Petrie (2007)
  • The Amazing Circulatory System by John Burstein (2009)

Respiratory system

  • The Lungs by Seymour Simon (2007)
  • The Respiratory System by Susan Glass (2004)
  • The Respiratory System by Kristin Petrie (2007)
  • The Remarkable Respiratory System by John Burstein (2009)

Endocrine system

  • The Endocrine System by Rebecca Olien (2006)
  • The Exciting Endocrine System by John Burstein (2009)