As students will have previous exposure to the historical themes and factual information about the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the United States involvement in WWII, and the internment of Japanese in camps throughout the western United States, this lesson exemplar will allow students to participate in critical discussion of two stories that illuminate important, yet divergent, experiences of war and conflict. This lesson exemplar will push students to think critically about the experience of wartime as felt by both soldiers and civilians as they navigated specific trials that were a part of their direct or peripheral involvement in WWII. This close reading exemplar is intended to model how teachers can support their students as they undergo the kind of careful reading the Common Core State Standards require. Teachers are encouraged to take these exemplars and modify them to suit the needs of their students.
Middle School English Language Arts
In this module, students are involved in a deep study of mythology, its purposes, and elements. Students will read Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief (780L), a high-interest novel about a sixth-grade boy on a hero’s journey. Some students may be familiar with this popular fantasy book; in this module, students will read with a focus on the archetypal journey and close reading of the many mythical allusions. As they begin the novel, students also will read a complex informational text that explains the archetypal storyline of the hero’s journey which has been repeated in literature throughout the centuries. Through the close reading of literary and informational texts, students will learn multiple strategies for acquiring and using academic vocabulary. Students will also build routines and expectations of discussion as they work in small groups. At the end of Unit 1, having read half of the novel, students will explain, with text-based evidence, how Percy is an archetypal hero. In Unit 2, students will continue reading The Lightning Thief (more independently): in class, they will focus on the novel’s many allusions to classic myths; those allusions will serve as an entry point into a deeper study of Greek mythology. They also will continue to build their informational reading skills through the close reading of texts about the close reading of texts about the elements of myths. This will create a conceptual framework to support students’ reading of mythology. As a whole class, students will closely read several complex Greek myths. They then will work in small groups to build expertise on one of those myths. In Unit 3, students shift their focus to narrative writing skills. This series of writing lessons will scaffold students to their final performance task in which they will apply their knowledge about the hero’s journey and the elements of mythology to create their own hero’s journey stories.
What are “rules to live by”? How do people formulate and use “rules” to improve their lives? How do people communicate these “rules” to others? In this module, students consider these questions as they read the novel Bud, Not Buddy, Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement address at Stanford University, President Barack Obama’s Back-to-School Speech, “If” by Rudyard Kipling, and informational research texts. At the start of Unit 1, students launch their study of Bud, Not Buddy, establishing a set of routines for thinking, writing, and talking about Bud’s rules to live by. They read the novel closely for its figurative language and word choice, analyzing how these affect the tone and meaning of the text. In the second half of the unit, students engage in a close reading of the Steve Jobs speech, focusing on how Jobs develops his ideas at the paragraph, sentence, and word level. Students use details from the speech to develop claims about a larger theme. During Unit 2, students continue to explore the theme of “rules to live by” in the novel as well as through close reading of the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling. Students analyze how the structure of a poem contributes to its meaning and theme. In a mid-unit assessment, students compare and contrast how Bud, Not Buddy and “If” address a similar theme. Unit 2 culminates with students writing a literary argument essay in which they establish a claim about how Bud uses his “rules”: to survive or to thrive. Students substantiate their claim using specific text-based evidence including relevant details and direct quotations from the novel. In Unit 3, students shift their focus to their own rules to live by and conduct a short research project. Students work in expert groups (research teams) to use multiple informational sources to research that topic. As a final performance task, students use their research to write an essay to inform about one important “rule to live by” supported with facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, and examples.
In this eight-week module, students explore the idea of adversity of people across time and place, and through multiple modes of writing. Students begin this module with a research-based unit on the Middle Ages. They read informational articles about various aspects of medieval life, learning and practicing the skills of summarizing an article, analyzing how ideas are developed across a text, and describing how a part of a text contributes to the whole. Students then break into expert groups to read closely about one demographic group. They practice the informational reading skills they have learned and explore the adversities faced by that group. In the second half of Unit 1, students write an informational essay based on their research as their end of unit assessment. In Unit 2, students use their background knowledge built during Unit 1, but move to reading literature: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village. This is a book of monologues told from the perspective of children living in the same village during the Middle Ages. Students have dual tasks: First, they identify the various adversities faced by this cast of characters; secondly, they examine the author’s craft, specifically by identifying and interpreting figurative language in the monologues as well as analyzing how word choices affect the tone of the text. In the second half of Unit 2, students write a literary argument to address the question “Do we struggle with the same adversities as the people of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!?” In Unit 3, students move into modern voices of adversity by reading concrete poems in the books Blue Lipstick and Technically, It’s Not My Fault. These concrete poems highlight adversities faced by the speakers of the poems, an adolescent girl and her younger brother. Students apply the same reading skills they learned in the reading of Unit 2, but this unit is discussion-based, allowing teachers to assess students’ speaking and listening skills in small group discussions about the texts. For their performance task, students choose a writing format—narrative, like the monologues of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, or concrete poem—and write their own text about adversities faced by sixth-graders. Students then perform their writing for a group of their peers.
In this module, students are involved in a study of how an author develops point of view and how an author’s perspective, based on his or her culture, is evident in his or her writing.
In this module, students study how an author develops point of view and how an author’s perspective, based on his or her geographic location, is evident in his or her writing. Students consider point of view as they learn about ocean conservation and the impact of human activities on life in the oceans. Through close reading, students will learn multiple strategies for acquiring and using academic vocabulary.
In this eight-week, research-based module, students explore the benefits and harmful consequences of the use of the controversial pesticide DDT. In Unit 1, students begin the novel Frightful’s Mountain (640L) by Jean Craighead George. Students will read closely to practice citing evidence and drawing inferences from this compelling text as they begin to think about the interactions between people and the natural world. They also will read informational texts and watch videos to gather evidence and trace arguments about the uses, benefits, and harmful consequences of DDT, its affects on the environment, and its use in the battle against malaria. At the end of this unit, students will participate in a Fishbowl discussion to begin to articulate their evidence-based opinions about the central question: “Do the benefits of DDT outweigh its harmful consequences?” In Unit 2, students will read the remainder of the novel, focusing on the how the main character, Frightful, is affected by the actions of other people and her own interactions with the natural world. Students also will engage in a research project, continuing to explore the central question of the module. Students will read several complex texts, both print and digital, in order to collect relevant information in a structured researcher’s notebook. To help them grapple with this issue, students learn a decision-making process called “Stakeholder Consequences Decision-Making” (see the end of this document for details). This process will help students understand the implications of various choices, and will scaffold their ability to determine—based on evidence and their own values—what they believe can and should happen. Unit 2 culminates with students synthesizing all their reading thus far in order to make and present their own evidence-based claim about the use of DDT. In Unit 3, students choose the most compelling evidence and write a position paper in which they support the claim they made (at the end of Unit 2). As a mid-unit assessment, students will submit their best draft of this position paper. As an end of unit assessment, students will submit a published copy, as well as a reflection on the writing process. As the final performance task, students share their findings by creating a scientific poster and presenting that poster to peers during a hosted gallery.
In this 8 eight-week module, students explore the experiences of people of Southern Sudan during and after the Second Sudanese Civil War. They build proficiency in using textual evidence to support ideas in their writing, both in shorter responses and in an extended essay. In Unit 1, students begin the novel A Long Walk to Water (720L) by Linda Sue Park. Students will read closely to practice citing evidence and drawing inferences from this compelling text as they begin to analyze and contrast the points of view of the two central characters, Salva and Nya. They also will read informational text to gather evidence on the perspectives of the Dinka and Nuer tribes of Southern Sudan. In Unit 2, students will read the remainder of the novel, focusing on the commonalities between Salva and Nya in relation to the novel’s theme: how individuals survive in challenging environments. (The main characters’ journeys are fraught with challenges imposed by the environment, including the lack of safe drinking water, threats posed by animals, and the constant scarcity of food. They are also challenged by political and social environments.). As in Unit 1, students will read this literature closely alongside complex informational texts (focusing on background on Sudan and factual accounts of the experiences of refugees from the Second Sudanese Civil War). Unit 2 culminates with a literary analysis essay about the theme of survival. Unit 3 brings students back to a deep exploration of character and point of view: students will combine their research about Sudan with specific quotes from A Long Walk to Water as they craft a two-voice poem, comparing and contrasting the points of view of the two main characters, Salva and Nya,. The two-voice poem gives students an opportunity to use both their analysis of the characters and theme in the novel and their research about the experiences of the people of Southern Sudan during the Second Sudanese Civil War.
In this module, students explore the issue of working conditions, both historical and modern day. As they read and discuss both literary and informational text, students analyze how people, settings, and events interact in a text and how an author develops a central claim. Students strengthen their ability to discuss specific passages from a text with a partner, write extended text-based argument and informational pieces, and conduct a short research project. At the end of the module, students will have a better understanding of how working conditions affect workers and the role that workers, the government, consumers, and businesses play in improving working conditions. The first unit focuses on Lyddie, a novel that tells the story of a young girl who goes to work in the Lowell mills, and explores the issue of working conditions in industrializing America. This unit builds students’ background knowledge about working conditions and how they affect workers, and centers on the standard RL.7.3, which is about how plot, character, and setting interact in literature. As an end of unit assessment, students write an argument essay about Lyddie’s choices regarding her participation in the protest over working conditions. The second unit moves to more recent history and considers the role that workers, the government, and consumers all play in improving working conditions. The central text in Unit 2 is a speech by César Chávez, in which he explains how the United Farm Workers empowered farmworkers. Unit 2 focuses on reading informational text, and students practice identifying central ideas in a text, analyzing how an author develops his claims, and identifying how the sections of the text combine to build those ideas. This unit intentionally builds on Odell Education’s work, and if teachers have already used the Chávez speech and lessons, an alternate text is suggested with which to teach the same informational text standards. In the End of Unit 2 Assessment, students apply their understanding of text structure to a new speech. Unit 3 focuses on the research standards (W.7.7 and W.7.8): through an investigation of working conditions in the modern day garment industry, students explore how businesses can affect working conditions, both positively and negatively. As a final performance task, students create a consumer’s guide to working conditions in the garment industry. This teenage consumer’s guide provides an overview of working conditions and offers advice to consumers who are interested in working conditions in the garment industry.
In this eight-week module, students explore the life of Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave and noted abolitionist who wrote Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. The module focuses on the questions of what makes stories powerful and on understanding an author’s purpose. In addition, students analyze how writers use figurative language and word choice to convey meaning.
This eight-week module focuses on a “science and society” topic, engaging students in reading compelling informational text about adolescent brain development and the effects of entertainment screen time on the brain.
In Unit 1, students first read various texts that will build their background knowledge about adolescent brain development in general. Their learning will center around three areas of the brain, namely the prefrontal cortex, the limbic system, and the developing neurons. Students determine main ideas and evidence in diverse media and clarify their learning about this complex content. Then they begin to focus on the issue of screen time and how it may affect teenagers.
This eight-week module focuses on a “science and society” topic, engaging students in reading compelling informational text about water sustainability, fresh water management, and how to make evidence-based decisions. In Unit 1, students read the article “Water Is Life” by Barbara Kingsolver as well as excerpts from The Big Thirst by Charles Fishman to build background knowledge about water sustainability and water management. Students determine main ideas and evidence in diverse media and clarify the issue of why humans need to manage water better. They also trace arguments and evaluate the soundness of reasoning and the sufficiency and relevancy of evidence in the texts and media that they engage with in this unit. In Unit 2, students participate in a robust research project in which they investigate the strategies of better agricultural and industrial water management. This research begins with students reading more excerpts from The Big Thirst to scaffold their research skills. Then students conduct internet-based research. To organize their research sources and information, students use a researcher’s notebook. Once they have finished gathering information, students analyze the impact of water management strategies.
In this module, students will develop their ability to read and understand complex text as they consider the challenges of fictional and real refugees. In the first unit, students will begin Inside Out & Back Again, by Thanhha Lai, analyzing how critical incidents reveal the dynamic nature of the main character, Ha, a 10-year-old Vietnamese girl whose family is deciding whether to flee during the fall of Saigon. The novel, poignantly told in free verse, will challenge students to consider the impact of specific word choice on tone and meaning. Students will build their ability to infer and analyze text, both in discussion and through writing. They then will read informational text to learn more about the history of war in Vietnam, and the specific historical context of Ha’s family’s struggle during the fall of Saigon. In Unit 2, students will build knowledge about refugees’ search for a place to call home. They will read informational texts that convey universal themes of refugees’
In this second module, students will continue to develop their ability to closely read text while studying the theme of taking a stand. During the first half of Unit 1, students will read two speeches reflecting examples of real people taking a stand. By reading these speeches they will build background knowledge about the module’s overarching theme, engage in a study of the speaker’s perspective, and analyze the craft of forming an argument. In the second half of Unit 1, students will read Part 1 ofTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and continue to study the theme of taking a stand as it is revealed in the novel. Students will engage in a character study of Atticus by analyzing his actions and words, and what others say about him, to better understand him as a character. This analysis will provide details and evidence for students to use in their end of Unit 2 argument essay. In addition to reading and studying the text, students will view excerpts of the To Kill a Mockingbird film that strongly convey the novel’s themes, and they will analyze how the film remains true to the original text as well as how it veers from the original.
In this second module, students read and analyze Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As with any of Shakespeare’s play, many rich themes are present; in this module, students will focus primarily on the theme of control. Characters in this play are controlled by emotions, other characters, and even magic. They often attempt to manipulate others in a variety of ways. Students will examine why the characters seek control, how they try to control others, and the results of attempting to control others. In Unit 1, students will build background knowledge as they explore the appeal and authorship of Shakespeare. Students will read much of the play aloud in a Drama Circle, and will frequently reread key passages to deepen their understanding. Students will analyze differences between a film version of the play and Shakespeare’s original script.
In this module, students will study the U.S. civil rights movement, focusing particularly on The Little Rock Nine. They will consider the question “How can stories be powerful?” as they learn about segregation, the civil rights movement, The Little Rock Nine, and the role of the various mediums in shaping perceptions of events. As students read A Mighty Long Way by Carlotta Walls LaNier and a photo essay titled Little Rock Girl 1957 by Shelley Tougas, they will consider the different ways in which the story of The Little Rock Nine has been told.
In this module, students analyze arguments and the evidence used to support arguments to determine whether sufficient evidence has been used and whether the evidence is relevant in support of the claim an author or speaker is making. They then research to gather evidence to make their own spoken and written arguments. Students will read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma (930L), a literary non-fiction text about where food comes from and about making decisions about what food to buy and eat. They build background knowledge about what happens to food before it gets to the consumer, and the different choices the consumer can make when buying food while analyzing Michael Pollan’s arguments and the evidence he uses to support his claims. In Unit 2, students engage in a robust research project in which they further investigate the consequences of each of the food chains and the stakeholders affected in those food chains. To help students grapple with this issue, they use a decision-making process called “Stakeholder Consequences Decision-Making” (see the end of this document for details). This process will help students understand the implications of various choices, and will scaffold their ability to determine, based on evidence and their own values, to take a position on which food chain they would choose if they were trying to feed everyone in the US. Students finish the module by writing a position paper explaining which of Michael Pollan’s food chain they would choose to feed the US and why, and creating a poster stating their position. This task addresses NYSP12 ELA Standards RI.8.1,W.8.1, W.8.1a, W.8.1b, W.8.1c, W.8.1d, W.8.1e and W.8.9.