Units of Study

Unit 1 - Testing our Limits
Unit Title: Testing Our Limits
Essential Question: What do we do when life gets hard?
Genre Focus: Fiction
Extended Writing Project: Narrative

What do we do when life gets hard? How do we respond in a difficult situation? What do we do when our limits are tested? How do we face a challenge? What actions can we take to solve a problem? How can we overcome feelings of sadness, stress, or fear?

These are the questions your students will explore in this Grade 6 unit, which focuses on the genre of fiction.

Life is full of challenges, and some are harder than others. What we choose to do or say in the face of these challenges often varies based on the challenge itself. Sometimes we choose to respond to challenges by attempting something that we have never done before, something that might even scare us a little. Climbing a mountain or running a marathon are challenges that people can choose to face. Often, however, life presents us with difficulties when people least expect it, such as an emergency or a crisis.

Texts within the unit’s genre and across other genres present different perspectives on responding to life’s unexpected difficulties. Deza Malone in Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Mighty Miss Malone must deal with the events of the Great Depression when it tears her family apart. In Avi’s short story “Scout’s Honor” three Boy Scouts from Brooklyn learn a humbling lesson when their limits are tested on a camping trip. After reading about how these and other characters respond when their lives are upended, your students will try their own hands at writing a short story, applying what they have learned about dealing with life’s challenges to their own narrative writing projects. Throughout this unit, students will explore the different reasons and ways in which people make decisions and take action when life turns out to be tougher than expected.
Unit Texts:
  • Eleven (Fiction)
  • The Mighty Miss Malone (Fiction)
  • Red Scarf Girl (Informational Text)
  • Hatchet (Fiction)
  • Scout’s Honor (Fiction)
  • Gathering Blue (Fiction)
  • A Wrinkle in Time (Fiction)
Unit 2-3 - You & Me In the Dark
Unit Title: You & Me In the Dark
Essential Question: What causes individuals to overcome and succeed?
Genre Focus: Informational Text
Extended Writing Project: Informative
Can you even count the number of relationships you have had in your life? Some relationships are close and others more distant, but the relationships in our lives teach us about the people and even the animals around us. Even more important, our relationships can teach us a lot about ourselves.

Darkness is associated with the unknown and the unknowable. It can be real, like an unexplored cave, or something like the unknown events that the future may bring. Darkness inspires fear and encourages uncertainty, yet some people find it safer to remain there. They would rather be “in the dark” than to take steps to try and “see the light.”
There are numerous elements that influence an individual's choices, but what makes some overcome moments of uncertainty and rise to success while others struggle to do so?  The combination of these two units with the novel study of The Lightning Thief offers students the opportunity to explore influences and decisions made by both fictional and nonfictional characters.  Students will read an anchor text with connections to texts such as a selection from the classic novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor, the classic myth “Heroes Every Child Should Know: Perseus,” and poems such as “Teenagers” by Pat Mora, Pat Mora’s “Elena,” and “I, Too” by Langston Hughes. Informational texts by and about real individuals include  Hatshepsut: His Majesty, Herself by Catherine M. Andronik, and “Margaret Bourke-White: Fearless Photographer,” and “Donna O’Meara: The Volcano Lady.”

After reading this combination of texts, student will then analyze significant elements that causes individuals to rise above uncertainty and succeed.  
Anchor Text:
  • The Lightning Thief
Unit Texts:
  • Walk Two Moons (Fiction)
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (Fiction)
  • Teenagers (Poetry)
  • The Voice in My Head (Informational Text)
  • We’re on the Same Team (Informational Text)
  • Heroes Every Child Should Know: Perseus (Fiction)
  • Hatshepsut: His Majesty, Herself (Informational)
  • Elena / I, Too (Poetry)
  • Margaret Bourke-White: Fearless Photographer (Informational)
Unit 4 - Personal Best
Unit Title: Personal Best
Essential Question: Which qualities of character matter most?
Genre Focus: Argumentative Text
Extended Writing Project: Argumentative

In sports, the phrase “personal best” refers to an athlete’s greatest achievement—the fastest race, the highest jump, the perfect score. For most of us, however, “personal best” refers to those moments when we act in a noble or just way. They are moments when we can feel proud of ourselves for having done the right thing—like standing up for our principles or sticking up for people in need.

What qualities of character do people need in order to achieve their personal best? Must one make sacrifices or face big challenges in order to reach it? Once a personal best is attained, does that moment define a person for the rest of his or her life? When people become known for their personal best, how does fame affect them and their character?

This unit offers a mixture of texts about real individuals and fictional characters who achieve their personal best through wrestling with familiar and realistic struggles. Real-life personal bests are recounted in the autobiography I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. Authors share their perspectives on the qualities of empathy, understanding, and righteousness in “Bullying in Schools,” Freedom Walkers, and “Celebrities as Heroes.” In the stories “All Summer in a Day” and “Priscilla and the Wimps,” characters are forced by unusual circumstances to stand up for what’s right.

After reading these stories and informational texts about individuals and characters that strive for their personal best, students will have the opportunity to write a literary analysis argumentative essay. In their essays, students will identify two unit texts that they think develop a main idea or theme that communicates the qualities of character that matter most.
Unit Texts:
  • I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban (Informational)
  • Priscilla and the Wimps (Fiction)
  • All Summer in a Day (Fiction)
  • Bullying in Schools (Argumentative)
  • Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Informational)
  • Freedom’s Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830 to 1970 (Informational)
  • Celebrities as Heroes (Argumentative)
  • Famous (Poetry)
End of Year Novel Study - Among the Hidden