Take a Stand: Ways to Reduce Plastic Pollution | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2019 G7:M4:U2

Take a Stand: Ways to Reduce Plastic Pollution

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In Unit 2, students continue exploring the problem of plastic pollution by focusing on what can be done to address the problem. They read three articles and revisit their anchor texts to understand what interventions can be taken at each stage of the plastic life cycle: beginning, middle, and end. Students also learn about new materials being invented to replace plastic at the beginning of the life cycle, what consumers can do to use less plastic at the middle of the life cycle, and efforts by governments and organizations to stop single-use plastic and invent ways of cleaning up plastic pollution at the end of the plastic life cycle. With the first two articles, students practice analyzing how authors develop their points of view as well as how different authors writing about the same topic shape their presentations of key information. Students also practice finding the meanings of words using relationships between words. For their mid-unit assessment, they read a new article and answer selected response questions to demonstrate their understanding of point of view and how authors present similar information differently as well as how word relationships can help them discover the meaning of unfamiliar words. As students analyze these articles, they also practice debating which part of the plastic life cycle is the best place to intervene to reduce plastic pollution. By the middle of the unit, students will take a stand about which part of the plastic life cycle would be most effective to target. They will have the opportunity to defend their position in a debate with their classmates. Although this debate will not be assessed, students' preparation and work in participating in the debate will continue to prepare them for their end of unit assessment and performance task in the following unit.

In the second half of the unit, students use the evidence and reasoning they've collected and organized from their reading to practice on-demand argument essay writing about which place in the plastic life cycle is the best place to target to reduce pollution. They work first in pairs to plan, draft, and revise argument essays before following the same routine for independent writing, while practicing revising sentences to avoid using dangling and misplaced modifiers as well as properly using coordinate adjectives. By the end of the unit, students will have strengthened their arguments about which part of the plastic life cycle they think would be the most effective place to intervene. In Unit 3, students will continue to develop this idea through experiential research and storytelling as they plan and execute a documentary about their attempts to solve the problem of plastic pollution for their performance tasks.

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: Plastic Pollution
  • Task: 
    • Selected and constructed response questions to analyze an author's point of view as well as how authors shape their interpretations about the same topic
    • On-demand argument essay using evidence from the texts to defend a claim about which part of the plastic life cycle is the best place to intervene to reduce plastic pollution
  • Targets: RI.7.2, RI.7.4, RI.7.6, RI.7.9, RI.7.10, W.7.1, W.7.5, W.7.6, W.7.9b, W.7.10, L.7.1c, L.7.2, L.7.4a, L.7.5b
  • Texts: A Plastic Ocean (DVD) directed by Craig Leeson, Trash Vortex by Danielle Smith-Llera, "Five Weird Materials That Could Replace Plastic" by Jessica Hullinger, "Five Things You Can Do to End Plastic Pollution" by Anjaly Acharya, "Boyan Slat: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Kid" by Pat Betteley


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 working to become effective learners as they persevere to analyze author's point of view and purpose in complex texts. They also take responsibility and initiative as they collaborate in discussions and during group analysis work. Students focus on working to become ethical people by showing empathy and compassion for the people and animals they read about that threatened by pollution. As they explore the articles in this unit, students witness the habits of character that are exhibited by the inventors, scientists, and authors as they contribute to making the world a better place in numerous ways. The writers of the articles contribute to a better world by informing the public about the problem of plastic pollution, inspire environmental action, and share their knowledge in order to improve their shared spaces and environment. The inventors and scientists mentioned in the articles demonstrate other habits of character, such as taking initiative in inventing new materials, collaborating with each other to try and improve the oceans and persevering through trying new ways of cleaning up the ocean.


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
A Plastic Ocean (DVD)
by Craig Leeson, director
one per classroom
ISBN: 602573215302
Trash Vortex
by Danielle Smith-Llera
one per student
ISBN: 9780756557492

Preparation and Materials

Prepare the Plastic Life Cycle anchor chart and Debate Steps anchor chart (see Lesson 1).

Ensure that families are aware of the sensitive content of A Plastic Ocean, Trash Vortex, and the articles such as the extreme harm of plastic pollution to humans, animals, and the environment, including images of plastic surrounding and even killing animals. Also, prepare students who may be affected by this content in advance.

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