Welcome to The Literacy Cookbook

Recipes for Effective Literacy Instruction



If your state is among those using PARCC Assessments, then you probably already know about the PARCC Website and Practice Tests.

Here are some important resources to review before you start PARCC prep:

The rest of this page looks at READING RESOURCES and WRITING RESOURCES.


  • PARCC Released Items are now moved to a new Website HERE.


General Information:

As a reminder, here are the PARCC passage length requirements by grade:


Minimum/Maximum Passage Lengths for Literary and Informational Text/Literary Nonfiction


200-800 words


400-1,000 words


500-1,500 words


Resources for Grade-level Appropriate Texts:

[Note: I have highlighted my favorite sites.]

  • Achievethecore.org is “full of free content designed to help educators understand and implement the Common Core State Standards. It includes practical tools designed to help students and teachers see their hard work deliver results.”  It features, among other resources, “Annotated Mini-Assessments for Grades 3-11”: The site, produced by nonprofit Student Achievement Partners, boasts “a growing collection of English language arts / literacy mini-assessments that illustrate the shifts required by the Standards. These mini-assessments are designed for teachers to use either in the classroom, for self-learning, or in professional development settings.”  The assessments include fiction and nonfiction.  For a more detailed review and explanation of how to use Achievethecore, click HERE.
  • Commonlit.org is "a collection of poems, short stories, news articles, historical documents, and literature for classrooms."  Its free resources are organized by theme, essential questions, Lexile levels, and more for grades 3-12 (just added 3-4!).  It also offers PAIRED TEXTS and LESSON PLANS.  YOU CAN EVEN HAVE THE TEXTS READ ALOUD TO YOU!!!
  • C-SPAN includes a plethora of resources--esp. video clips--for teachers designing Research Simulation Tasks and DBQs.  See my TLC Blog post about C-SPAN.
  • EdCite.com is FREE and offers PARCC-released assessments which enable teachers to give students practice tests and collect data.  You can also create tech-enhanced questions.
  • The Learning Network: This blog, "Teaching and Learning with the New York Times," bases lesson plans on articles.  This post offers 12 ways to use this blog effectively.
  • LearnZillion: This free Website, designed for use by teachers and students, contains more than 2,000 video lessons on math and ELA, aligned with the Common Core Standards for grades 3-12.
  • Newsela.com: Newsela is free and presents articles (and quizzes) on a range of topics (War and Peace - Science - Kids - Money - Law - Health    - Arts - Sports).  You can filter your search by grade level, reading standard, and whether the Newsela folks have designed a quiz for the article.  Even better, the system enables you to convert the articles INSTANTLY into higher or lower Lexiles so you can use them with any grade from 3-12.  For reviews that explain how to use Newsela, click HERE and HERE.  It also offers TEXT SETS!
  • Next Gen Assessments: "The purpose of this website is to collect and share free online resources that can be used to help students develop familiarity and proficiency with the technology skills they will need for next generation assessments. These resources include sample assessment items and interactive online activities that simulate the types of technology tasks students will need to complete." (Thanks to Virginia Woolley at Queen City Academy CS for this lead!)
  • PBS Learning Media: PBS LearningMedia provides "access to 100k+ standards-aligned digital resources, productivity tools that can help you integrate content into your instruction, and professional development opportunities that will strengthen your teaching skills."
  • ReadWorks.org:The non-profit ReadWorks is committed to solving the nation’s reading comprehension crisis by giving teachers the research-proven tools and support they need to improve the academic achievement of their students.  ReadWorks provides research-based units, lessons, and authentic, leveled non-fiction and literary passages directly to educators online, for free, to be shared broadly.  The ReadWorks curriculum is aligned to the Common Core State Standards and the standards of all 50 states. Most importantly, ReadWorks is faithful to the most effective research-proven instructional practices in reading comprehension.  For a review that explains how to use ReadWorks, click HERE.  It also offers PAIRED TEXTS!
  • Smithsonian TweenTribune is a free online educational service offered by the Smithsonian for use by K-12 grade teachers and students. TTribune consists of daily news sites for kids, tweens, and teens, and includes text (with a Lexile-leveling feature), photos, graphics, and audio and/or video materials prepared by the Smithsonian and others about current events, history, art, culture and science. TTribune also includes lessons, instructional and assessment tools, and opportunities for the registered users to communicate with other participants. TTribune is a moderated comment sharing community where registered teachers can assign educational content (like news stories) to students and the students using a screen name have the ability to create comments which, if approved by their teacher, are then published either to the other students within the teacher’s TTribune classroom page, or publicly on TTribune. (Thanks to Adina Medina at HoLa CS for this lead!)
  • ThinkCERCA.com is a “CCSS-aligned literacy program with tools and content teachers need to help students learn to read closely, think critically, and develop powerful arguments.”  It provides grade-leveled informational texts with PARCC-aligned questions and includes tools to produce reading and writing lessons.  The site promises to “help students build college and career readiness skills with engaging real-world ELA, Science, and Social Science topics for grades 3-12.”  This is a great resource for quick practice on Reading Informational Text Standards!
  • TLC "Historical Writing: DBQ Essays" page contains links to additional history-related resources!
  • TLC "Speeches" page provides speeches with video clips!


General Information:

Research Writing Tasks:

Narrative Writing Tasks:

Literary Analysis Writing Tasks:

PS--If you have any suggestions for other useful materials, please let me know at sarahtantillo@literacycookbook.com.  Thanks, ST


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