Opportunities to Lead Change: Case Study: Jackie Robinson | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA G5:M3:U1

Opportunities to Lead Change: Case Study: Jackie Robinson

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In this unit, students are introduced to the module topic, athletes as leaders of change, through the lens of Jackie Robinson. Students read the book Promises to Keep, identifying factors that led to Jackie's success in breaking the color barrier in baseball as they read. They work with the text in various ways throughout the unit.
In the first half of the unit, they read to determine main ideas and summarize chapters of the book. They also begin to identify different factors for Jackie Robinson's success, collecting evidence from Promises to Keep to support their thinking. In the second half of the unit, they listen to and summarize chapters, closely read excerpts, and think about the relationship between people and events in the text by continuing to determine factors for Jackie Robinson's success.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How have athletes broken barriers during the historical era in which they lived?
  • What factors can contribute to an individual's success in a changing society?
  • Athletes are presented with unique opportunities to lead change.
  • Individuals are shaped by and can shape society.
  • A variety of factors can influence an individual's ability to effect change.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Jackie Robinson as a Leader of Change
  • Task: Students read and summarize an informational text (mid-unit assessment). Students listen to and summarize an informational text, and explain the relationship between key ideas in the text (end of unit assessment).
  • Targets (standards explicitly taught and assessed): RI.5.1, RI.5.2, RI.5.3, RI.5.10, W.5.9b, SL.5.2, L.5.1c, L.5.1d
  • Texts: Promises to Keep


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 of the school day. However, the module intentionally incorporates social studies content that many teachers may be 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.12.3-5
  • D2.Eco.2.3-5
  • D2.His.2.3-5
  • D2.His.3.3-5
  • D2.His.16.3-5
  • D3.3.3-5
  • D3.4.3-5
  • D4.1.3-5
  • D4.3.3-5
  • D4.6.3-5

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, 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 effective learners. They practice showing initiative, responsibility, perseverance, and collaboration as they read and work together collaboratively, and manage their own time.

Students also work to become ethical people, treating others well and standing up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, compassion). They practice respect, compassion, and empathy in response to the potentially diverse views of different students after reading the texts, and integrity when completing research reading for homework each night.


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 texts 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 5M3 Module Overview for additional information.

In this unit, students continue to follow the independent reading routines set up in Module 1. They select new texts based on the new topic for the module, read them 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.

  • New: ELL supports now labeled and condensed. Beginning in Module 3, ELL supports within the Meeting Students' Needs column are labeled and explained in detail the first time they are used. Supports repeated in subsequent lessons are also labeled but condensed for easier reading, and at times adjusted to provide lighter support. Attend to the detailed supports and labels early in the module to more easily apply them as the curriculum progresses. Note that a number of the supports may seem familiar, as they have been suggested repeatedly in Modules 1-2.
  • Prioritizing lessons for classrooms with many ELLs: To prepare for the Unit 1 assessments, consider prioritizing and expanding instruction in Lessons 2-3, which establish the reading and summarizing routines and include Language Dives; Lessons 6-7, which establish the routine for listening to text read aloud and taking running notes; and Lessons 8-9, which include close readings of Promises to Keep. If necessary, consider placing less focus and condensing instruction in Lessons 1, 4, 10, and 11, which provide helpful background, practice, and repetition but don't introduce as many new concepts.
  • Language Dives: All students participate in a two-day Language Dive in Lessons 2-3. Many lessons also include optional Mini Language Dives for ELLs. These Language Dives support ELLs and all students in understanding and practicing the meaning and structures of sentences from Promises to Keep. Be aware that in Modules 3 and 4, Language Dive goals remain the same: to empower students to analyze, understand, and use the language of academic sentences; however, beginning in this unit, and continuing throughout Modules 3 and 4, the Language Dive Guide and the Mini Language Dive formats have been modified. The modified format follows the Deconstruct-Reconstruct-Practice routine, which should seem familiar as a general process (see Language Dives on the Tools page). Additionally, beyond the teacher-led questions and answers as in Modules 1 and 2, there are suggested language goals that students should try to understand and apply for each chunk. Thus, this modified format goes beyond teacher-led questioning. It attempts to encourage students to take more of the lead in the conversation and build greater independence by taking an inquiry based approach to language in general, and the selected sentence in particular. Although students should briefly discuss all chunks in each Language Dive sentence, the new format invites them to slow down during one chunk, called the focus structure, to investigate and practice a particularly compelling language structure. For more context, consider reviewing the full Language Dive Guide in Lessons 2-3 of this unit, as well as a range of questions students might ask one another in Questions We Can Ask During a Language Dive on the Tools page.
  • Goal 4 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. Goal 4 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 the history of slavery and discuss the issues of racial injustice and segregation presented throughout Promises to Keep. Note that the Mini Language Dives selected for this unit focus primarily on sentences addressing segregation, allowing students to understand this issue more deeply through the text, as well as to provide time to reflect as a class. 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.
  • Writing summaries: Throughout the unit, students write summaries of sections of Promises to Keep. Some students may need support with determining main ideas and key details (as part of writing a summary), because they are still learning to comprehend the language itself. Allow ELLs to rehearse their summaries orally with a partner before writing and encourage students by reminding them of their work with writing summaries in previous modules. Note that the summary criteria presented in this unit may be different from home-language summary criteria. Compare and contrast the criteria whenever possible.
  • Verb tenses: Encourage students to notice verb tenses throughout the unit, discussing how verb tenses convey time, sequence, states, and conditions. Additionally, invite students to notice shifts in verb tense (for example, from simple present tense to simple past tense), and to identify and correct shifts in verb tense that are inappropriate. To support this work, there is a two-day Language Dive in Lessons 2-3, focused on the meaning that verb tenses convey, as well as appropriate and inappropriate shifts in verb tense. Students are introduced to a Verb Tenses anchor chart during the Language Dive on day one, which they add to throughout the unit.
  • 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
Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America
by Sharon Robinson
1 per student
ISBN: 9780439425926

Preparation and Materials

  • Inform families in advance that students will be learning about Jackie Robinson and segregation in the United States. Open a dialogue of how best to support students through some of the issues that Promises to Keep presents.
  • The Factor for Success anchor charts will be added to throughout Units 1 and 2, and used during the writing process in Units 2 and 3.
  • Gather the following materials from previous modules for use in this unit:
    • Close Readers Do These Things anchor chart (begun in Module 1)
    • Academic Word Wall (begun in Module 1)
    • Vocabulary logs (begun in Module 1)
    • Working to Become Ethical People anchor chart (begun in Module 1)
    • Working to Become Effective Learners anchor chart (begun in Module 1)
    • Working to Contribute to a Better World anchor chart (begun in Module 1)
    • Criteria for an Effective Summary anchor chart (begun in Module 1)
    • Tracking Progress folders (from Module 1)
    • Affix List (from Module 1)
    • Strategies to Answer Selected Response Questions anchor chart (begun in Module 1)

Technology and Multimedia

  • Baseball Hall of Fame - Additional reading and research: Students read additional texts and look at resources about Jackie Robinson.
      • Note: Please preview before sharing with students and determine which are appropriate for this age.
  • Society for American Baseball Research - Additional reading and research: Students read additional texts and look at resources about Jackie Robinson.
      • Note: Please preview before sharing with students and determine which are appropriate for this age.
  • Jackie Robinson.com - Additional reading and research: Students read additional texts and look at resources about Jackie Robinson.
      • Note: Please preview before sharing with students and determine which are appropriate for this age.
  • History.com - Additional reading and research: Students read additional texts and look at resources about Jackie Robinson.
      • Note: Please preview before sharing with students and determine which are appropriate for this age.
  • American Studies Resource Center - Additional reading and research: Students read additional texts and look at resources about racial segregation in sports.
      • Note: Please preview before sharing with students and determine which are appropriate for this age.
  • The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History - Additional reading and research: Students read additional texts and look at resources about racial segregation in sports.
    • Note: Please preview before sharing with students and determine which are appropriate for this age.
  • Prezi - Creating a multimedia presentation: Students use Prezi to create their multimedia presentations instead of slideshow software.

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 to come into the classroom to share their experience of segregation and/or their experiences of listening to or watching Jackie Robinson's baseball games.


  • Invite a professional baseball player or a professional athlete from another sport to come into the classroom to talk about his or her life, particularly how the athlete uses his or her position to make changes in society.
  • Invite a local leader of social change to come in to talk to the students about the factors that contributed to him or her being an effective leader of social change.


  • Visit a local baseball stadium or professional sports facility to watch a game.
  • Visit an exhibition about segregation.


  • Students present their End of Unit 3 presentations to an audience of community members.
  • Create the performance task display somewhere out in the community rather than just in school.

Extension opportunities for students seeking more challenge:

  • Invite students to watch movies and documentaries about Jackie Robinson, gathering additional evidence of factors that led to his success.
  • Invite students to research Jackie Robinson by using internet sources to find and read primary source documents.
  • Invite students to research an additional athlete in Unit 3 and to write their compare and contrast essay about two athletes as well as Jackie Robinson.
  • Invite students to research gender segregation in sports.

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