Research to Discover Innovative Designers | EL Education Curriculum

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In Unit 2, students continue to read the anchor text, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, beginning at chapter 11. As William formulates a plan for a windmill to generate electricity and ease some of the burdens caused by the famine, students examine how he applies design thinking to solve his problem. Using a graphic organizer to collect evidence of William's problems and solutions, students build understanding of the cyclical nature of design thinking and the way the authors develop this key idea with specific details. For the mid-unit assessment, students read a new informational article about another solution designed to solve a critical problem. Students answer selected response questions about figurative and connotative meanings of words in the text and about the way that key ideas are developed. Students also write an objective summary of the text, identifying its central idea and the details that convey it.

In the second half of the unit, students finish reading the anchor text and launch their research project. Inspired by a curated list of TED Talks, students choose a different invention designed to solve a critical problem. The research process is broken down into a series of mini lessons that teach students how to gather evidence from multiple sources, evaluate a source for credibility, and paraphrase or quote from the source with accuracy. For the end of unit assessment, students demonstrate their understanding of the research process by gathering more information from the text studied during the Mid-Unit 2 Assessment. Their tasks include refocusing their search for more relevant results, determining the credibility of possible sources, paraphrasing responsibly, and providing basic bibliographic information for sources.

Please note: For the 6-8 Language Arts Curriculum, there are Teaching Notes for each unit that contain helpful information for supporting English language learners. These overview notes complement the more specific English language learner supports and differentiated materials within each lesson. You will find the Teaching Notes in the Unit download below.

CCS Standards

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Critical Problems and Design Solutions
  • Task: 
    • Answer selected response and constructed response items questions about figurative language, connotative meanings, and vocabulary in context; central idea; methods used to introduce and develop our understanding of the ideas in the text; and how structure and particular sentences contribute to the development of ideas. Students also write a brief summary of the text.
    • Answer selected response and constructed response items to demonstrate research skills, such as the ability to choosing the most relevant search results, understanding how the quality and specificity of search terms impacts search results, identifying types of sources, assessing reliability and credibility of possible sources, evaluating paraphrasing, paraphrasing information from a source, and gathering bibliographic information from a source.
  • Targets: RI.6.1, RI.6.2, RI.6.3, RI.6.4, RI.6.5, W.6.7, W.6.8, W.6.10, L.6.4a, L.6.5a
  • Texts: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Young Readers Edition) by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer


Each unit in the 6-8 Language Arts Curriculum has two standards-based assessments built in, one mid-unit assessment and one end of unit assessment. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize students' understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.

Habits of Character/Social-Emotional Learning Focus

Central to the EL Education curriculum is a focus on "habits of character" and social-emotional learning. Students work to become effective learners, developing mindsets and skills for success in college, career, and life (e.g., initiative, responsibility, perseverance, collaboration); work to become ethical people, treating others well and standing up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, compassion); and work to contribute to a better world, putting their learning to use to improve communities (e.g., citizenship, service).

In this unit, students focus specifically on working to contribute to a better world by taking care of and improving our shared spaces. They demonstrate this habit of character by putting things away in the right place, cleaning up after themselves, and being careful not to break things, especially when conducting their research on computers.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 10-18 lessons. The Unit-at-a-Glance charts, available on the grade-level landing pages, break down each unit's lessons, showing CCS standards, agenda breakdown, daily learning targets, and ongoing assessments. The charts also indicate which lessons include mid- and end of unit assessments and the performance task.

Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts and resources that need to be procured. Please download the Required Trade Books and Resources Procurement List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Young Readers Edition)
by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
one per student
ISBN: 9780147510426

Preparation and Materials

Preview the TED Talk: Avery Bang: "Building Bridges and Connecting Communities" and study the Model Design Solution: "Bridges to Prosperity" note-catcher (Unit 2, Lesson 6) to understand the context for all the models with which students will be provided.

Review the steps in the research process; secure computers or tablets with access to the internet for students to use as they research.

The following materials are introduced in this unit and referenced throughout both the module and the school year:

  • Researchers Do These Things anchor chart
  • Researcher's Tool Box

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