Call to Action: How Can We Make a Difference? | EL Education Curriculum

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In Unit 3, students connect their learning about the process of ratifying the 19th Amendment to their own lives. Recognizing that Violet and the other characters in The Hope Chest took action against inequality to cause social change, students focus on how kids can make a difference. In the first half of the unit, students read informational texts and watch videos to research how kids around the United States have addressed issues in their communities and made a difference. As they research, they learn about issues people face around the country and see real-life examples of how kids contributed to a better world. For the mid-unit assessment, students read a new text and watch a new video to add to their research.

In the second half of the unit, students take action! As a class, they identify an issue in their community that they want to address and make a plan for how they will take action--through service, advocacy, or philanthropy. They also plan and write a public service announcement to raise awareness about the issues. For the end of unit assessment, students write a new PSA about the importance of making a difference. The last several lessons of the unit focus on the module performance task: planning and writing a press release that shares with the local media what the class did to take action and the impact of their work.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • What can we learn from the process of ratifying the 19th Amendment?
  • When people take action against inequality, they can cause social change.
  • How can stories inspire us to take action to contribute to a better world?
  • Stories can build our awareness, empathy, and understanding of injustice and other problems in the world.
  • How and why can we encourage and support others to contribute to a better world?
  • We can encourage others to create a better world by raising awareness, offering ideas, and providing opportunities for them to help.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Call to Action: How Can We Make a Difference?
  • Task: For the mid-unit assessment, students watch a new video, identifying reasons and evidence the speaker gives to support a point. They also read a new text, adding to their research about how kids can make a difference. For the end of unit assessment, students write a new PSA supporting the opinion that it is important for kids to take action to make a difference.
  • Targets (CCSS explicitly taught and assessed): W.4.1a, W.4.1b, W.4.1d, W.4.4, W.4.7, W.4.8, SL.4.3
  • Texts: "Making Hard Times Bear-able," "Kayla Abramowitz Speech" (video)


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 contribute to a better world by putting their learning to use to improve their community through a project the class develops and carries out.

This unit is approximately 2.5 weeks or 14 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.

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

Supporting English Language Learners

  • Prioritizing lessons for classrooms with many ELLs: To prepare for the Unit 3 assessments, consider prioritizing and expanding instruction in Lessons 1-3, which introduce and establish routines for determining reasons and evidence for the point that kids can be heroes, and conducting and sharing research about how kids can take action to make a difference; Lessons 5-6, which provide time for students to plan and implement a class project for taking action; Lessons 7-11, which focus on analyzing and planning a PSA and include a Language Dive; and Lessons 13-14, which focus on analyzing and planning a class press release and include a Language Dive. If necessary, consider placing less focus and condensing instruction in Lesson 15, which provides helpful background, practice, and repetition, and an opportunity for students to finalize their class press release, but doesn't introduce as many new concepts.
  • Language Dives: All students participate in Language Dives in Lessons 8 and 14, and ELLs have the opportunity to participate in Mini Language Dives throughout the unit. These Language Dives support ELLs and all students in deconstructing and reconstructing the meaning of sentences from the model PSA, the model press release, and practicing useful structures from these sentences in their own writing and speaking. Recall that throughout Modules 3-4, the Language Dive Guide and the Mini Language Dive formats have been modified. The Language Dive goals remain the same as in previous modules; however, the new format goes beyond those goals by encouraging students to take more of the lead in the conversations and to build greater independence by taking an inquiry-based approach to language in general, and the selected sentence in particular. Refer to the  Tools page for additional information.
  • 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 and injustice presented in the expert group texts and videos. 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.
  • 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). Refer to the Tools page for the complete set of cues.
  • Determining reasons and evidence: In the first part of the unit, students listen to videos in order to determine reasons and evidence for the point that kids can be heroes. Although students have determined reasons and evidence to support points made in texts, this is the first time they do so while listening to a video. If possible, consider practicing this skill with students in other areas of the school day as well, inviting them to listen to familiar video or a text read aloud. This provides students with a better ability to apply this skill during the module lessons, minimizing cognitive overload.
  • Writing and recording PSAs: Students receive explicit instruction in how to write and record a PSA script on an issue of their choice. They first analyze a model PSA script and then receive instruction in how to plan a PSA script before writing one. In Lesson 11, students record their PSAs. Consider taping outside of the lessons before Lesson 11 to practice with students who may feel nervous or insecure about recording their PSAs. Remind them to focus on the aspects of their presentations that they are confident about, and practice areas in which they need additional support.
  • Writing press releases: In Lessons 13-15, students analyze, plan, and draft a class press release that communicates information about the project they took on as a class throughout the unit. As students plan their press release, invite them to recall the process for planning a PSA from Lesson 7. Explain that although the structure of a press release is different from the structure of a PSA, the planning process is the same.
  • Celebration: Celebrate the courage, enthusiasm, diversity, and bilingual assets 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 Hope Chest
by Karen Schwabach
One per student
ISBN: 9780375840968

Preparation and Materials

  • Consider if any students may be sensitive to the issue the class chooses to address through its project based on cultural background and family history.
  • Preview Lessons 5-6 and the corresponding materials, where students plan their project. Some research may need to be done before these lessons, including the need for the issue to be addressed in the community and determining community partners that students can work with.
  • 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: All students participate in a Language Dive on Day 4, using the prepositional phrase Regardless of to address L.4.1e, and the relative adverb where to address L.4.1a.
  • Reading and Speaking Fluency/GUM: Students review and practice using relative pronouns and relative adverbs.
  • Writing Practice: Students write a letter to an adult who will help them complete a successful class project to address an issue in the community.
  • Word Study and Vocabulary: Students practice creating new words with the suffix -able/-ible and !!the prefix pre. They then analyze two academic vocabulary words and their affixes using Vocabulary Trees.
  • Independent Reading: Students build independent reading stamina of both research reading and free choice texts.

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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