Overcoming Learning Challenges Near and Far | EL Education Curriculum

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Overcoming Learning Challenges Near and Far

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This module uses literature and informational text to introduce students to the power of literacy and how people around the world overcome learning challenges. It is intentionally designed to encourage students to embrace a love of literacy and reading. In Unit 1, students begin to build their close reading skills; they hear stories read aloud, read works in their entirety, and read more challenging excerpts closely. Throughout their readings, students determine the gist, identify the central message, and consider what key details convey that message in the text. In Unit 2, students consider how geography and where one lives in the world affects how one accesses books. Students continue building knowledge and vocabulary related to world geography as they study excerpts from My Librarian Is a Camel by Margriet Ruurs, which describes how librarians overcome geographic challenges to get children books. Students apply their learning by writing a simple informative paragraph about how people access books around the world, focusing on the role of specific librarians or organizations they studied.

Finally, in Unit 3 students focus more on what it means to be a proficient and independent reader. They continue to read literature about characters who are motivated to learn to read and overcome struggles to do so. Students assess their challenges as readers, and identify strategies to overcome those challenges. This unit includes a heavy emphasis on building reading fluency. Students write a reading contract in the form of a three-paragraph informative essay, in which they describe two of their learning challenges and some strategies to overcome those challenges. As part of the final performance task, they make an eye-catching reading strategies bookmark to help them remember those strategies as they read independently throughout the rest of the year. This task centers on CCSS ELA Standards W.3.4 and W.3.5.

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas

  • Why are education, books, and reading important?
    • Education, books, and reading are important because they help us learn about and make sense of the world, and escape into the lives of other people and other worlds.
  • How can I overcome learning challenges?
    • I can overcome learning challenges by being an effective learner: taking initiative and responsibility, persevering, and collaborating.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Overcoming Learning Challenges Near and Far
  • Task: Reading strategies bookmark
  • Targets (Standards explicitly taught and assessed): W.3.4, W.3.5
  • Text: Waiting for the Biblioburro; Rain School; Nasreen's Secret School; My Librarian is a Camel; More Than Anything Else; Thank You, Mr. Falker

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards and to be taught during the literacy block. But the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies content that may align to additional teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.

College, Career, and Civic Life C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards:

  • D2.Civ.7.3-5: Apply civic virtues and democratic principles in school settings.
  • D2.Geo.2.3-5: Use maps, satellite images, photographs, and other representations to explain relationships between the locations of places and regions and their environmental characteristics.
  • D2.Geo.4.3-5: Explain how culture influences the way people modify and adapt to their environments.
  • D2.Geo.7.3-5: Explain how cultural and environmental characteristics affect the distribution and movement of people, goods, and ideas.
  • D2.His.2.3-5: Compare life in specific historical time periods to life today.
  • D3.4.3-5: Use evidence to develop claims in response to compelling questions.
  • D4.6.3-5: Draw on disciplinary concepts to explain the challenges people have faced and opportunities they have created, in addressing local, regional, and global problems at various times and places.

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: develop the mindsets and skills for success in college, career, and life (e.g., initiative, responsibility, perseverance, collaboration).
  • Students also work to become ethical people: treat others well and stand up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, compassion).
  • See unit overviews for more detail.


Each unit in the 3-5 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 their understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.

Performance Task

Reading Strategies Bookmark

In this performance task, students synthesize their thinking about their reading challenges and possible strategies to overcome those challenges by creating an eye-catching bookmark listing the strategies described in their End of Unit 3 Assessment reading contracts. The strategies are written in bullet points so students can access them quickly when reading. This task centers on CCSS ELA W.3.4 and W.3.5.


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
Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan
by Jeanette Winter
one per student
ISBN: 9781416994374
My Librarian Is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World
by Margriet Ruurs
one per classroom
ISBN: 9781590780930
Rain School
by James Rumford
one per student
ISBN: 9780547243078
Thank You, Mr. Falker
by Patricia Polacco
one per classroom
ISBN: 9780399257629
Waiting for the Biblioburro
by Monica Brown
one per classroom
ISBN: 9781582463537
More Than Anything Else
by Marie Bradby
one per classroom
ISBN: 9780531094648


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.

ALL Block

The Additional Language and Literacy (ALL) Block is 1 hour of instruction per day. It is designed to work in concert with and in addition to the 1-hour Grades 3–5 ELA “module lessons.” Taken together, these 2 hours of instruction comprehensively address all the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.

The ALL Block has five components: Additional Work with Complex Text; Reading and Speaking Fluency/GUM (Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics); Writing Practice; Word Study and Vocabulary; and Independent Reading.

The ALL Block has three 2-week units which parallel to the three units of the module.

Download each ALL Block unit on the Unit Overview pages.


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