Flex Curriculum: 2020-21 Considerations for Cultural Responsiveness | EL Education Curriculum

Flex Curriculum: 2020-21 Considerations for Cultural Responsiveness

EL Education thoughtfully reviews topics and texts when developing our curriculum. We choose texts based on their level of complexity, alignment to the standards, and, most importantly, the depth of student engagement. 

For the 2020-21 school year, we have designed the EL Education Flex Curriculum to accommodate remote and hybrid learning environments. The list below outlines topics in the EL Education Language Arts curriculum that may need to be adapted to support learning in a remote environment. Consider ways to engage students in meaningful conversations while not in person in classrooms.

For more information about our recommendations for the 2020-21 school year or to access materials, please view our guidance

Sections on this page:

Due to COVID-19 closures and reopening plans, it is possible you will not be able to do this work in person, or students may need to be in their classroom space differently than before. The EL Education Flex Curriculum resources continue to include all of the elements that are crucial to building community to support this process in the fully remote or hybrid learning environments. To support creating a classroom community, the curriculum includes protocols, conversation cues, structured discussion aligned with the Speaking and Listening Standards, and explicit integration of habits of character including collaboration, respect, empathy, and compassion.

Creating Intentional Community

 If you are in person, ensure you are following all health guidelines for your area (concerning cleaning and using materials between students). Also, consider allowing activities to be done at a greater physical distance than you may be used to. Finally, monitor students and check-in consistently for their own physical comfort, as they may need to take a period of adjustment after hearing health guidelines promoting physical distance. Pay attention to patterns of participation among students. The EL Education Flex Curriculum materials include a variety of ways to engage students. 

In addition to the above, please consider the following for each module:

Grade and Module

Considerations

Grade K: Module 1 - Toys and Play

While students are at home, be sure to allow flexibility in how they share their personal lives, as students may experience a variety of household circumstances. For instance, instead of focusing on physical toys and what is being played with, encourage students to share how they play at home. Monitor student responses to one another and remind them of the habits of character as they are introduced, to support the building of trust virtually.

Grade 1: Module 1 - Tools and Work

While students are at home, be sure to allow flexibility in how they share their personal lives, as students may experience a variety of household circumstances. For instance, instead of focusing on specific tools, encourage students to consider how work is done and how to fix things, focusing on the process. Monitor student responses to one another and remind them of the habits of character as they are introduced, to support the building of trust virtually.

Grade 2: Module 1 - Schools and Community

Focus your efforts on building norms around school and community in your new setting. Then, when your class returns to a physical location, revisit these materials to create new norms and understandings based on your new location. Monitor student responses to one another and remind them of the habits of character as they are introduced, to support the building of trust virtually.

International Cultures and Circumstances

Grade and Module

Considerations

Grade 3: Module 1 - Overcoming Learning Challenges Near and Far (Second Edition)

In this module, students read multiple literary and informational texts to deeply research and grow to understand the challenges and solutions other countries and cultures have in accessing texts and other learning materials. The intention of the module is not to show a single narrative about a country, geographic region, or ethnicity. Rather, the goal is to present real challenges that real people have had to overcome to further their learning, and also to help students recognize that people live in different ways in different places - there is not only one way to do things. The goal is for students to be inspired by the success of people and cultures and apply that inspiration to their own life and work overcoming self-identified learning challenges.

Invite students to consider how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed access to education and books for them, and how it may have introduced learning challenges that were not present in the classroom. Consider with students how technology may support them in overcoming challenges, for example, text-to-speech and speech-to-text tools.

Grade 3: Module 4 - Water Around the World (Second Edition)

In this module, students deeply research and grow to understand the challenges and solutions other countries and cultures have in accessing freshwater. Throughout the module, students read One Well: The Story of Water on Earth by Rochelle Strauss. The intention of the module is not to show a single narrative about a country, geographic region, or ethnicity. Rather, the goal is for students to build their understanding of the importance of water for life, and also to help them recognize that people live in different ways in different places - there isn't only one way to do things.

As this text deals with freshwater, consider your local circumstances or that students may have family members impacted by various fresh-water concerns in US cities, particularly in communities of color. Monitor student understanding and be sure to discuss your own local water context in case students are concerned. Invite students to consider how the COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted their access to critical resources.

Grade 6: Module 2 - Critical Problems and Design Solutions (Second Edition)

In this module, students deeply research and grow to understand the importance of design thinking in order to solve critical problems in a creative way. The anchor text The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a memoir written by William Kamkwamba and focuses on his design solution of using salvaged materials to power a water pump in the African nation of Malawi. The intention of the module is not to show a single narrative about a country, geographic region, or ethnicity. Rather, the goal is to present real critical problems that have inspired people to think creatively and to highlight the importance of the design process in solving those problems, including learning from setbacks and failures. Invite students to consider critical problems in their local communities that design thinking could solve.


We recommend omitting Grade 6: Module 2. For the 2020-21 school year, to ensure students can be fully supported by the teacher in the way the module was intended, EL Education recommends implementing three of the four modules. For more information, please view our rationale here.

 

Grade 7: Module 1 - The Lost Children of Sudan (Second Edition)

 Grade 7: Module 1 - Journeys and Survival (First Edition)

 

In these modules, students examine the Second Sudanese Civil War, a historical situation in South Sudan. The anchor text A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park tells the true story of Salva Dut, who collaborated with the author to write the book.

The intention of the module is not to show a single narrative about a country, geographic region, or ethnicity. Rather, the goal is to highlight an important world event that is connected and relevant to people and communities here in the U.S. where many of the 'Lost Children of Sudan' were sent after being displaced by the war.

Grade 8: Module 1 - Finding Home: Refugees (First Edition)

In this module, students examine a historical situation in Vietnam and the United States to understand the challenges that people from other cultures and countries experienced as they sought asylum as refugees. The anchor text Inside out and Back Again tells the autobiographical story of Thannha Lai. The intention of the module is not to show a single narrative about a country, geographic region, or ethnicity. Rather, the goal is to highlight an important world event that is connected and relevant to people and communities here in the U.S. where many refugees from Vietnam sought asylum. 

During her journey, Ha experiences explicit bullying, racial profiling, and racially disparaging language and actions. Students may connect with these issues personally and deeply. Consider proactively addressing current events including racism and xenophobia against Asian Americans and other immigrant groups. Monitor students and determine if there are issues surfacing that need to be discussed in more detail.

Racism

Due to the breadth of topics and themes in our texts, we have created subcategories to effectively communicate all of the considerations when implementing our curriculum.

Use the section links below to jump to the coordinating table or continue scrolling on the page:

Racism, Xenophobia, and Internment

Grade and Module

Considerations

Grade 3: Module 3 - Exploring Literary Classics: Peter Pan (Second Edition)

In this module, students read the literary classic Peter Pan by James Matthew Barrie and analyze it through the lens of the historical time period in which it was written in 1904. This includes analysis of racial and gender stereotypes, particularly stereotypes of women and Native peoples, with the goal of encouraging students to critique familiar and popular stories rather than not recognizing or ignoring the injustices presented. The module requires students to critique the text in a book review, and also to rewrite a scene from the text to "right the wrongs." Students may connect with these issues personally and deeply. Monitor students and determine if there are issues surfacing that need to be discussed in more detail. Consider providing background information and discussion on racial prejudice, women's rights, and stereotyping. Invite students to consider how the issues they identify in Peter Pan are still evident today. 


We recommend omitting Grade 3: Module 3. For the 2020-21 school year, to ensure students can be fully supported by the teacher in the way the module was intended, EL Education recommends implementing three of the four modules. For more information, please view our rationale here.

Grade 5: Module 1 - Stories of Human Rights (Second Edition)

During this module, students read the text Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan. The goal of the module is to introduce students to human rights through the threats that Esperanza experiences in connection with related articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Students may connect deeply and personally with the topics of racial prejudice and segregation presented in the book, for example when Esperanza learns that her family must drive to a grocery store further away because the closest one discriminates against Mexicans. Consider proactively addressing related current events including racism and xenophobia against Central and South American immigrants, African Americans, and Asian Americans. Monitor students and determine if there are issues surfacing that need to be discussed in more detail.

Grade 5: Module 3 - Athlete Leaders of Social Change (Second Edition)

In this module, students read Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America, written by his daughter Sharon Robinson. The goal of this module is to introduce students to factors that contribute to an individual's success in changing society through athletes who have broken barriers. Students may connect deeply and personally with the topics of racial prejudice and segregation presented in the book, for example, the racist abuse Jackie Robinson faced from the crowd and from players as he played baseball. Consider proactively addressing related current events, including racism and xenophobia against African Americans and Asian Americans. Monitor students and determine if there are issues surfacing that need to be discussed in more detail.

Grade 6: Module 3 - American Indian Boarding Schools (Second Edition)

In this module, students read the book Two Roads: A Creek Boy in Search of His Place in the World by Joseph Bruchac, a story that details the experience of an American Indian boy attending a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school. The goal of this module is to introduce students to a story that is seldom told but has had a significant impact on people and communities in the U.S. Be aware that this story includes descriptions of violence, abuse, and anti-indigenous racism that may affect students. Consider providing background information and discussion on these boarding schools and, more broadly, the relationship between white settlers/the United States government and the many American Indian Tribes and Nations that inhabited North America. Monitor students and determine whether there are any issues surfacing that need to be discussed in more detail. Consider discussing how these issues connect to the local context.

Grade 6: Module 4 - Remarkable Accomplishments in Space Science (Second Edition)

In this module, students read the autobiographical text Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. The goal of this module is to introduce students to the injustices of the space race and to encourage them to lift up the voices of other people who have made significant contributions but may not have been celebrated for it. Be aware students may connect deeply and personally with the topics of racial segregation, racism, and racial prejudice presented in the book. For example, the segregation of the women from their white counterparts because of Virginia's Jim Crow laws. Consider proactively addressing related current events, including racism and xenophobia against African Americans and Asian Americans. Monitor students and determine if there are issues surfacing that need to be discussed in more detail. Consider providing background information and discussion on racial segregation, racial prejudice, and civil rights.

Grade 6: Module 2A - Rules to Live By (First Edition)

In this module, students read Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. The goal of this module is to invite students to consider how people formulate rules to live by and how they use these rules to improve their lives. The main character, Bud, encounters racism throughout his journey. Students may connect with these issues personally and deeply with the topics of racial prejudice and segregation presented in the book. Consider proactively addressing related current events including racism and xenophobia against African Americans and Asian Americans. Monitor students and determine if there are issues surfacing that need to be discussed in more detail.

Grade 6: Module 3A - The Land of the Golden Mountain (First Edition)

In this module, students read Dragonwings, written by Laurence Yep. The goal of this module is literary focused and is to help students understand how an author develops a point of view, and how an author's perspective is evident in writing. At the same time, students are building knowledge about a specific time period in a specific area of San Francisco. Be aware that there are topics of racial- and immigration-based prejudice presented in the book. The text contains negative representations of Chinatown that teachers may have difficulty addressing adequately in a remote environment, a concern especially at a time of increased discrimination against people of Asian descent. Monitor students and determine if there are issues surfacing that need to be discussed in more detail. Consider providing background information and discussion on racial prejudice, immigration, and civil rights.


We recommend omitting Grade 6: Module 3A. For the 2020-21 school year, to ensure students can be fully supported by the teacher in the way the module was intended, EL Education recommends implementing three of the four modules. For more information, please view our rationale  
here.
 

Grade 8: Module 3A - Japanese-American Relations in WWI (First Edition)

During this module, students read excerpts from the book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. This text details the true story of Louis Zamperini's time as a soldier and prisoner of war. The goal of the module is for students to understand the impacts war had on individuals and societies in the U.S. and across the world. Consider providing background information on the Second World War to prepare students for depictions of violence and war. Unbroken also discusses anti-Japanese xenophobia, racism, and forced relocation that occurred during the Second World War. Consider providing background and discussion on racial prejudice and civil rights. Monitor students and determine whether there are any issues surfacing that need to be discussed in more detail.


We recommend omitting Grade 8: Module 3A For the 2020-21 school year, to ensure students can be fully supported by the teacher in the way the module was intended, EL Education recommends implementing three of the four modules. For more information, please view our rationale here.

Grade 8: Module 4 - Lessons from Japanese American Internment (Second Edition)

In this module, students read Farewell to Manzanar by James D. Houston and Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, an autobiographical account of Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston's time in the Manzanar Internment facility during the Second World War. This story details the forced relocation of American citizens of Japanese Ancestry that occurred during this time. The goal of this module is to build students' understanding of the causes and impacts of Japanese American internment camps, and the lessons learned from it. Consider providing background information and discussion on racial prejudice and civil rights. Additionally, this module uses the term "internment camps" when referring to the forced relocation of Japanese-Americans. Suggestions for alternative terms have been proposed; these include "incarceration" or "concentration camps." EL Education recognizes the importance of appropriately naming sensitive topics and wishes to do so with sensitivity. In this case, the term "internment" was selected because it reflects the language choices of the author of the anchor text. Monitor students and determine whether there are any issues surfacing that need to be discussed in more detail.

Racism, Segregation and Enslaved People

Grade and Module

Considerations

Grade 7: Module 3 - The Harlem Renaissance (Second Edition)

In this module, students read poems from the autobiographical text One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes. The goal of this module is to celebrate the artists and work of the Harlem Renaissance and to build students' understanding of the history of this time period to include the great migration. Be aware that topics of segregation, racism, and racial prejudice are presented in the book, for example, the impact of the Jim Crow laws. Monitor students and determine if there are issues surfacing that need to be discussed in more detail. Consider proactively addressing related current events including racism and xenophobia against African Americans and Asian Americans. Consider providing background information and discussion on racial segregation, racial prejudice, and civil rights.

Grade 8: Module 2A - Working with Evidence: Taking a Stand (First Edition)

In this module, students read the text To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The goal of this module is to explore the theme of taking a stand. The topics of racial prejudice and segregation are presented in the book, for example, the false accusations against Tom Robinson. Additionally, this text has received scrutiny, as it centers on the white experience of anti-black racism and presents African American characters with limited agency. We highly recommend supplementing this reading with additional texts centering the voices of Black authors and characters and explicitly naming the problematic nature of the narrative in your teaching. Consider proactively addressing current events and use these connection points to consider how the story could be reimagined to center the Black experience and the intersectionality of experiences and social identities. Consider providing background information and discussion on racial prejudice, immigration, and civil rights as it applies to other marginalized groups, including Indigenous and Latinx communities. Monitor students and determine if there are issues surfacing that need to be discussed in more detail. 


We recommend omitting Grade 8: Module 2A. For the 2020-21 school year, to ensure students can be fully supported by the teacher in the way the module was intended, EL Education recommends implementing three of the four modules. For more information, please view our rationale  
here.

Grade 8: Module 3B - The Civil Rights Movement and the Little Rock Nine  (First Edition)

In this module, students read the texts A Mighty Long Way by Carlotta Walls Lanier and a photo essay titled Little Rock Girl 1957 by Shelley Tougas. The goal of this module is to introduce students to segregation and the civil rights movement and to help students critique various mediums in order to understand their role in shaping perceptions. A Mighty Long Way was written for an adult audience and therefore contains complex language, language structures, and content that may require additional support. Consider the context of your classroom environment when preparing to teach this module. Also, if fully remote, it may be challenging for a teacher to ensure students are sufficiently supported and guided around the issues presented. Consider proactively addressing related current events including racism and xenophobia against African Americans and Asian Americans. Consider providing background information and discussion on racial prejudice, immigration, and civil rights.


We recommend omitting Grade 8: Module 3B. For the 2020-21 school year, to ensure students can be fully supported by the teacher in the way the module was intended, EL Education recommends implementing three of the four modules. For more information, please view our rationale here.

Grade 7: Module 3 - Slavery: The People Could Fly (First Edition) 

In this module, students read the autobiographical text: The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass. This text was first published in 1845 and was written for an adult audience. Therefore it contains complex and archaic language, language structures, and content that may be challenging to support in the fully remote environment. The purpose of the module is to introduce students to one of the most influential pieces of literature to fuel the abolitionist movement of the early 19th century in the U.S, in order for them to analyze the author's purpose and what makes a story powerful. Be aware that racial discrimination is discussed in this module. Consider the context of your classroom environment when preparing to teach this module. If fully remote, it may be challenging for a teacher to ensure students are sufficiently supported and guided around the issues presented.


We recommend omitting Grade 7: Module 3. For the 2020-21 school year, to ensure students can be fully supported by the teacher in the way the module was intended, EL Education recommends implementing three of the four modules. For more information, please view our rationale here.

Racism, Religious Beliefs and Persecution

Grade and Module

Considerations

Grade 8: Module 3 - Voices of the Holocaust (Second Edition)

In this module, students read the graphic novel Maus I : A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman. The goal of this module is to highlight an important world event that is connected and relevant to people and communities here in the U.S. where many Jewish families escaped to, through the voices of those persecuted. Be aware that topics of anti-Semitism, religious prejudice, and the Holocaust are presented in the book. As a fictionalized graphic novel, these depictions are not made explicitly or with images that depict humans; rather, the main characters are anthropomorphic mice, and cats are depicted as the authoritarians. The images in the text are designed to convey complex and distressing events in an emotionally evocative format. Monitor students and determine if there are issues surfacing that need to be discussed in more detail. Consider providing background information and discussion on religious persecution, anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust.


We recommend omitting Grade 8: Module 3. For the 2020-21 school year, to ensure students can be fully supported by the teacher in the way the module was intended, EL Education recommends implementing three of the four modules. For more information, please view our rationale here.

Addressing Pandemics

Grade and Module

Considerations

Grade 4: Module 4: Responding to Inequality: Ratifying the 19th Amendment (Second Edition)

The Hope Chest by Karen Schwabach, the anchor text for this module, is a fast-paced and action-packed historical fiction about women advocating for their right to vote. A key argument in that fight was the contribution of women as medical professionals during times of need like the 1918 pandemic. While the pandemic is not central to the plot, the book does contain a section in Chapter 1 in which the death of a character's friend during the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic is described and the character's sister talks of being a nurse to flu patients during the pandemic. 


Students have always engaged deeply in this text, however, we are aware that the sections around influenza may be received differently after a period of global health concerns related to COVID-19. Students do not need to read Chapter 1 in order to understand the rest of the story or participate fully in the learning of the module. If teachers feel comfortable skipping Chapter 1, the remainder of the novel can be used to engage with the topic and practice the literary standards as intended. Additionally, there is racial discrimination and segregation described in the text. Monitor students and determine if there are issues surfacing and consider proactively addressing related current events and providing background information and discussion on racial prejudice, immigration, and civil rights. 

We recommend omitting Grade 4: Module 4. For the 2020-21 school year, to ensure students can be fully supported by the teacher in the way the module was intended, EL Education recommends implementing three of the four modules. For more information, please view our rationale here.

Grade 5: Module 4 - The Impact of Natural Disasters (Second Edition)

In this module, students read the book Eight Days: A Story of Haiti by Edwidge Danticat, a story about a large earthquake that struck the island of Hispaniola, comprising the countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, in January 2010. Haiti was most severely affected; many people died, and many survivors lost their homes in the natural disaster. The goal of this module is to build students' understanding of how natural disasters affect the people and places that experience them. Be aware that some students who have either experienced a natural disaster or who have family members who have experienced one, may connect with this topic personally and deeply. Students may also have concerns about preparing for such a disaster. These connections may be especially strong in the context of the COVID-19 health crisis, which can bring up previous experiences of disruption or hardship. Monitor students and determine whether there are any issues surfacing that need to be discussed in more detail.


We recommend omitting Grade 5: Module 4. For the 2020-21 school year, to ensure students can be fully supported by the teacher in the way the module was intended, EL Education recommends implementing three of the four modules. For more information, please view our rationale here.

Grade 7: Module 2 - Epidemics (Second Edition)

The anchor text for the module, Patient Zero by Marilee Peters, contains references to topics such as disease, epidemics, and death as well as the conditions that contribute to disease. The goal of this module is to build knowledge about how human responses help or hinder during epidemics. These issues must be carefully and sensitively discussed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic caused by a novel coronavirus. Take time to preface the material with students and parents in order to discuss potential fears and anxieties that may arise. We strongly encourage making specific classroom routines and accommodations in case students experience anxiety or distress while discussing these topics. This could include taking breaks or simply pausing to reflect. Remind students that this is a chance to examine a very relevant topic and think about how the future might be different. As students begin to research social epidemics, they may surface topics that are relevant but inappropriate for classroom discussion. Provide clarity and guidance about what types of topics should be included in independent research.


We recommend omitting Grade 7: Module 2. For the 2020-21 school year, to ensure students can be fully supported by the teacher in the way the module was intended, EL Education recommends implementing three of the four modules. For more information, please view our rationale 
here.

Religion and Magic

Grade and Module

Considerations

Grade 6: Module 1 - Greek Mythology (Second Edition)

 Grade 6: Module 1 - Myths: Not Just Long Ago (First Edition)

 

In these modules, students study the topic of Greek Mythology and read Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. The goal of these modules is to introduce students to Greek mythology and to consider how Greek mythology is still relevant today. This topic and text were chosen because it presents a high-interest story of a middle-school boy with diverse learning needs. Furthermore, Greek mythology is one of the most frequent allusions used in some literary traditions of the United States and Europe. Many states explicitly require the teaching of Greek mythology in Social Studies and ELA because of this literary tradition. However, some students and/or parents may object because the characters are presented as "gods" and/or the presence of magical properties and abilities. Monitor student concerns around this topic as religion is a deeply personal topic that affects different people in different ways. Be sure to preface the module as a learning experience about a different and ancient culture adapted to the modern world. Consider framing this time as practice for respectfully discussing the religious and cultural differences of other students.

Grade 8: Module 1 - Folklore of Latin America (Second Edition)

In this module, students study the traditional folklore of some Latin American traditions through the text Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall. The goal of this module is to introduce students to figures from Latin American folklore and to build connections with members of the school community for whom figures from Latin American folklore are an integral part of their history and cultural experiences. Many states explicitly require the teaching of multiple religious and cultural traditions in Social Studies and ELA in order to understand a range of traditions and potential literary allusions. However, some students and/or parents may object because the characters are presented as "gods" and/or have magical properties and abilities. Monitor student concerns around this topic as religion is a deeply personal topic that affects different people in different ways. Be sure to preface the module as a learning experience about a different culture adapted to a contemporary context. Consider framing this time as practice for respectfully discussing the religious and cultural differences of other students.

Food Insecurity

Grade and Module

Considerations

Grade 8: Module 2 (Second Edition) - Food Choices

Grade 8: Module 4 (First Edition) Sustainability of the US Food Supply Chain

In these modules, students read the Young Readers Edition of The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, which is an exploration of food systems and what Americans choose to eat. The goal is to build students' background knowledge about what happens to food before it gets to the consumer, and the different choices the consumer can make when buying food. Due to impacts to supply chains at grocery and home stores, students may have concerns about the potential impact on food production and security in the United States. Given these possible issues around access to food in the COVID-19 pandemic, monitor student willingness to discuss access to food, and adjust conversations accordingly. If students want to speak about and process their experiences, make the space to do so. 

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