Great Books & Great Questions
Standards Aligned Reading Units  
Grades K-8 
   
   Most of these units have been developed through a partnership with Great Minds. A Washington, D.C. based non-profit. Our teachers have been working on these units for the past two years, and we will have four or five units in place at each grade level by the end of the 2016-17 school year. They incorporate a great variety of fiction and non-fiction texts that have been carefully chosen to ensure that our students are challenged and exposed to a wide range of rich reading material. These units are a part of our balanced literacy approach which includes the teaching of foundational reading skills, and writing. You can read more about these two areas through links to the right. 

 
Kindergarten
 
A Colorful Time With Rhythm and Rhyme 
In this first six-week unit of kindergarten, students are introduced to colorful picture books, traditional poetry, and nursery rhymes filled with rhythm and rhyme.
 
Tell A Story, 1-2-3 
This unit will introduce students to the idea that texts generally follow a predictable pattern and contain predictable elements.  This understanding will underpin the next step; retelling.  Throughout the module, students will also focus on the role of author and illustrator; not only their most obvious roles, but also their goal of including strong details and story elements that make the reader want to keep reading. 
 
America, Then and Now 
New in 2016-2017!
 
The Continents 
New in 2016-2017!
 

 
1st Grade
 
The Joy of Reading 
 In this unit, students will learn that reading can be a joyful activity that can help people everywhere acquire knowledge.  Reading books can change the way we think and feel. 
 
Unique Creatures
Throughout this unit, students will read about the diverse characteristics, or features, of all kinds of creatures.  Students will locate the main idea and details in informational text and the central message in fiction. 
 
The Power Of Wind And Emotions 
This unit focuses on the impact wind has on our world and emotions.  Students will read nonfiction text about all types of storms and the impact they have.  They will also learn to describe emotions in characters and interpret fictional stories.
 
Lessons From Leaders 
Students will compare and contrast narratives and biographies about some of our nation's most notable leaders and how they learn how they overcame obstacles in their lives.  They will also read to discover lessons from fictional stories and folktales. 

 
2nd Grade
 
A Season For Change
In the first six-week unit of second grade, students focus on the beauty of language - in chapter books, informational tests, and poetry - all related to the four seasons.
 
The Wild West
In this second six-week unit of second grade, students read literature set in the "Wild West": chapter books, informational texts, songs, tall tales, and fairy tales.
 
Building Bridges With Unlikely Friends 
New in 2016-2017!
Students read informational texts on building bridges and view these amazing structures on the Internet.  Through realistic fiction, they examine the possibility of friendship in conflict-filled settings.
 
A Long Journey To Freedom
 In this fourth six-week unit of second grade, students read informational text and fictionalized accounts of the African-American journey to freedom.
 
Folktales From Around The World 
New in 2016-2017!
 Building on previous units, students write opinions and narratives related to the folktale/world theme of this unit.  Students discuss text features as a part of reading informational text.  
 
The Human Body 
New in 2016-2017!

 
3rd Grade
 
 Stories Worth Telling Again And Again
In this unit, students explore the universality of story, and thoughtfully consider why we tell some stories over and over again.  Within the module, students have multiple opportunities to analyze art, poetry, literature, biographies, and trickster tales.  These works explore why some stories are worth telling and retelling. The art works and texts in this module can be examined through three lenses:  Stories about families and/or shared experiences, stories of perseverance that inspire, and trickster tales from oral storytelling traditions.
 
Inspired By The Sea
Students explore how the ocean has inspired powerful emotions of love, fear, and awe in people across different places and times.   Instead of simply stating a topic and listing details, authors use the people in text to implicitly communicate a central idea.  Students discover how authors of informational text use carefully chosen words and information about real people to bring the reader into the main idea of the text.  Then, students analyze how the authors of stories use characters' feelings, traits, motivations, and actions to help readers experience the story's central message.  
 
The People, The Preamble, And The Presidents 
New in 2016-2017! 
Students learn about the struggles and challenges presidents and leaders have experienced throughout history.  In addition, they learn about the stuggles of immigrants as they search for a better life in America. 
 
 
 Space Exploration
 Coming in 2017-2018!

 
4th Grade
 
Tales Of The Heart
 This unit explores the heart through different lenses.  The students begin this unit learning about theme, and read “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” that intertwines many themes of family and friendship.  Love That Dog by Sharon Creech is written as a series of free-verse poems from the main character’s point of view.  Classic poetry that is referenced throughout the story is included in the back of the novel and is also read and analyzed in this module. Last, students will read a short story, “Slower Than the Rest,” from the book Every Living Thing by Cynthia Rylant. This is a beautiful story that illustrates what it means to have great heart, as seen through the thoughts and actions of a little boy who loves his pet turtle.
 
Extreme Settings 

In this unit,  students will learn about the challenges presented by extreme environments. Students will read Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, which details the struggles of Brian Robeson, a young boy who is trying to survive on his own in the Canadian wilderness as the sole survivor of a plane crash. Along with the reading of Hatchet, students will delve into the study of informational texts, short stories, poems, and artwork. While reading the texts, students will examine the characteristics of a setting and analyze what makes certain characteristics challenging for survival. Students will also analyze the effect a setting has on plot and character development. Students will surmise the personality traits necessary for a character to survive in a challenging setting.

 
American Revolution  

In this unit students learn about the events leading up to and during the American Revolution through poetry, nonfiction text and famous paintings. While exploring these events students will learn how to analyze points of view as well as pull important facts from the text with the purpose of comparing and contrasting. The unit will conclude with a historical fiction text which allows the students to discover how an author develops personal traits in a character, compare first-person and second person accounts, and write opinion pieces supporting a point of view with reasons and textual information.

 
 Greek Mythology
 New in 2016-2017!


 

5th Grade
 
Playing with Words
 As students transition from elementary to middle school, they will be called upon to read richer and more challenging works of literature. This module, the first for fifth grade, will provide them with skills that will help them understand such works. Students will study poems, classic comedy routines, and prose works in which authors use words in creative and playful ways. They will learn about homophones and homographs, personification, parts of speech, figures of speech and figurative language, idioms and adages, neologisms and nonsense words, similes, and onomatopoeia. They will puzzle out nonsense poetry like Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” and join Milo and Tock, the heroes of The Phantom Tollbooth, as they travel to Dictionopolis and the Word Marketplace and go on a quest to rescue the princesses, Rhyme and Reason. 
 
Renaissance Thinking 
“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts,” —Jacques, As You Like It
 The historical fiction novel for this module, The Shakespeare Stealer, takes a quotation from As You Like It and asks, “If all the world’s a stage, how do we prepare to play our parts?” 
 
Leveling The Playing Field 
Sport has the power to change the world…It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers. —Nelson Mandela, first Laureus World Sports Awards
 This module explores the power that sports and individual athletes have to “change the world,” as Nelson Mandela famously said, to help tear down social barriers, and to strengthen individuals and communities. It challenges students to think about the capacity of individual athletes and teams to break social barriers and teachers them to mine the texts for evidence that supports these ideas. 
 
America In Conflict 
 What does war promise for different individuals? How does war actually deliver on those promises? How can war simultaneously promise glory and redemption for some, but deliver death and desolation for others? Students examine these questions in Module 4 through the eyes of young soldiers who experienced the Civil War and the perspective of a young woman who nearly loses her twin brother to the war. The central text, Richard Peck’s historical novel The River Between Us, tells the story of the Pruitt family whose lives are irrevocably changed by the events of war. Through the eyes of Tilly Pruitt and frst-hand accounts of boy soldiers documented in Jim Murphy’s book, The Boys’ War, students learn about this transformative period of American history.

 
6th Grade
 
Growing Up 
 With its focus on growing up, this module encourages Grade 6 students to think rigorously and philosophically about a process they are experiencing in their won lives.  It requires the development of self-knowledge: the cultivation of an ability to reflect upon and respond effectively to a new, and often difficult, circumstances.  As students prepare to become mature individuals, this study supports their own development as insightful individuals and ethical members of society who are empathetic to the experiences of others.
 
Finding Home  
In order to emphasize the complexity of immigration to America, the module examines it as an experience of hope and opportunity as well as one of alienation and discrimination. Students learn the ways immigrant children hold onto and let go of their previous identities as they adapt to American society. Ultimately, students will explore how immigrants find a sense of belonging in a new country.
 
Solving Mysteries 
New in 2016-2017!
 The purpose of this module is to push students to see stories as forever in-progress. With Elisa Carbone’s historical fiction Blood on the River, students journey to Jamestown in 1607 and see life through Samuel Collier’s eyes. Collier is an orphan who is angry with the world. On his ocean-crossing to the New World and later in his life as a colonist, Samuel experiences how differences in culture and class result in conflictual ways of seeing the world. His transformation from an insecure boy into a confident young teenager results from Samuel allowing the New World and its people to reshape his perspective about the unknown and unfamiliar.
 
The Hero's Journey
 In Module 4 students read a contemporary retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey. This ancient epic offers more than a time-tested thrill—it affords students access to contemporary cultural vocabulary. Archetypes are necessarily timeless, and the cycle and pattern of the hero’s journey, though it is all presented as the stuff of old, imagined myth, offers students a relevant and deeply human model of transformation in the midst of struggle.
 
Follow The Leader
 During Module 5 students read the riveting nonfiction text, Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance. Shipwrecked in the uninhabitable Antarctic, Sir Ernest Shackleton acts as a remarkable leader, confronting a relentlessly hostile environment that threatens his crew’s physical, mental, and emotional survival. Shackleton’s against-all-odds story affords students an entrance into research about leadership. After investigating aspects of Shackleton’s life, students research other inspirational people who developed into leaders in response to personal peril and/or daunting challenges.

 
7th Grade
 
Perseverance

Throughout history and in societies around the world, perseverance has often been the key to a person’s achieving his or her goals and making a positive contribution to the future.   Perseverance can take many forms.  For characters in A Long Walk to Water, it was required simply to survive.  To Malala, who experienced personal risk, it was required to achieve an equal opportunity in education.  Ultimately, in both works, individuals choose to persevere in ways that benefited themselves and countless unknown persons in generations to come.


Developing Different Perspectives
 Students consider how individual perspectives are shaped by knowledge and memory. Through the study of dystopian literature and related texts, students will explore common themes, characters, and contrasting points of view. Students will also compare various texts to evaluate whether perfection is worth a sacrifice.
 
The Middle Ages  
 Students are introduced to captivating stories of lords and ladies, millers and pardoners, peasants, poachers, pilgrims, courtly love, castle life, and the plague. As they explore the daily lives of a wide range of medieval Europeans, students focus on identity and character, and the impact of society on both. They will be immersed in the Middle Ages, the period from about 500 to AD 1500, in which other parts of the world flourished, while Europe remained in a dark age, with its population largely uneducated and illiterate. Their study of spirited characters and faraway scenes will include an examination of how authors create vivid characters and how we create effective stories.
 

 
8th Grade
7th Grade Accelerated
 
Knowledge and Human Desire For Improvement 
Students consider the nature of knowledge and the human desire to seek improvement. Through the various texts, students explore what we learn about ourselves through our interactions with and treatment of others. Even more, students compare various perspectives on this topic to form their own conclusion.
 
Conflict, Choice & Consequences
 Students explore how conflicts. choices and consequences shape an individual, and how the choices one makes now can influence their future self.
 
Hope, Despair, & Memory
 This unit teaches students about the importance of hope and remembrance during times of tragedy. Students explore the different ways characters and historical figures have embraced humanity and created civility as a response to injustice.
 
Perception Vs. Reality 
 Students explore the role of narrator and point of view in a text. Students will understand how the narrative voice of a text can blur the line between fact and fiction and how a “story truth” is often different from but relates to “happening truth.” Students will also investigate the motives and bias present in various media.
 
 Chicago:  A Great American City
 Students explore how authors, artists, and citizens create the myth of a great American city such as Chicago. This module explores the spirit of Chicago—its personality as informed by the writers, artists, and everyday citizens who left testaments to their city’s greatness and its sorrows—as well as myths about the city through the lens of both literature and history.
 
  
8th Grade Accelerated
 
The Influence of Literature 
 Students explore the power of written language to educate and influence others. They read various argumentative essays and engage in virtual collaboration to develop their own arguments. Students will come to understand the importance of reading writing, books, and stories.
 
 How Laughter Works 

Student s will understand that specific structures and literary elements create humorous effects in a variety of print and nonprint sources. Students explore the development of humor to determine a text’s deeper meaning and purpose, and apply these understandings and tools in their own writing.

 
Hope, Despair & Memory  

This unit teaches students about the importance of hope and remembrance during times of tragedy. Students explore the different ways characters and historical figures have embraced humanity and created civility as a response to injustice. Through the analysis of diction, tone, rhetoric, and the author’s purpose, students will evaluate how effectively the literary and informational text of the unit deliver their message.

 
 Society Shapes and Influences People
 Students will engage in a variety of activities that will explore how society influences and shapes the people within it. Students will explore their personal perspectives, initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions on topics, texts, and issues. Students will make connections to Social Sciences and Economics, the Great Depression, History, and the Civil Rights Era in regards to the social norms (acceptance of Jim Crow laws) and customs of the day.
 
 
Conflict, Choice, & Consequences
 Students explore how patterns and contrasts in language (diction, imagery, figurative language) reveal central ideas in texts and develop various motifs (light vs. dark, dreams vs. reality, high vs. low etc.) in Romeo and Juliet. They come to understand how those motifs emphasize internal and  external conflicts that result from love, hate, loyalty, and friendship. Students examine the extent to which characters’ reactions to conflict and opposition dictate the outcomes of a situation and learn about the science and psychology behind the way teenagers think about choice, conflict, and consequences.
Reading Level Expectations
 
 

 
Writing Curriculum
 
 

 
 
 
Foundation Skills (K - 3)
 
 

 
Language Skills (K-8)
 
 

 
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