Reading and Writing to Inform: Overcoming Learning Challenges—Books | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA G3:M1:U2

Reading and Writing to Inform: Overcoming Learning Challenges—Books

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In Unit 2, students move from analyzing challenges others face in accessing schools to more specifically analyzing challenges others face in accessing books. Students closely read excerpts from My Librarian Is a Camel by Margriet Ruurs, which describes ways people living in different countries around the world access books. For a mid-unit assessment, students demonstrate their reading skills by reading a new excerpt from this book and determining its main idea.

In the second half of the unit, students switch gears to begin writing informative texts. Using what they have learned about reading informational texts in the first half of the unit, they plan, write, revise, and edit an informative paragraph describing how people in a particular country overcome the challenge of access to books. For the End of Unit 2 Assessment, students write a new informative paragraph describing the challenge and how it was overcome, using evidence from the excerpt from My Librarian Is a Camel read for the mid-unit assessment.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • 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: Books
  • Task: Students write a new informative paragraph describing the challenge and how it was overcome, using evidence from the excerpt from My Librarian Is a Camel read for the mid-unit assessment.
  • Targets (Standards explicitly taught and assessed): RI.3.1, RI.3.2, RI.3.4, RI.3.7, RI.3.10, W.3.2, W.3.10, L.3.4a, L.3.4b, L.3.4c, L.3.4d
  • Text: My Librarian Is a Camel


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.

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 unit, students work to become ethical people, treating others well and standing up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, compassion). They practice respect, empathy, and compassion as they participate in peer critiques. 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 empathy.
    • I behave with integrity.
    • I show respect.
    • I show compassion.

This unit is approximately 2.5 weeks or 12 sessions of instruction.


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 both components of this curriculum: module lessons and the Additional Language and Literacy block. Refer to the 3M1 Module Overview for additional information.

In this unit, students continue to read research texts independently for homework and engage in frequent research reading shares during the module lessons for accountability.

Supporting English Language Learners

The Meeting Students' Needs column in each lesson contains support for both ELLs and Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and some supports can serve a wide range of student needs. However, 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 specifically identified as "For ELLs" in the Meeting Students' Needs column.

  • Prioritizing lessons for classrooms with many ELLs: Consider prioritizing and expanding instruction in Lessons 1, 2, 7, and 8 to support students with comprehension of pages 18-19 in My Librarian Is a Camel in Lessons 1-2, and analyzing paragraph structure using the color-coding system in Lessons 7-8. Be sure to complete the Language Dives in Lessons 2 and 5. Place less focus on and condense instruction in Lessons 9-1o, when students will participate in peer critique. Peer critique is an essential practice to foster; however, students must have sufficient understanding of and practice with constructing cohesive paragraphs before peer critique on paragraph organization can be optimally productive.
  • Language Dives: All third graders participate in their first full Language Dive in Unit 3. To continue to gradually immerse ELLs in the Language Dive routine, ELLs participate in Language Dives in Lessons 2 and 5 in this unit. 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 and supporting English language learners, please see the Tools page.
  • Goal 1 Conversation Cues: Continue to 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). Refer to the Tools page for the complete set of cues. Goal 1 Conversation Cues are introduced in Unit 1, Lesson 3. 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 literary texts that take place across different cultures and countries. Because this unit explores issues related to access and privilege, it is important to be particularly sensitive to students' experiences. Some may have experienced interrupted formal education due to poverty, violence, or migration. Some may currently experience a lack of access to texts and educational resources in their home languages or cultures. Foster inclusive action by creating space for students to express their feelings about sensitive issues, while being aware that these discussions may unearth trauma or social stigma. Consult with a guidance counselor, school social worker, or ESL teacher for further investigation of diversity and inclusion.
  • Strategic grouping: Since students works with partners and expert groups to closely read and then draft, write, and revise an informative paragraph, seriously consider matching ELLs with partners who have greater language proficiency. The conversations that happen as a result of such strategic pairing 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 receive explicit instruction in how to craft an informative paragraph: introductory sentence, focus statement, body sentences, and concluding sentence. Students who are still trying to comprehend the language itself may need additional support grasping this organizational structure. Use color-coding and manipulatives (e.g., sentence strips) to support this skill. Also, this paragraph structure may be different from the text structure students are familiar with in their home language. Compare and contrast home language text structure whenever possible.
  • Determining the main idea and key details: Students will participate in a series of close reading sessions during which they will hone their comprehension and interpretive skills by determining the main idea and supporting details of informational text. Students will complete a series of note-catchers to help them process these concepts and construct their own paragraphs later in the unit. It may be difficult for some to grasp the concepts of the main idea and supporting details of a text while focusing on comprehension of the meaning of the text itself. Consider providing students with partially filled-in note-catchers, which serve to model the type of information they are expected to enter while reducing the volume of writing so they can more readily focus on comprehension.
  • 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
My Librarian Is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World
by Margriet Ruurs
one per classroom
ISBN: 9781590780930

Preparation and Materials

  • In advance, consider providing students with a research folder for use throughout the unit. This will help students keep their materials (research note-catchers, texts, writing) organized and in one place.
  • The following materials are introduced in this unit and referenced both throughout the module and the school year:
    • Tracking Progress folder
    • Steps for Revising My Writing anchor chart

Technology and Multimedia

  • Google Docs - To create writing projects: Students complete their note-catchers and produce writing in Google Docs. 
  • Google Forms - Exit Tickets: Exit tickets are created and completed online in a Google Form.
  • Speech to Text (many newer devices already have this capability.) - To create writing by speaking: Students create written work by speaking rather than writing or typing.
  • National Geographic Maps - Explore maps: Students explore the places described in their texts.
  • Enslaved African-Americans - Additional reading and research: Students read and research to learn more about enslaved African-Americans (independent reading time, pair/small group work, whole class).  'Enslaved African-Americans'. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Web. Accessed on 24 May, 2016.

Additional Language and Literacy 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. 

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


  • If you have students who have lived in the countries described in the texts in this unit--Colombia, Chad, and Afghanistan--invite family members to come into the classroom to talk with students about life in this country.
  • If you have a number of English language learners speaking the same native language, invite family members to come into the classroom to talk with ELLs in their native language about education, books, and reading in their home countries.
  • Invite family members or teachers to come into the classroom to talk about what reading instruction was like when they were children, and to discuss some of the reading challenges they faced and how they overcame those challenges.


  • Have educators or librarians from other countries where things may be different come into the classroom to describe this to students.
  • Invite mobile librarians to come into the classroom to talk about why there is a local mobile library (there may be mobile libraries for the elderly or for people in rural places in your area).
  • Invite a historian with an expertise on slavery to come and speak with the students about slavery in your particular area in relation to the content of More Than Anything Else.


  • Visit a public library for students to learn how to locate books in the library and the services available to students and families.
  • Visit an age-appropriate slavery/civil rights exhibition.


  • Identify people and/or places in need of books and help students to organize a book drive.


  • Encourage students to research more about life in one of the countries described in the texts and create a presentation to share with the class to help them better understand life in this country.
  • Invite students to perform additional research about education in their expert group country, or about access to books and education in either their country of origin or in a country of interest.
  • Create reading strategy bookmarks for younger readers.

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