Write to Inform: Are Social Epidemics Real? | EL Education Curriculum

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In Unit 2, students transfer the knowledge about how scientists think about and investigate medical epidemics to the study of social epidemics. Students are introduced to the topic of social epidemics through various articles that describe the basic terms and theories behind social and emotional contagion. They practice summarizing the central ideas of the articles as well as delineating and evaluating their claims. In small groups, students engage in discussions in preparation for the mid-unit assessment, a text-based discussion in which students evaluate whether the authors of an article have provided sufficient evidence and reasoning for their claims connecting social and disease epidemics.

In the second half of the unit, students learn and practice the skills necessary for completing their end of unit assessment, an informative essay that answers the question: How do social scientists use ideas from the study of epidemics to understand and explain human behavior? Students engage in the full writing process, from planning to drafting to peer critique to revision. By the end of the unit, students will be able to think critically about the latest research about how emotions, ideas, and behaviors spread. This will prepare them for further investigation of the topic in Unit 3, as they engage in their own research and develop a podcast script related to a social or disease epidemic.

In this unit, students continue to read nonfiction texts at their level as they choose independent research reading texts. Students should complete 20 minutes of independent research reading for homework when they are not reading a chapter from the anchor text. Students should also continue independent research reading over weekends.

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: Epidemics: Write to Inform: Are Social Epidemics Real?
  • Task: 
    • Read a new article and engage in a text-based discussion about the strength of the article's argument.
    • Write an informative essay about how social scientists use ideas from the study of epidemics to explain human behavior. 
  • Targets: RI.7.1, RI.7.2, RI.7.8, RI.7.10, W.7.2, W.7.4, W.7.5, W.7.6, W.7.9b, W.7.10, SL.7.1, L.7.1, L.7.2, L.7.6
  • Texts: "Kindness Contagion" by Jamil Zaki, Patient Zero by Marilee Peters, "Conflicting Ideas" by T.C., "Are Social Epidemics Real?" 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, as students read various informational and argument articles, they witness evidence of the following habits of character--collaboration, initiative, responsibility, perseverance, citizenship, and service--and discuss what these look and sound like in the texts. Also, students focus on respect, empathy, and compassion as they respond to one another's ideas and skills in written work and in discussions. Students also practice collaboration and taking initiative during discussions. They practice integrity and perseverance as they work independently on assessments. And they take responsibility for their own learning as they track progress on their assessments. 


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
Patient Zero
by Marilee Peters
One per student
ISBN: 9781773215150

Preparation and Materials

Prepare the Discussion Norms anchor chart with the Level 3 Conversation Cues (Unit 2, Lesson 2 download).

Prepare vocabulary logs and independent reading journals.

Ensure that families are aware of the sensitive content of the social epidemic articles, and prepare students who may be affected by this content in advance.

The following material is introduced in this unit and referenced throughout both the module and the school year:

  • Argument note-catcher

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