Building Background Knowledge: Reading about and Analyzing Events in The Hope Chest | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA G4:M4:U1

Building Background Knowledge: Reading about and Analyzing Events in The Hope Chest

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In Unit 1, students are introduced to the topic, "Responding to Inequality: Ratifying the 19th Amendment," and begin reading The Hope Chest by Karen Schwabach. Students read chapters of this text in triads to practice reading fluency and greater independence. They analyze characters' reactions to events in which human rights are compromised or violated because of race or gender, compare artwork inspired by the book, and answer questions about vocabulary. For the mid-unit assessment, students read a new chapter of The Hope Chest and compare art inspired by the chapter to details in the text. They also read aloud a new excerpt for fluency.

In the second half of the unit, students continue to read chapters of The Hope Chest. They are introduced to idioms, adages, and proverbs through the text, and they closely read and then compare and contrast firsthand and secondhand informational accounts of events connected to those described in The Hope Chest. For the end of unit assessment, students read a firsthand account of an event in order to compare and contrast it with the secondhand account read in the previous lesson.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • What can we learn from the process of ratifying the 19th Amendment?
  • In 1920, the U.S. Constitution was amended to give women the right to vote; however, this did not allow African American women to vote.
  • When people take action against inequality, they can cause social change.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Building Background Knowledge: Reading about and Analyzing Events in The Hope Chest
  • Task: For the mid-unit assessment, students read a new excerpt of The Hope Chest and answer questions about the text and also read aloud an excerpt for fluency. For the end of unit assessment, students read a firsthand account of an event connected to The Hope Chest and compare it to a secondhand account of the same event read in a previous lesson.
  • Targets (CCSS explicitly taught and assessed): RL.4.1, RL.4.3, RL.4.4, RL.4.7, RI.4.1, RI.4.2, RI.4.4, RI.4.6, RF.4.4, L.4.4, and L.4.5c
  • Texts: The Hope Chest, "Ten Suffragists Arrested while Picketing at the White House," Excerpt of "The Suffragists: From Tea-Parties to Prison," "The Girl Who Acted before Rosa Parks"


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.2.3-5
  • D2.Civ.12.3-5
  • D2.Civ.14.3-5
  • D2.His.5.3-5
  • D2.His.10.3-5

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 by 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 by showing respect, empathy, and compassion for one another as they read about sensitive topics in The Hope Chest.


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.

In this unit, students read research texts independently for homework.

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: To prepare for the Unit 1 assessments, consider prioritizing and expanding instruction related to reading and discussing the chapters of The Hope Chest in Lessons 1-3 and 6-9, as well as the informational texts in Lessons 7-9; the work on synonyms and antonyms in Lesson 2; the optional Language Dives for ELLs in Lessons 3, 7, and 8; and the work on identifying theme and comparing and contrasting firsthand and secondhand accounts in Lessons 7-9. If necessary, consider placing less focus and condensing instruction in Lesson 6, which provides helpful background and practice for Unit 2 but doesn't introduce skills or concepts assessed in Unit 1.
  • Language Dives: ELLs can participate in optional Language Dives in Lessons 3, 7, and 8. Lessons 1 and 9 also include optional Mini Language Dives for ELLs. These Language Dives support ELLs and all students in deconstructing, reconstructing, and practicing the meaning and structures of sentences from The Hope Chest and "Ten Suffragists Arrested while Picketing at the White House." Refer to the Tools page for additional information on Language Dives.
  • Conversation Cues: Encourage productive and equitable conversation with Goals 1-4 Conversation Cues (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 additional information on Conversation Cues.
  • 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 the topics of inequality, specifically related to racial and gender inequality, because these are issues presented in The Hope Chest and other informational texts. Be sensitive to students' experiences and perspectives on these topics, and foster inclusive action by creating space for students to express their feelings about issues embedded in the text, 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.
  • Synonyms and antonyms: Students are introduced to synonyms and antonyms in Lesson 2, explicitly reviewing their definition and then using their knowledge of each to demonstrate understanding of new words. Consider reinforcing the use of synonyms and antonyms by leading ELLs in the Synonym and Antonym Practice introduced in Levels of support in Lesson 2, and the optional ELL Language Dive in Lesson 3. Additionally, consider encouraging students to use synonyms and antonyms to demonstrate the meaning of new words in other areas of the school day. This will provide students with a better understanding of synonyms and antonyms and reduce the cognitive overload of this work in the module lessons.
  • Idioms, adages, and proverbs: In the second half of the unit, students are introduced to idioms, adages, and proverbs as they relate to the language and events in The Hope Chest. These class discussions support students' comprehension of the events in The Hope Chest, as well as help prepare them for Unit 2, when they will be assessed on idioms, adages, and proverbs. Encourage ELLs to share examples of idioms, adages, and proverbs in their home languages whenever possible, and invite students to compare them with examples listed on the Idioms, Adages, and Proverbs anchor chart throughout the unit.
  • Comparing and contrasting firsthand and secondhand accounts: In the second half of the unit, students identify and then compare and contrast first- and secondhand accounts of events related to those described in The Hope Chest. Allow ELLs to compare and contrast familiar and concrete examples of first- and secondhand accounts before doing so with texts, and encourage them to process their ideas orally. Model and think aloud the process for comparing and contrasting first- and secondhand accounts of texts whenever possible to ensure students' success on the assessment.
  • Celebration: Celebrate the courage, enthusiasm, diversity, and bilingual assets that ELLs bring to the classroom.

Preparation and Materials

  • Consider if any students may be sensitive to the issues that this topic raises based on cultural background and family history. Consider explaining to families that students will be reading about and discussing equality, including segregation and women's rights, so that they can appropriately prepare the students.
  • Prepare the materials for the Infer the Topic protocol in Lesson 1.
  • The following is an outline of the work students complete in each component of Additional Language and Literacy (ALL) Block in this unit:
  • Additional Work with Complex Text: Students work with the historical notes in The Hope Chest to make connections with the characters and events in the story. All students participate in a Language Dive on Day 4, using synonyms and antonyms to demonstrate understanding of a word, which helps to address L.4.5c.
  • Reading and Speaking Fluency/GUM: Students practice reading unfamiliar texts to prepare for the reading fluency assessment in Part I of the Mid-Unit 1 Assessment.
  • Writing Practice: Students write an informative paragraph to summarize the evidence of one of the main themes of the novel present in Chapter 4.
  • Word Study and Vocabulary: Students find antonyms and synonyms for words in the text. They then analyze two academic vocabulary words and their affixes (using Vocabulary Trees) and practice using the suffixes -ment and !!-ness to make nouns.
  • Independent Reading: Students read research texts (on topics related to inequality and ratifying the 19th Amendment) and free choice texts (on any topic of their interest). They log their reading and respond to reading prompts in independent reading journals, and share their learning from reading in a group discussion.

Technology and Multimedia

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


Invite members of the community, family members, or teachers into the classroom to share their personal family histories pertaining to segregation and/or voting rights.


Invite a historian with expertise on voting rights and/or segregation, particularly local history, to come talk with the students about it.


Visit a voting rights and/or segregation exhibition at a local museum.


  • Share PSAs with other classes in the school.
  • Share PSAs with local radio/TV stations.


  • Students research local history about voting rights and/or segregation.
  • Students perform additional service projects in the community and write about what they have done.

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