Remarkable Accomplishments of the Space Race | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2019 G6:M4:U1

Remarkable Accomplishments of the Space Race

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This module is designed to highlight the many contributors to the advancements in space science--those who most often receive recognition and those who are often overlooked. To set up this juxtaposition for students, Unit 1 is designed to provide background information about the Space Race of the 1960s, featuring popular accounts of this historic course of events. Students generate excitement about the topic by watching videos, viewing images, and reading primary sources about the Space Race, a competition between the United States and the Soviet Union to be the first country to land an astronaut on the moon. Students learn how the Space Race supported advancements in math and science and notice which figures are highlighted in these sources.

As students build their background knowledge, they practice citing text evidence, identifying central idea(s), and determining the points of view expressed in the different texts. Critical to their understanding of this time period is the exposure to varying perspectives, including those who believed the funds used to send humans to the moon could be better spent improving the lives of the destitute and depressed at home. Students learn to trace the arguments in these claims by identifying the evidence and reasoning that supports these views. Once students begin their reading of the anchor text, Hidden Figures (Young Readers' Edition) by Margot Lee Shetterly, in Unit 2, they will have the necessary background to better appreciate the contributions of the black women of NASA and how they impacted scientific and social progress in the face of both racial and gender discrimination.

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: Remarkable Accomplishments in Space Science
  • Task: 
    • Read a new informational article, "An Account of the Moon Landing." Answer constructed response questions about vocabulary and figurative language in the text and about the author's point of view and how it is conveyed in the text.
    • Read the opinion article "An Argument against the Moon Mission." Answer constructed response questions about the author's point of view and how it is conveyed in the text. Trace the author's argument, identifying a claim, reasons, evidence, and reasoning.
  • Targets: RI.6.1, RI.6.4, RI.6.6, RI.6.8, RI.6.10, W.6.10, L.6.5c
  • Texts: Hidden Figures (Picture Book) by Margot Lee Shetterly and Laura Freeman, "The Space Race," Excerpt from The Moon by Hannah Pang, Excerpt from The Space Shuttle Decision by T.A. Heppenheimer, "Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs" by President John F. Kennedy, Excerpt from Team Moon by Catherine Thimmesh, "Benefits of NASA's Space Technology on Earth" by NASA, "This Is How the Space Race Changed the Great Power Rivalry Forever" by Martand Jha, "An Account of the Moon Landing" by EL Education, "An Argument against the Moon Mission" by EL Education


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 on initiative and perseverance as they read about the traits that the scientists, mathematicians, and astronauts harnessed to compete in the Space Race. They also practice empathy and compassion as they read arguments texts that highlight how the money and energy allocated for space exploration could be used to solve issues of poverty in the United States.


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
Hidden Figures (Picture Book)
by Margot Lee Shetterly
six per classroom
ISBN: 9780062742469

Preparation and Materials

Prepare vocabulary logs and independent reading journals as needed for a new module.

Carefully read the many texts introduced in this unit to develop strong background knowledge about the Space Race and the women of the West Computing Pool whose work helped land humans on the moon.

Prepare technology necessary to show the videos and audio clips suggested in Lesson 1.

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