Write to Inform: Problem-Solution Essay | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2019 G6:M2:U3

Write to Inform: Problem-Solution Essay

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In Unit 3, students write an informational essay organized using a problem-solution structure. They begin by reviewing a model, annotated using the Painted Essay® template. As they analyze the model, students, in pairs, co-construct a collaborative essay addressing the prompt “How did William use design thinking to solve a critical problem?”

Students then return to the research they completed in Unit 2 about the problem and solution of their choosing, taking time to review (and add to, as needed) their ideas in light of insights gleaned from the collaborative essay practice. Students prepare for the assessment by completing a writing planner as they did for their collaborative essay. For the Mid-Unit 3 Assessment, students independently write an essay about the problem and solution they researched in Unit 2, answering the question “How was design thinking used to solve a critical problem?”

Students begin preparing for the performance task by reassembling their research into an interactive and visual problem-solution display. They prepare for this Solution Symposium by rehearsing their answers to two prompts posed by their audience: (1) how was design thinking used to solve this problem? and (2) how were habits of character used to solve this problem? For the End of Unit 3 Assessment, students synthesize their learning about all of the different innovators researched to engage in an academic discussion around how habits of character help solve critical problems. Students are coached to discuss the topic collegially, using appropriate tone, volume, and eye contact. During the discussion, students are assessed on their ability to pose and respond to questions using the evidence they have gathered, analyze it in light of the habits of character, and elaborate on the contributions of their peers.

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: 
    • Write a problem-solution essay about the innovator researched in Unit 2 and how that person applied the design thinking process and habits of character to develop a solution to a critical problem.
    • Use details and examples from The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, student research, and the Solution Symposium note-catcher to engage in a fishbowl discussion about how habits of character help people to solve critical problems.
  • Targets: RI.6.1, RI.6.7, RI.6.10, W.6.2, W.6.4, W.6.6, W.6.8, W.6.9b, W.6.10, SL.6.1a, SL.6.1b, SL.6.1c, SL.6.2, SL.6.6, L.6.6
  • Texts: Model Problem-Solution Essay, 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 contributing to a better world by researching an innovator who followed the design thinking process to create a solution that would benefit others. Students highlight these innovators and inspire others during the Solution Symposium. By the end of the unit, students can engage in an academic and evidence-based discussion about how innovators tap into the habits of character to accomplish their goals and how they might do the same.


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

Students work with a number of similar materials as they analyze models, write collaboratively, and produce independent work. Become familiar with the key materials for this unit, listed below:

  • Model Design Solution: "Bridges to Prosperity" note-catcher
  • Model Problem-Solution Writing Planner: "Bridges to Prosperity"
  • Model Problem-Solution Essay: "Bridges to Prosperity"
  • Design Solution: William note-catcher
  • Problem-Solution Writing Planner: William
  • Problem-Solution Essay: William
  • Design-Solution: Research note-catcher

Arrange space and time for students to engage in the Solution Symposium at the end of the unit. In advance, invite guests (other classes, administrators, parents, etc.) to participate.

Become familiar with the Fishbowl protocol to confidently and smoothly facilitate the End of Unit 3 Assessment, an evidence-based discussion (see the Classroom Protocols document on the Tools page for the full version of the protocol).

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