Insecticides: Costs vs. Benefits | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G6:M4

Insecticides: Costs vs. Benefits

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

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas

  • Do the benefits of DDT outweigh its harmful consequences?
  • How do human actions affect the natural world?
  • How do different authors approach providing information and making an argument?
  • How does reading for research help me to form an opinion and make an argument?
  • Human actions have environmental consequences.
  • Reading for research can lead to informed claims and powerful argument writing.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read literature and informational text about the Second Sudanese Civil War. 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 4: Geography, Humans, and the Environment: The relationship between human populations and the physical world (people, places, and environments); impact of human activities on the environment; interactions between regions, locations, places, people, and environments.
  • Theme 9: Science, Technology, and Innovation: Applications of science and innovations in transportation, communication, military technology, navigation, agriculture, and industrialization.

Social Studies Practices: Geographic Reasoning, Grades 5-8:

  • Descriptor 2: Describe the relationships between people and environments and the connections between people and places (page 58).
  • Descriptor 3: Identify, analyze, and evaluate the relationship between the environment and human activities, how the physical environment is modified by human activities, and how human activities are also influenced by Earth's physical features and processes.

Social Studies Practices: Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence, Grades 5-8:

  • Descriptor 1: Define and frame questions about events and the world in which we live and use evidence to answer these questions.
  • Descriptor 2: Identify, describe, and evaluate evidence about events from diverse sources (including written documents, works of art, photographs, charts and graphs, artifacts, oral traditions, and other primary and secondary sources).
  • Descriptor 4: Describe and analyze arguments of others.
  • Descriptor 6: Recognize an argument and identify evidence that supports the argument; examine arguments related to a specific social studies topic from multiple perspectives; deconstruct arguments, recognizing the perspective of the argument and identifying evidence used to support that perspective.


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
Frightful's Mountain
by Jean Craighead George
One per student
ISBN: 978-0141312354, 0141312351


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.

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