Tools and Work | EL Education Curriculum

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In this module, students build their literacy and citizenship skills as they engage in a study of tools and work. Students first learn about how tools help to do a job. They then extend their understanding of what it takes to do a job when they learn how the "habits of character" of initiative, collaboration, perseverance, and responsibility help them do work. In Unit 1, students are introduced to hand tools through a series of "tool challenges." In each challenge, students are presented with a dilemma and the question, "Which tool is best for the job?" Students discuss by asking and responding to questions, and ultimately experiencing tools for themselves as they engage in each tool challenge. Following these experiences, students engage in a series of focused read-alouds, featuring people from around the world who use specific tools for certain tasks. Students reflect on their own experiences with tools from earlier in the unit, as well as those they have read about, to construct a definition of tools.

In Unit 2, students engage in close read-alouds, which focus on the study of characters in new literary texts. Through these texts, students will consider the habits of character that help them make work easier and solve dilemmas. To support their understanding of these habits of character, students experience a new set of challenges. In Unit 3, students use their classroom tools and habits of character to collaboratively create a "magnificent thing" for their classroom. At the end of the module, students take all they have learned about tools and work to create a "magnificent thing" that fulfills an authentic classroom need (e.g., pencil holder for classroom use). Students share, discuss, and reflect on their creation. This performance task centers on CCSS ELA W.1.2 and SL.1.1.

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas

  • Why do we need tools?
    • Tools make our lives easier by helping us do work.
    • Tools help us create things.
  • How do habits of character help us do work?
    • Habits of character are behaviors that help us learn and do our work.
  • How do we create a magnificent thing?
    • People use tools and habits of character to create magnificent things.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Tools and Work
  • Task: Experience-Based Informational Writing: A Magnificent Thing for the Classroom
  • Targets (CCSS explicitly taught and assessed): RL.1.1, RL.1.3, RL.1.4, RL.1.7, RI.1.1, RI.1.7, W.1.2, SL.1.1, L.1.5a
  • Texts: My Math Toolbox, I Use Science Tools, A Chef's Tools, Tools, The Most Magnificent Thing, The Little Red Pen

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards and to be taught during the integrated literacy block of the school day. This module also intentionally incorporates social studies content that many teachers across the nation are expected to address in first grade. These intentional connections are described below. (Based on your state or district context, teachers may also choose to address additional specific social studies standards during other parts of the school day.) 

C3 Framework for Social Studies:

  • D2.Civ.6.K-2: Describe how communities work to accomplish common tasks, establish responsibilities, and fulfill roles of authority.
  • D2.Civ.9.K-2: Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions while responding attentively to others when addressing ideas and making decisions as a group.
  • D2.Civ.11.K-2: Explain how people can work together to make decisions in the classroom.

Habits of Character / Social Emotional Learning Focus

Central to EL Education's 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 module, students work to become effective learners by developing the mindsets and skills for success in college, career, and life.


Each unit in the K-2 Language Arts Curriculum has one standards-based assessment built in. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize their understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.

Performance Task

Experience-Based Informational Writing: A Magnificent Thing for the Classroom

In this two-part performance task, students create a magnificent thing (a product that fulfills a need or solves a problem within their classroom) in a small group and then independently write a description of what their group has created, why they created it, and how they used tools to create it. Students create their magnificent things over several lessons by applying what they have learned about tools and habits of character (i.e., initiative, responsibility, perseverance, collaboration), using The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires as a mentor text, and debriefing at the close of each lesson to consider how to build, finish, and revise something that serves a need in their classroom. After creating their magnificent things, students complete a scaffolded writing task during which they learn about the steps of the writing process and produce an informative piece of writing. Students' creations and written work are presented orally to classroom visitors at the end of the module. This task addresses CCSS ELA W.1.2 and SL.1.1. 


See each Unit Overview for a list of any unusual physical materials required (such as puppets or props) for module lessons.

Texts to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
A Chef's Tools
by Holden Strauss
One per classroom
ISBN: 9781499408348
The Little Red Pen
by Janet Stevens and Susan Crummel
Six per classroom
ISBN: 9780152064327
The Most Magnificent Thing
by Ashley Spires
Six per classroom
ISBN: 9781554537044
by Ann Morris
Six per classroom
ISBN: 9780688161651
I Use Science Tools
by Kellie L. Hicks
One per classroom
ISBN: 9781617419317
My Math Toolbox
by Nancy Kelly Allen
One per classroom
ISBN: 9781617419607


Each module is approximately 6-8 weeks of instruction broken into 3 units. The "week at a glance" chart in the curriculum map gives the big picture, breaking down the module into a detailed week-by-week view. It shows how the module unfolds, the focus of each week of instruction, and where the six assessments and the performance task occur.


Labs are 1 hour of instruction per day. They are designed to promote student proficiency and growth.

There are 5 distinct Labs: Explore, Engineer, Create, Imagine, and Research. Each of the Labs unfolds across an entire module and takes place in four stages: Launch, Practice, Extend, and Choice and Challenge.

During their Lab time, students break up into smaller Lab groups and go to separate workstations (tables or other work spaces around the classroom). This structure creates a small collaborative atmosphere in which students will work throughout their Labs experience. It also supports the management of materials (since each workstation has its own materials).

Connections to the Labs

Released along with this module is a separate package called Labs. This 60-minute block of daily instruction provides primary students with the opportunity to apply and enhance their module content, habits of character, and literacy skills through arts, dramatic play, building, and other hands-on experiences. There are four Labs for the first module: Create, Explore, Imagine, and Engineer. The Labs are directly connected to the content of the module and should be implemented alongside the integrated lessons.

Labs for this module focus on having students:

  • Learn to take care of classroom materials
  • Build social-emotional skills through playing and collaborating with classmates
  • Practice drawing tools using lines, textures, and details
  • Identify and solve real-world problems through engineering with everyday tools
  • Creative thinking and the use of tools to solve design challenges

Connections to the Reading Foundations Skills Block

The Reading Foundations Skills Block is an hour of instruction that teaches students how to crack the alphabetic code. This block supports reading and writing conventions necessary for student success in the Integrated Reading Block, covering all Reading Foundations Standards and the Language Standards associated with spelling. Research and Standards-based instructional practices are designed to support teachers as they teach students how to read, write, and analyze words. Built-in instructional supports and resources provide teacher guidance for differentiation in both the Whole and Small Group settings based on each student's Phase of Reading and Spelling Development. The Skills Block includes one hour of instruction: 15-20 minutes of Whole Group and 45 minutes of Differentiated Small Group instruction. 

Skills Block lessons for this module focus on having students:

  • Become familiar with routines and instructional practices
  • Decode (read) and encode (spell) regularly spelled, one-syllable words with two or three phonemes (sounds) with growing automaticity
  • Decode and encode regularly spelled, one-syllable words with three phonemes and the suffix -s with growing automaticity

Refer to each unit overview for more detailed information regarding that unit, including information about what to prepare in advance. 


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