Voices of Adversity | EL Education Curriculum

You are here

ELA 2012 G6:M2B

Voices of Adversity

You are here:

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. This task addresses ELA standards W.6.3, SL.6.4, SL.6.6, L.6.1, L.6.3, and L.6.6.

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas

  • How do authors use language to convey theme and meaning in a literary text?
  • What adversities do the children of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! relate through their monologues?
  • Do we struggle with the same adversities as the people of Good Masters!  Sweet Ladies!?
  • Themes of adversity can be both specific to and transcendent of time and place.
  • Authors use figurative language and word choice to convey meaning and theme in a literary text.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read literature and informational text about medieval times as well as modern poetry about the adversities people face today. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies practices and themes to support potential interdisciplinary connections to this compelling content. These intentional connections are described below.

Big ideas and guiding questions are informed by the New York State Common Core K-8 Social Studies Framework.

Unifying Themes (pages 6-7)

  • Theme 1: Individual Development and Cultural Identity: The role of social, political, and cultural interactions supports the development of identity. Personal identity is a function of an individual's culture, time, place, geography, interaction with groups, influences from institutions, and lived experiences.
  • Theme 2: Development, Movement, and Interaction of Cultures: Role of diversity within and among cultures; aspects of culture such as belief systems, religious faith, or political ideals as influences on other parts of a culture, such as its institutions or literature, music, and art; cultural diffusion and change over time as facilitating different ideas and beliefs.
  • Theme 4: Geography, Humans, and the Environment: The relationship between human populations and the physical world (people, places, and environments).
  • Theme 5: Development and Transformation of Social Structures: Role of social class, systems of stratification, social groups, and institutions; role of gender, race, ethnicity, education, class, age, and religion in defining social structures within a culture; social and political inequalities.

Social Studies Practices, The Role of the Individual in Social and Political Participation, Grades 5-8:

  • Descriptor 4: Identify, describe, and contrast the role of the individual in opportunities for social and political participation in different societies (page 59).


Each unit file includes teacher materials and student-facing materials.

Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village
by Laura Amy Schlitz
ISBN: 978-0763650940
Technically, It’s Not My Fault
by John Grandits
ISBN: 978-0618503612
Blue Lipstick
by John Grandits
ISBN: 978-0-618-56860-4


Each module is approximately 8 weeks of instruction broken into 3 units. The "week at a glance" chart in the curriculum map gives the big picture, breaking down the module into a detailed week-by-week view. It shows how the module unfolds, the focus of each week of instruction, and where the six assessments and the performance task occur.

Get updates about our new K-5 curriculum as new materials and tools debut.

Sign Up