Essential Solutions 2-MIN. READ

Navigating Knowledge Building with Quad Text Sets

By: Angie Gates 06/18/2024
Discover how building text sets promotes understanding, critical thinking, and interdisciplinary connections within students.
Students in a classroom are intensely focused while reading over an assignment.

In the multifaceted landscape of literacy education, integrating evidence-based strategies and innovative practices is essential to fostering robust comprehension and knowledge building among your students. Research on the importance of knowledge building emphasizes a well-structured, cumulative curriculum that systematically builds students' background knowledge across domains, from history and science to literature and the arts. By incorporating these principles into text sets, you can scaffold students' comprehension, foster interdisciplinary connections, and cultivate a rich pool of knowledge that transcends disciplinary boundaries. Take this one step further to increase impact with quad text sets.

Understanding Quad Sets

Quad sets, an evolution of traditional text sets championed by prominent literacy scholars, offer a structured framework for organizing texts across four dimensions: genre, content, complexity, and theme.

Quad text sets are built around four different types of texts: the target text (a demanding piece above the current grade level) alongside three supplementary texts that build student background knowledge and the motivation required to understand the target text. This approach of reading to build knowledge (rather than listening) improves overall student outcomes and underscores the importance of scaffolding students' comprehension through strategic text selection and intentional pedagogical design.

The Intersection of Text Sets and Knowledge Building

At the intersection of text sets and knowledge building lies a fertile ground for helping students cultivate deep understanding, critical thinking, and interdisciplinary connections. By leveraging the principles supported by both methodologies, you can orchestrate dynamic learning experiences for students that transcend disciplinary boundaries and empower them to take on the active role of knowledge builders.

Genre Diversity

Quad sets should encompass texts spanning diverse genres, ranging from narrative fiction to expository nonfiction and beyond. This diversity in genres not only exposes students to varied textual structures and conventions but also cultivates an appreciation for literary craftsmanship and rhetorical methods.

Rich Content

At the heart is the integration of texts rich in essential content, addressing multifaceted themes and complex ideas. By immersing students in a collection of content-rich texts, you can ignite curiosity, foster inquiry, and deepen their understanding of the world around them.

Complexity Gradient

Quad sets emphasize the gradual progression of text complexity within each dimension, scaffolding students' comprehension and linguistic proficiency. From simpler texts serving as entry points to more challenging selections that stretch students' cognitive abilities, this nuanced approach ensures equitable access to rigorous learning experiences.

Thematic Cohesion

Thematic coherence is a hallmark of quad sets, with texts organized around overarching themes or essential questions that invite exploration and discourse. By weaving thematic threads across texts, you can facilitate connections, comparisons, and synthesis, enabling students to construct meaning and derive insights from diverse perspectives.

Advancing Pedagogical Practice

As educators, you are entrusted with the task of orchestrating transformative learning experiences that equip students with the knowledge, skills, and tendencies needed to thrive in an ever-changing world. By embracing the principles of quad sets alongside evidence-based practices, you can harness the collective wisdom of esteemed scholars and researchers, shaping your classrooms into vibrant hubs of intellectual inquiry and discovery.

Reimagining Literacy Instruction

The synergy between quad sets and comprehensive knowledge building holds immense promise for reimagining literacy instruction in the 21st century. By integrating genre diversity, the richness of content, complexity gradients, and thematic cohesion within quad sets, you can cultivate dynamic learning environments where students engage deeply with texts, construct meaning collaboratively, and emerge as critical thinkers and lifelong learners.

Let us embark on this pedagogical journey with zeal and dedication, guided by the transformative potential of quad sets and the enduring quest for educational excellence.

Want to hear more from Angie? Tune in to her episode of the Extraordinary Educators™ Podcast. To learn how to develop your own text sets, check out this strategic text sets resource and be sure to watch our Science of Reading webinar series with Dr. Courtney Hattan, who discusses text sets in depth.


Lupo, S. M., Strong, J. Z., Lewis, W., Walpole, S., & McKenna, M. C. (2018). Building background knowledge through reading: Rethinking text sets. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 61(4), 433–444. 

Lupo, S. M., Berry, A., Thacker, E., Sawyer, A., & Merritt, J. (2020). Rethinking text sets to support knowledge building and interdisciplinary learning. The Reading Teacher, 73(4), 513–524.