Spread the Message: We Can Make a Difference! | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2019 G7:M4:U3

Spread the Message: We Can Make a Difference!

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In the first half of Unit 3, students delve deeper into their chosen areas of intervention in the life cycle of plastic. Students choose a personal action to respond to the issue of plastic pollution, such as deciding to use less plastic or recycle more, communicating with officials, or researching an invention. They will form triads with classmates who have chosen the same category of action plan; together, they will determine how to coordinate their personal actions to be used in their documentary clip. Each homework includes the opportunity to enact and take notes on this personal action. Each lesson includes in-class time to discuss the results of the action plan and to further enact it through research or other efforts. In addition to working on their action plan, students will write their documentary script over the course of the first half of the unit. First, they review the Model Documentary Script, determining the characteristics of a strong narrative lead. Then each member of the triad practices these narrative writing skills by creating a lead to their documentary script. Triads work together to choose, revise, or combine their narrative drafts into one lead for their documentary script, focusing on eliminating redundancy and wordiness. Students then divide the remaining three sections of their documentary script among their triad, so that each student writes either the argument, action plan description, or conclusion. Before the mid-unit assessment, students engage in a Tuning protocol to improve the content of the script, focusing on presenting findings (including descriptions, facts, details, and examples) in a focused and coherent manner. For the mid-unit assessment, students demonstrate their revision skills, using the knowledge gained from the Tuning protocol to improve their section of the script.

In the second half of Unit 3, students work in their triads to create a storyboard, using visuals to clarify their claims and findings as well as to emphasize the points in their documentary script. They then learn how to pitch their documentary to potential film producers, observing a model pitch and using a Tuning protocol to practice and refine their presentation skills, such as using appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation. Finally, in the end of unit assessment, each student in the triad pitches a part of their documentary script, focusing on using formal English, domain-specific vocabulary, their storyboard visuals, and their presentation skills. 

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: 
    • Revision of their section of the documentary film script.
    • Presentation of the documentary film pitch.
  • Targets: W.7.5, SL.7.4, SL.7.5, SL.7.6, L.7.6
  • Texts: A Plastic Ocean (DVD) directed by Craig Leeson, Trash Vortex by Danielle Smith-Llera


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, and collaboration); work to become ethical people, treating others well and standing up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, and compassion); and work to contribute to a better world, putting their learning to use to improve communities (e.g., citizenship and service).

In this unit, students focus on working to become effective learners as they collaborate, persevere, and take responsibility and initiative to enact an action plan, create a documentary script and storyboard, present their documentary pitch, and film and edit their documentary. Students also focus on working to become ethical people as they practice compassion and respect listening to one another's work. Additionally, students work on contributing to a better world by using their strengths to help others grow, informing others about the problem of plastic pollution and the steps they can take to help reduce pollution, as well as presenting their knowledge for the class, the school, the community, and even the world.


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 Performance Task anchor chart (see Module Overview), Guiding Questions anchor chart (see Unit 1, Lesson 1), and Author's Purpose anchor chart (see Unit 1, Lesson 8).

Prepare vocabulary logs and independent reading journals.

Ensure that families are aware of the sensitive content of texts and presentations 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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