Performance Task: The Most Important Thing about Schools Books | EL Education Curriculum

You are here

ELA G2:M1:U3

Performance Task: The Most Important Thing about Schools Books

You are here:

In Unit 3, students synthesize their understanding of the module guiding question "What is school, and why are schools important?" For the first half of the unit, students compare and contrast different schools from Off to Class with their own school as they answer the unit guiding question, "How are schools around world different? How are they similar?" They read one new section and revisit two previously read sections from Off to Class to gather information on how these schools are similar to their own school and how they are different. Students then choose one school they are most interested in to continue researching in small groups to further explore the unit guiding questions.

For the Unit 3 assessment, students use their research notes to participate in the Collaborative Conversations protocol in a small group. This protocol encourages them to use sentence starters to add on to their group members' ideas and to ask for clarification when needed (SL.2.1b,c). This assessment also serves as scaffolding toward the performance task. In the second half of the unit, students complete the performance task by creating individual "The Most Important Thing about Schools" books. Finally, students share their books and perform their Readers Theater scripts with a kindergarten class during an end-of-module celebration.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How are schools around the world different? How are they similar?
  • Schools around the world may be different or they may be similar, but they are all places designed for learning.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Differences and Similarities in Schools
  • Task: Speaking and Listening about Schools around the World
  • Targets (standards explicitly taught and assessed): SL.2.1b, SL.2.1c
  • Text: Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World


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.

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 second 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.Geo.4.K-2. Explain how weather, climate, and other environmental characteristics affect people's lives in a place or region.
  • 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.

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 ethical people and work to become effective learners: develop the mindsets and skills for success in college, career, and life, and treating others well. Throughout Unit 3, students practice respect as they engage in a series of focused read-alouds of Off to Class, which asks them to contrast and compare their own school with schools around the world. These conversations help them to appreciate the differences between their own school and the schools they are researching. In the second part of the unit, students also revisit the habit of perseverance as they work to create their "The Most Important Thing about Schools" book.

The following student learning targets are a focus for this unit. Please refer to Teaching Notes in the lessons:

  • I work to become an ethical person.
  • I show respect.
  • I work to become an effective learner.
  • I persevere.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Accountable Independent Reading

The ability to read and comprehend text is the heart of literacy instruction. Comprehension is taught, reinforced, and assessed across all three components of this primary curriculum: integrated module lessons, Labs, and the Reading Foundations Skills Block. See module overview for details.

For Unit 3, during the independent reading in the Skills Block, reinforce the comprehension skills and standards that students are practicing during the Integrated Literacy block:

  • RI.2.1: Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
    • Invite the students to read aloud a portion of an informational text and ask comprehension questions.
    • After a student reads aloud the first few pages of an informational text, ask: "What questions do you have? What are you wondering?"
  • RI.2.7: Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.
    • When conferencing with a student, have them explain how the illustrations or details in the text are related to the key ideas in the text.
    • Ask:

"How do these illustrations help you understand the text?"

Supporting English Language Learners

Whereas the Meeting Students' Needs column in each lesson contains support for both ELLs and Universal Design for Learning (UDL), ELLs have unique needs that cannot always be met with UDL support. According to federal guidelines, ELLs must be given access to the curriculum with appropriate supports, such as those that are identified for ELLs in the Meeting Students' Needs column.

  • Prioritize lessons for classrooms with many ELLs: Consider prioritizing and expanding instruction in Lessons 1-4 to support the Collaborative Conversations protocol before the assessment and to support comprehension of the content within Off to Class, including a Language Dive. Consider placing less focus and condensing the Work Time devoted to revising and editing writing in Lessons 6-9. Students may struggle with the writing itself, and thus may need to spend more time writing before they are able to meaningfully revise their work.
  • Language Dives: This unit includes only one optional Language Dive for ELLs in Lesson 2. Most lessons also offer optional Mini Language Dives for ELLs. Language Dives are guided conversations about the meaning of a sentence from the central texts, models, or learning targets. The conversation invites students to unpack complex syntax, or "academic phrases," as a necessary component of building both literacy and habits of mind. Students then apply their understanding of language structure as they work toward the assessments and performance task. All Language Dives follow a Deconstruct-Reconstruct-Practice routine, in which students discuss and play with the meaning and purpose of the sentence and each chunk of the sentence; put the chunks back together into the original order and any possible variations; and practice using the chunks in their own speaking and writing. To maximize language practice and accommodate time, consider dividing or reviewing each Language Dive over multiple lessons. A consistent Language Dive routine is critical in helping all students learn how to decipher complex sentences and write their own. In addition, Language Dive conversations can hasten overall English language development for ELLs. Avoid using the Language Dive Guide to lecture about grammar; the Guide is designed to prompt students as they grapple with the meaning and purpose of the chunks and the sentence. Consider providing students with a Language Dive log inside a folder to track Language Dive sentences and structures and collate Language Dive note-catchers. Assure students that this log will not be graded; however, consider inviting students to use their log and note-catchers to gauge the progress of their speaking and writing skills. For more information on Language Dives, refer to the Supporting English Language Learners Guidance (see the Tools page).
  • Goal 2 Conversation Cues: Encourage productive and equitable conversation with Conversation Cues, which are questions teachers can ask students to help achieve four goals: (Goal 1) encourage all students to talk and be understood; (Goal 2) listen carefully to one another and seek to understand; (Goal 3) deepen thinking; and (Goal 4) think with others to expand the conversation (adapted from Michaels, Sarah and O'Connor, Cathy. Talk Science Primer. Cambridge, MA: TERC, 2012. Based on Chapin, S., O'Connor, C., and Anderson, N. [2009]. Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn, Grades K-6. Second Edition. Sausalito, CA: Math Solutions Publications). See the Tools page for the complete set of cues. Goal 2 Conversation Cues are introduced in Lesson 1. Heightened language processing and development is a primary potential benefit for ELLs.
  • Diversity and inclusion: Investigate the routines, practices, rituals, beliefs, norms, and experiences that are important to ELLs and their families. Integrate this background into the classroom as students explore an informational text, taking place across different cultures and countries. The anchor text, Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World, explores different communities with educational access challenges. Research to make sure that some students have not experienced trauma related to some of the events featured in the text such as earthquakes or floods. If necessary, prepare students for these topics and encourage them to share any feelings the text may elicit. Create a safe space for students to express themselves without putting them on the spot if they choose not to. Ensure students understand that although the text explores communities from different countries, the communities profiled in the text do not represent all communities and people within that country or region. Consult with a guidance counselor, school social worker, or ESL teacher for further investigation of diversity and inclusion concerns.
  • Strategic grouping: As students are invited to pair up for various tasks and protocols, seriously consider matching ELLs to a partner who has greater language proficiency. The conversations that happen as a result of such strategic grouping will greatly serve the language development of both partners.
  • Language processing time: Give ELLs sufficient time to think about what they want to say before they share with other students or write.
  • Writing and paragraph organization: Students will continue to receive explicit instruction in how to craft an informational paragraph, which they will expand into a book: introductory sentence, focus statement, body sentences, and concluding sentence. This unit will introduce a reflection statement to their paragraphs. Organization may be difficult to grasp from some students who may struggle to comprehend the language itself. Use color-coding and manipulatives, such as sentence strips, to support this skill. Some students may not be able to fully grasp the role of each sentence in a paragraph. Focus on helping students comprehend the sentences themselves, and make them aware the sentences are organized according to purposeful sequence.
  • Focused read-aloud and identifying similarities and differences: Students will participate in a series of focused read-aloud sessions during which they will hone their comprehension and interpretive skills by determining similarities and differences between their schools and schools around the world. Use photographs, videos, and visual information as much as possible to support student comprehension. Use color-coding and graphic organizers to support comparing and contrasting. Students will use the Collaborative Conversations protocol to discuss their observations.
  • Celebration: Celebrate the courage, enthusiasm, diversity, and bilingual skills that ELLs bring to the classroom.

Texts to Buy

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

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
The Important Book
by Margaret Wise Brown
1 per classroom
ISBN: 9780064432276
Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools around the World
by Susan Hughes
6 per classroom
ISBN: 9781926818863

Preparation and Materials

For basic lesson preparation, refer to the materials list and Teaching Notes in each lesson. The following are unusual materials that may take more time or effort to organize or prepare.

Technology and Multimedia

  • Google Docs - Complete notebooks: Students complete their notebooks in Google Docs.
  • Speech to Text (many newer devices already have this capability.) - To create writing by speaking: Students complete their notebooks by speaking rather than writing or typing.
  • Seesaw - Create student learning portfolios to share with other students, families: Video/audio record student discussions and performances to share with families and other students.
  • Schools around the world - in pictures - Additional research: Students look at pictures of schools and classrooms around the world for additional research whole group, small group or independently.
    • "Schools around the world - in pictures". The Guardian. Web. Jun 8, 2016.
  • How classrooms look around the world -- in 15 amazing photographs - Additional research: Students look at pictures of schools and classrooms around the world for additional research whole group, small group or independently.
    • Strauss, V. "How classrooms look around the world -- in 15 amazing photographs." The Washington Post. Web. Nov 13, 2015


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).

Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • Invite family members to come speak to the class about their experiences in school.
  • Invite students to write invitations to a kindergartener from a class at your school to the Celebration of Learning.
  • Invite other faculty members and families to the Celebration of Learning.


  • Invite staff who have taught outside of the state or country to share their experiences about going to school. Encourage them to bring pictures and share personal stories about their time in school.
  • See if professors from local universities can come speak to the class about how organizations like UNICEF and Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) help communities around the world.
  • Invite the art teacher to come to your room as an art expert and show students how to create strong drawings for their "The Most Important Thing about Schools" books.
  • Invite fourth- or fifth-graders to be editing experts and support students in editing "The Most Important Thing about Schools" books.


Contact your librarian and visit the local library to do more research on boat schools, tent schools, and schools on wheels.


  • Create a class book from the informational paragraphs students produce and sell them to local bookstores. Donate these profits to one of the community organizations from Off to Class.
  • Take a trip to your local library and have students donate their "The Most Important Thing about Schools" books to the library.


  • Read other sections from the text Off to Class. Document the problem community members faced in sending their students to school and how they solved this problem so students could go to school.
  • Learn more about specific organizations affiliated with the schools students learned about, such as the Solar Electric Light Fund, UNICEF, etc. See page 62 of the text Off to Class for more information.
  • Have students do research to learn more about other schools in other parts of the world.
  • Research the countries of origin of students and help all students make connections between their country of origin and the topic or text. Research and share different kinds of schools in the students' countries and communities of origin. Privately discuss what you found with students before the lesson. During the lesson, tell students: "I searched online and found out that _____ (country), where _____ (name of student) is from, has a very interesting type of school." Share the information you found on the topic or text and invite the student to share his or her experience with the class. Record patterns in student responses on a Schools around the World anchor chart.
  • Invite students to discuss schools with their family and friends at home, and then share what they learn with the class. Students can bring objects from home to enhance the sharing. Ask students to record patterns on a School Experiences Poster.
  • Invite students to create another "The Most Important Thing about Schools" book using another school from Off to Class.

Get updates about our new K-5 curriculum as new materials and tools debut.

Sign Up