Secondary (6-12) ELA Units

Working with Informational Texts

Working Across Two Informational Texts (2-3 weeks)

How the Brain RemembersPurchasable Online

Grade Level
6

This two-text unit explores how humans form memories. The first text, an article from TIME magazine, explains the methods actors use to remember their lines. The second article explores how the brain builds short-term and long-term memories. Through reading, writing, and talking about these articles, students learn to use multiple methods for making sense of difficult texts including annotating ideas, using authors’ syntactic cues to determine and track ideas, and writing to unpack and explain the texts' ideas. Approximately 15-17 days of instruction.

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The Creative BrainPurchasable Online

Grade Level
7

In this unit, students read two articles that explore the nature and importance of creativity. The authors of both articles communicate their findings to broad audiences by drawing on research and interviews with experts in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry. Through the study of these two articles, students build their knowledge about creativity and examine the ways that writers incorporate the voices and ideas of others into their own writing. Approximately 10-13 days of instruction.

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The Art of Failure Purchasable Online

Grade Level
8

In this unit, students read two texts that explore why experts and novices fail. Writer Sean Gregory uses the specific case of Olympian Lolo Jones and her failure to place during the 2008 summer Olympics to explore the concept of choking. Malcolm Gladwell uses cases from various fields to discuss the differences between choking and panicking. Both authors draw on narratives and research findings to ground their discussions. Through their work with the two texts, students explore the use of narratives and research to develop an understanding of methods authors use to convey complex information to lay audiences. Additionally, they work on building stamina and using methods that proficient readers use when working to understand long, complex texts. Approximately 15-17 days of instruction.

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The Pursuit of (Un)Happiness Purchasable Online

Grade Level
9

In this unit, students explore the concept of happiness and the role of the pursuit in finding, or thwarting, our own happiness. The first text, an article by Adam Grant from Psychology Today, uses a narrative case to illustrate four common mistakes in the quest for happiness. The second text, by psychologist Andrew Guest, incorporates personal and professional experience along with research in the field to explore the relationships among happiness, meaningfulness, pleasure, and quality of life. Students study these texts for what they reveal about happiness and its pursuit. They also study them for the ways the writers work with and incorporate evidence and explanation into their texts. The unit concludes with a task that asks students to write an essay in which they imagine how Grant and Guest would respond to a quotation about happiness by Viktor Frankl. Approximately 15-17 days of instruction.

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Developing and Maintaining Expertise Purchasable Online

Grade Level
10

In this unit, students read two texts that explore the relationships and tensions among practice, learning, expertise, and efficiency. Both authors—Atul Gawande and Nicholas Carr—present narrative cases and research from high stakes professions in which there exist practical and ethical tensions related to developing and maintaining expertise. Students extend their understanding of how to navigate long and complex texts and practice working from moments within and across texts to develop interpretations, draw conclusions, and make generalizations. Approximately 13-15 days of instruction.

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Are We Fooling Ourselves? Purchasable Online

Grade Level
11

In this unit, students explore the concept of rationality and the ways in which our cognitive functioning can impair our ability to reason. The first text, an excerpt from Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman's book Thinking, Fast and Slow, explores the two thinking systems used by our brains and delves into one cognitive fallacy: the illusion of validity. The second text, a blog post by David McRaney, examines one kind of cognitive bias: the backfire effect. Students study these texts for what they reveal about human's capacity to be rational beings, and for the ways these writers work with language and structure to create their texts for their audiences. Students also explore additional biases and fallacies through independent research. The concluding unit task asks students to conduct their own "sidewalk neuroscience" to collect observations about their own or other’s reasoning to confirm, challenge, or extend what Kahneman and McRaney offer about rationality. Approximately 12-15 days of instruction.

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Working Across Multiple Informational Texts (3-6 weeks)

Points of View on Sleep

Grade Level
6

The work in this unit asks students to study four informational texts to comprehend and analyze points of view and arguments about sleep. The unit texts present varying points of view about sleep and the amount of sleep a teenager should get. Students learn how to analyze professional writers' arguments, including how to determine what makes an argument effective. Students use that knowledge to write their own argument about which unit text they think presents the most clear, coherent, and supported argument. This unit uses texts from Newsweek, The New York Times, Sacramento Bee, and PBS Frontline. Approximately 20-30 days of instruction.

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Modern Issues About Food Purchasable Online

Grade Level
7

In this unit, students explore contemporary issues regarding the food industry and what we should eat. Students read and study texts by Michael Pollan, Bryan Walsh, and John Cloud. Through their work with these texts, students extend their understanding of how to comprehend and analyze arguments, specifically focusing on how writers make claims and support those claims with relevant, credible, and sufficient evidence. Students study what makes the arguments compelling. Additionally, students consider how each author would respond to the other authors’ claims. The unit culminates in a task in which students explain the significant ideas these authors contribute to the debate about what we should eat. Approximately 20-30 days of instruction.

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Forensic Anthropology and the Science of Solving Crimes Purchasable Online

Grade Level
8

In this unit, students learn about the field of forensic anthropology and develop their understanding of methods for reading complex informational texts. Through their readings, writings, and discussions of the four units texts, students learn to discern central ideas from supporting ones. They also learn how to analyze the methods writers use to teach readers about unfamiliar topics and domains. This unit has several embedded assessments that ask students to use evidence from the unit texts to explain ideas related to the science of solving crimes. Approximately 20-25 days of instruction.

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Learning from Play Purchasable Online

Grade Level
8

This unit is designed for students to explore the relationship between video games and learning, as well as to extend their understanding of methods for comprehending, interpreting, analyzing, and synthesizing the ideas from complex texts. Students read several texts by gaming experts, including an excerpt from a research article by leading researchers in the field. Students work with each text and across texts to explore what and how people learn from playing video games. The unit’s culminating task asks students to write an essay that explains the relationship between games and learning by synthesizing the information and evidence from the unit texts. Approximately 20-30 days of instruction.

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Speeches for Racial Equality FREE Download

Grade Level
9-10

Seminal U.S. speeches about racial equality across time are the foundation of this unit. Students read speeches by Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King, Jr., William Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Students study the authors’ arguments and the methods the authors use to build and support their arguments. The unit’s culminating tasks asks students to write an argument to support their claim about which speaker makes the strongest and most compelling argument to promote racial equality. Approximately 20-30 days of instruction.

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The Abolition of Slavery Purchasable Online

Grade Level
11–12

In this unit, students study texts by Abraham Lincoln, John C. Calhoun, and Frederick Douglass, which offer three different perspectives about the abolition of slavery in the United States. Through reading, writing about, and discussing the unit texts, students extend their understanding of the issues surrounding the abolition of slavery and study how an author’s methods and use of rhetoric contribute to revealing his purpose. Students engage in a significant amount of informal and formal writing to share and present their analyses of the texts. Approximately 20-25 days of instruction.

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Working with Literary Texts

Working Across Two Literary Texts (2-3 weeks)

Creepy Tales Purchasable Online

Grade Level
6

In this unit, students are introduced to the genre of creepy tales. Students read and study two creepy tales before being asked to compose their own creepy tale. The first text is by well-known young adult author Richard Peck and centers on a mysterious babysitter, a teenage girl and her brothers, and the events of their one evening together. The second text by Neal Shusterman tells a tale about a young girl who may or may not be the cause of her twin siblings' disappearance into another world. Through the study of these two texts, students build their knowledge about the elements these authors include to make their stories creepy before being supported to use their understanding of these elements to craft their own creepy tales. Approximately 10-14 days of instruction.

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Exploring Relationships Purchasble Online

Grade Level
7

In this unit, students read two texts that deal with themes about relationships, gender roles, and family. The first text, an excerpt from bell hooks's memoir, Bone Black, centers on a sister and her relationship with her brother. The second text by bestselling young adult author Cassandra Clare introduces readers to steampunk, a sub-genre of science fiction, and centers on a teenage girl, her robot companions, and a soldier she finds in the rosebushes. Students analyze how the two authors write about relationships, and they learn to develop literary interpretations to texts. Approximately 10-14 days of instruction.

Seeing and Being Seen Purchasable Online

Grade Level
8

In this unit, students read two texts that deal with themes about identity and fitting in, following narrators who are trying to come to terms with who they are and how they are seen by their peers and the adults around them. Young adult author John Green introduces readers to Lauren, a high school junior who, along with her best friend Kayley, has been selected THE geek of the school. Tomás Rivera details the experiences of the child of migrant workers as he deals with assumptions made about him and the uncertainty of whether or not he's been expelled from school. Through their work with the two texts, students explore the use of point of view and the elements of both Green's and Rivera's style to analyze both texts and develop literary interpretations. Approximately 10-14 days of instruction.

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Working Across Multiple Literary Texts (3-6 weeks)

Analysis of Theme: Identity Purchasable Online

Grade Level
6

In this unit, students develop their understanding about identity and theme by reading, writing about, and discussing several short stories and poems by well known authors including Sandra Cisneros, e. e. cummings, and Langston Hughes. Through their study, students learn to determine themes, analyze how they are developed over the course of a text, and compare and contrast texts in terms of their approaches to similar themes. Approximately 25-30 days of instruction.

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Analysis of Theme: Degrees of Happiness Purchasable Online

Grade Level
7

This unit supports students to extend their understanding of theme by focusing on how plot, character, and structure work together to develop themes. A key part of work for students includes studying the methods authors use to develop characters’ perspectives about the complexities of happiness. Students read, write about, and discuss short stories and poems by Gary Soto, Annie Dillard, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Amy Tan. The unit culminates in a performance task in which student write across texts by Julia Alvarez and Maurice Kilwein Guevara. Approximately 25-30 days of instruction.

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Analysis of Theme Purchasable Online

Grade Level
9

This unit asks students to work with character and theme in deeper and more nuanced ways than they have done in middle school. Students read and analyze texts by Alice Walker, Tim O’Brien, and Gabriel García Márquez. Students’ work focuses on analyzing how the characters develop, interact with other characters, and advance the texts’ themes. This unit culminates in an independent performance task in which students analyze the development of a theme in a short story by Kate Chopin that they read independently. Approximately 15-20 days of instruction.

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Character, Theme, and Structure in To Kill a Mockingbird FREE Download

Grade Level
9–10

Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird is the text for study in this unit. Through their work with this novel, students explore the relationships between character and theme. Students study how characters' words and actions contribute to the development of the novel’s themes, and they also consider what the structure of the novel reveals about Lee’s purposes for writing. Students are supported to read the novel independently before beginning the work of the unit. Approximately 10 (novel is read independently prior to start of unit) days of instruction.

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You've Got to Be Kidding: Understanding Satire Purchasable Online

Grade Level
10

In this unit, students expand their understanding of satire as a source of humor and social criticism. Students read multiple examples of satire to study and analyze the characteristics and varieties of satire as well as the intended and unintended effects of satire. Three satires are read closely as part of the unit’s classwork. Students engage in “field work” to collect additional examples for independent study in small fieldwork teams. The unit’s culminating task has two parts: in part one, students work with their teams to present the results of their field work; in part two, students work individually to compose an essay in which they analyze a new piece of satire for its effectiveness. Approximately 10-15 days of instruction.

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Working Across Informational & Literary Texts

Narrating Women's Lives Purchasable Online

Grade Level
11–12

In this unit, students read narrative texts by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Natasha Trethewey, Margaret Fuller, and Alice Walker. Students analyze these texts for the ideas they reveal about women's lives and to extend their understanding of the characteristics, affordances, and limitations of the different genres of short fiction, poetry, and essay. This unit culminates in a performance task in which students are asked to imagine three of the authors reading each other’s texts and to write an analysis of how those writers would respond to one another with regard to the ideas, meaning, diction, structure, and figurative language. Approximately 25-30 days of instruction.

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