GREAT MINDS

About Great Minds

What is the relationship between Great Minds and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?
Great Minds and the Common Core State Standards are not affiliated. Great Minds was established in 2007, prior to the start of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which was led by the National Governors Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers.
What is Great Minds?
Established in 2007, Great Minds is a Washington, D.C. based non-profit 501(c)3 organization that seeks to ensure that all students, regardless of their circumstance, receive a content-rich education in the full range of the liberal arts and sciences, including English, mathematics, history, the arts, science, and foreign languages. Since 2007 we have worked with teachers and scholars to create instructional materials, conduct research, and promote policies that support a comprehensive and high-quality education in America’s public schools.

The Great Minds trustees are Nell McAnelly, Co-Director Emeritus of the Gordon A. Cain Center for STEM Literacy at Louisiana State University; William Kelly, Co-founder and CEO at ReelDx; Jason Griffiths, Director of Programs at the National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education; Pascal Forgione, Jr., Executive Director of the Center on K-12 Assessment and Performance Management at ETS; Lorraine Griffith, a Title I Reading Specialist at West Buncombe Elementary in Asheville, North Carolina; Bill Honig, President of the Consortium on Reading Excellence; Richard Kessler, Executive Dean of Mannes College and the New School for Music; Chi Kim, Former Superintendent, Ross School District; Karen LeFever, Executive Vice President / Chief Development Officer, ChanceLight Behavioral Health; Lynne Munson, President and Executive Director of Great Minds; and Maria Neira, former Vice President of New York State United Teachers.

EUREKA MATH

Eureka Math Background

What is Great Minds and what is its relationship to Eureka Math?
Great Minds is the nonprofit publisher of Eureka Math and other instructional materials. Our mission is to ensure all students, regardless of their circumstance, receive a content-rich education in the full range of liberal arts and sciences. Since 2007, we have worked with teachers and other content experts to develop curricula across subjects and grades.
What is the relationship between EngageNY and Eureka Math?
The New York State Education Department contracted with our organization in 2012 to create a mathematics curriculum called EngageNY, now known as Eureka Math. The curriculum is available on both the EngageNY and Great Minds sites for free download. Between the two sites, the curriculum has been downloaded more than 13 million times by users in all 50 states.
Is Eureka Math free?
Yes. Anyone can download the entire Eureka Math curriculum, along with a variety of instructional materials and support resources, for free. Some materials, such as our printed workbooks and Eureka Digital Suite, do include a fee. As a nonprofit, we put any revenue from these materials toward continually refining and improving the curriculum.
Who developed the Eureka Math curriculum?
More than 200 teachers and math experts from around the country developed the Eureka Math curriculum. Our team of writers remains involved in the curriculum through professional development events and by ensuring that the curriculum is consistently updated and refined based on feedback from the field.
Has the Eureka Math curriculum been evaluated?
The independent nonprofit Edreports.org gave Eureka Math top marks across the board for alignment to the Common Core State Standards and usability in the classroom — much higher rating than any other publisher. In addition, states like Tennessee and Louisiana are adopting Eureka Math as a recommended curriculum in its schools. Louisiana gave Eureka Math a Tier-1 ranking, the only curriculum to earn that honor for elementary, middle, and high school grades. In addition, Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products (EQuIP) recognizes multiple Eureka Math lessons as exemplars.
What is the Eureka Math connection to the Common Core State Standards?
The teachers and math experts who wrote the curriculum wrote it to be aligned with the new college- and career-ready standards, which emphasize deeper learning, critical thinking, and conceptual understanding of math. In addition to getting top marks from EdReports.org for this alignment, Eureka Math also was highly praised for its usability in the classroom. The standards provide the foundation, but they are only a starting point. Teachers also need high-quality curriculum and aligned professional development in order to teach students the higher-level knowledge and skills they need for success in the 21st century.
Is there any data to prove that Eureka Math works?

School districts across the country are enjoying success with Eureka Math. Two stories from Louisiana and Florida, below, show how Eureka Math implementers are seeing test scores go up and students thrive. You can find more data about Eureka Math here.

Lafayette Parish School System, Louisiana’s fifth-largest school district, was among the earliest and strongest implementers of Eureka Math. From 2014 through 2017, the district saw steady increases in the percentage of students scoring Mastery or Above on the LEAP and iLEAP state standardized math tests in Grades 3–8. Read more about their success here. Lafayette Parish is known nationwide for its strong implementation and its generosity in sharing its experiences and resources with other districts. 

More-recent Eureka Math implementers are also seeing success. For example, Pasco County, Florida, piloted Eureka Math across the district in Grades K–5 this year. A senior instructional specialist there said, “Students in these schools, who tend to be the highest-needs students in the district, were keeping up with or outperforming students in our top-tier schools.” Read more here

Great Minds is eager to partner with school districts to analyze how Eureka Math affects student learning. To participate in a randomized controlled trial or quasi-experimental study, please contact data@greatminds.org.

Eureka Math Implementation

What is the Eureka Math homework routine?

We do not specify a homework routine, we allow for teacher discretion to customize homework assignments and routines that meet the specific needs of an individual classroom. In making decisions about how to assign and manage homework, consider the following: 

Students’ performance in class, particularly on the Exercises and Examples and exit tickets, will provide the teacher with valuable information that should drive homework decisions. 

A set of problems is provided on the daily Problem Set. This bank of problems, directly tied to the day’s lesson, should be assigned thoughtfully by the teacher. 

It is not necessarily appropriate to assign the entire Problem Set for homework. It is also not necessarily appropriate to assign the same problems to all students. The classroom teacher is in the best position to know what is right for the class, both collectively and individually. 

The classroom teacher is in the best position to know which homework items their students will be able to complete successfully and independently. Thoughtfully customized homework assignments will minimize the amount of valuable instructional time that needs to be devoted to homework the following day, allowing the mathematical story to continue moving forward. On our website, we provide grade-level specific Pacing and Preparation Guides, which are intended to provide teachers with a process to customize and prepare for instruction. This includes adapting the lesson to meet the needs of individual students. It could similarly be applied to homework. 

I need help with pacing.
We often hear that teachers struggle with pacing instruction as well as preparing for instruction. In an effort to support educators in making these difficult decisions, we’ve created a Pacing and Preparation Guide for each grade, PK through 12. Each guide includes two components–Preparing to Teach a Module which outlines a process for understanding the instructional sequences, and Preparing to Teach a Lesson which outlines a process for customizing any lesson to fit the daily time constraints and unique needs of students. Both of these components guide teachers in making informed decisions about pacing. In the guides for PK through Grade 7, because of the number of lessons in each of these grades, a third component is also included that provides Suggestions for Consolidation or Omissions.
Is Eureka Math intended to be followed like a script?
Our curriculum is not intended to be followed as a script, instead as guide to offer support to teachers in the classroom. For example, the “vignettes” of teacher-student interactions included in Eureka Math are exemplars of instructional situations provided by the teachers who have crafted our curricula. These vignettes should be used, not as a script, but as a basis for study and discussion among professionals. We expect—indeed, we encourage—teachers to customize Eureka Math instructional materials and make them their own.
How does Eureka Math address the needs of diverse learners?
The scaffolds integrated into A Story of Units give alternatives for how students access information as well as express and demonstrate their learning. Strategically placed margin notes are provided within each lesson elaborating on the use of specific scaffolds at applicable times. They address many needs presented by English language learners, students with disabilities, students performing above grade level, and students performing below grade level.
What forms of assessments does Eureka Math contain?
Our curriculum does include daily formative assessments in the form of Exit Tickets, as well as Mid-Module and End-of-Module Assessments. The daily Exit Tickets are designed to help teachers reflect on what their students know and can do in order to drive instruction for the following day. The Module Assessments are designed to tie together standards that have been addressed to that point in the Module. Because these Module Assessments are comprised of rigorous items, a scoring rubric is also provided. Please note that a score is not intended to be directly converted to a percentage grade. We recognize that implementers have additional assessments needs beyond what is provided in this free curriculum. We are working diligently to secure assessment partners who will be able to provide more complete assessment programs in the future.
Is there a place where I can connect with other Eureka Math users?
One of the key components of successful Eureka Math implementation is collaboration. Teachers are looking for a place to exchange resources, discuss best practices, and interact with our curriculum writers. In response to this need, we’ve created an online community using Facebook, Pinterest, and a blog to enable curriculum users to share resources and connect with each other and our writers.
Does Eureka Math offer any interactive digital tools for students?
Based on feedback from educators, our team is focused on providing implementation support and professional development. While we do not currently offer our own suite of digital tools, some educators have found NCTM Illuminations useful.

Eureka Math Parents

Where can I find resources and information to help my child?

We understand that parents are their child’s chief advocate and most essential teacher – at homework time and always. To assist in this crucial role, we have assembled a parent support page  that contains a variety of helpful resources, including:

 

  • Homework Helpers to illustrate problems similar to those assigned in class and demonstrate an example of the thinking that supports each problem, so that parents can help their children with Eureka Math homework problems. 
  • Grade Roadmaps to explain what a Eureka Math student will be studying in the coming year and share strategies that you can employ to facilitate learning outside of the classroom. A great way to begin bridging the gap between the way math was once taught and today’s techniques.
  • Parent Tip Sheets to help parents address questions children may have about Eureka Math at home. Tip sheets are available for each module for Grades K through 8. These tip sheets include suggested strategies and models, key vocabulary, connections to previous learning, and tips for how you can support your child’s learning at home.  They are arranged in the same sequence as the student homework, making it easy for parents to follow along with their child’s progress.
  • Videos that explain the rationale behind Eureka Math and why it is an effective program.
  • Additional online resources parents may find useful

 

Parents can also download a PDF version of our curriculum, free of charge, to reference. More detailed information can be accessed within the curriculum’s module overviews and topic openers within each lesson.  

Do you have Spanish translations of parent tip sheets?
There are Spanish translations of our Eureka Math Parent Tip Sheets (Consejos para padres) available for free in the Great Minds shop, here

Eureka Math Purchasing

Is the curriculum offered in Braille, Large Print, and Text-to-Audio?

The Eureka Math curriculum is available in an APH Braille and large print files and NIMAC Braille file.

 For more information on APH Braille and large print please contact: mhaynes@aph.org or largeprint@aph.org

Contact Number:  502.899.2217/800.223.1839, x217 Fax: 502.899.2219

American Printing House for the Blind 1839 Frankfort Avenue Louisville, KY

Customers seeking new books not currently in APH’s catalog should follow this link: http://www.aph.org/tests-and-textbooks/

How do I receive a quote for Eureka Math materials?
In order to receive a quote for print and/or online materials, please pursue one of the following options: Contact us via phone at 1-844-853-1010 or fill out our online quote inquiry form and a member of our Sales team will reach out to you to discuss your specific needs in response to you email or online quote form inquiries.
How do I renew my subscription to my Eureka Math products?
To renew your subscription to Eureka Math materials please contact our sales team.
Are there Spanish translations of the Eureka Math instructional materials?

We currently offer print editions of our Student Edition workbooks, Teacher Editions, and Packets for grades K—8 in Spanish. Contact our sales team for more information. 

A selection of Eureka Math Parent Resources is also available in Spanish to assist with continued instruction outside of the classroom. These resources include a Parent Letter, a Fact Sheet, and Grade Roadmaps that can be found here.

Where can I find the math tools/manipulatives I need to purchase for each grade level/module?
All manipulatives can be purchased through our partner Didax. Additionally, the writers of Eureka Math have developed year-long, grade-level lists of the materials and tools needed to implement the curriculum. The year-long materials list for each grade level can be found on the Module PDF page (after you register for free). Each individual lesson for grades K-5 also identifies the materials needed for that specific lesson.

Eureka Math Technical

I am having trouble logging in.
If you are having trouble logging in, please use the “forgot my password” feature on the login page to reset your password. If you are still unable to log in or access your materials after that, please contact our customer service team via phone (202-223-1854) or e-mail (helpdesk@greatminds.org) for further assistance with this issue.
How do I add users to my account?
To add users to your account, please log in and navigate to your administrator dashboard. Once you’ve done this, you should be able to see how many available subscriptions you have to assign users. Please make sure you have enough subscriptions available for the users you would like to add. To add multiple users, we recommend using the “Import CSV” feature, which allows you to upload an excel document of multiple e-mail addresses and names at once.
I'm having trouble locating my resources and/or materials.
In order to access your Great Minds materials, log-in to your account and select “My Resources” in the orange banner. This option will re-direct you to a page with a list of the materials you have access to.

WIT & WISDOM ENGLISH

Wit & Wisdom English Background

How does Wit & Wisdom compare to the Wheatley Portfolio Maps?

Wheatley Portfolio Maps feature the ingredients for a great curriculum. Since 2010, schools across the country have consulted the texts and activities suggested in the Maps to create their own unit and lesson plans. A subscription to our Maps also gives educators access to our text studies, which include text-dependent questions and a suggested performance assessment to explore deeply one featured text found in the Wheatley Portfolio. Educators use these resources to craft their own unit and lesson plans.
Wit & Wisdom is a full curriculum. Each grade includes four modules. There are approximately 30 lessons in each module that build knowledge through integrated reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language instruction. Teachers are encouraged to modify each lesson to fit the needs of their classrooms, but the lessons and modules are carefully sequenced to systematically build student knowledge and skills. Our teacher-writers consulted the text lists found in our Maps as they developed Wit & Wisdom and have included many of the favorites in the Wheatley Portfolio and our history resource, the Alexandria Plan.

How are texts selected?

We take great care in selecting texts for inclusion in our Wit & Wisdom curriculum. We consider content, craft, and complexity in our text selection. 

 

  1. We look for texts that are rich in knowledge. We want students to learn about the world by reading texts that share essential scientific, historical, or literary content. These texts are also rich in content-area and academic vocabulary. When students master this vocabulary, they build knowledge that applies to their study of additional subjects and supports their comprehension of increasingly more complex texts.
  2. Second, we look for texts that are well-crafted. Our texts often include rich illustrations and text features that enhance the written content. Our featured authors use language that is rich and imaginative, which inspires students and serves as a model for their own speaking and writing. 
  3. Third, we look for texts that are complex and rigorous. We want students to read grade-level texts for the vast majority of their instructional time, so our texts are appropriately challenging.
Who wrote the Wit & Wisdom curriculum?
Wit & Wisdom affords us the opportunity to publish the work of excellent educators. Our team of writers includes teachers, literacy coaches, and school leaders. Our expert advisors have published research on their areas of expertise, which we have leveraged to inform the pedagogy of Wit & Wisdom.

Wit & Wisdom English Implementation

Does your curriculum teach to all of the CCSS for ELA?
Wit & Wisdom English modules teach all strands of the CCSS for ELA in their entirety except for the Reading Foundational Skills strand. While elements of the Reading Foundational Skills strand are taught in modules, we recommend that our EAP partners adopt a separate program to teach phonics and foundational reading skills. We are preparing a short list of phonics and foundational skills programs that we believe are strong fits with our Wit & Wisdom English curriculum.
What support will I receive from Great Minds to help me implement the Wit & Wisdom English curriculum?

Teachers make the Wit & Wisdom curriculum come alive, and our implementation support focuses on helping teachers craft and execute lessons that fit the goals of their classrooms. Our virtual webinars will focus on the texts, building on specific aspects of the instructional design, such as the process for closely reading selected texts. Teachers will receive guidance on how to execute effective lessons and implement best practices. Subsequent sessions will include time to reflect on previous lessons and how to use those reflections to inform subsequent lesson planning thus establishing a cycle of planning, execution, and reflection that hones and develops the teacher’s craft.

Participants will access our virtual professional development sessions via the same website that hosts curriculum modules. Great Minds will also establish a dedicated Facebook page for our educators to share lesson planning resources, ideas, and tips.

What assessments does Wit & Wisdom English include?

We include formative and summative assessments in each module. Formative assessments include:

 

  • Check for Understanding tasks that are administered daily and allow teachers to evaluate students’ progress towards a learning goal.
  • Focusing Question tasks that occur every 8–12 lessons and ask students to synthesize knowledge and skills gained in one section of each module.
  • New Read Assessments that occur at least twice in each module and ask students to apply literacy skills to a new text.

 

Summative assessments include:

 

  • End of Module Assessments that ask students to synthesize knowledge and skills from the entire module in the final days of instruction.
  • Our online assessments are not designed to be predictive of students’ performance on an end-of-year state exam.

Wit & Wisdom English Parents

What books will my child(ren) be reading in a Wit & Wisdom English classroom?

When selecting texts for Wit & Wisdom, we looked for texts that teach students knowledge about themselves and the world in a way that is engaging and interesting. Some texts are old favorites (Hatchet by Gary Paulson), while others are new selections (The Crossover by Kwame Alexander). Students encounter fiction and nonfiction texts that help them build knowledge about the world and cultivate a love of reading.

Some selected texts feature characters or settings that will be familiar to students, serving as a mirror to their own lives. Other texts illuminate people, places, or experiences from long ago or far away that expose students to elements of our world that might be unfamiliar. As a result, students both recognize themselves in our selections and also gain exposure to diverse perspectives and experiences.

Nonfiction texts explore elements of science or history that contribute to students’ knowledge of our world. Grade 2 includes Why Do Leaves Change Color? by Betsy Maestro, which can boost students’ exploration of weather and seasons that they might do during science. Eighth graders read The Great Fire by Jim Murphy and use their understanding of Chicago’s epic fire to understand how the economic, political, and social realities of American cities have impacted historical events. Reading done as part of Wit & Wisdom will often connect to students’ readings in other classes thereby deepening students’ knowledge and understanding of the world.

What can I do at home to support my child(ren)’s literacy development?

Great Minds has selected texts that both adults and children will enjoy reading and rereading. We invite parents to read these titles at home with their children whenever possible. Students will benefit from discussing these texts with their parents, providing the opportunity to explore ideas and themes together.

Because we find texts that are widely available whenever possible, many of our featured titles are available at public libraries. Our team is also eager to collaborate with parent groups who might want to purchase additional titles for school or home use. Contact Sarah Woodard at sarah.woodard@greatminds.org if you are interested in acquiring our texts.

What topics will my children study as part of the Wit & Wisdom English curriculum?

When students know a lot about a topic and know the vocabulary associated with that topic, they become stronger readers who can more easily learn new information. To build students’ knowledge, each Wit & Wisdom English module provides resources for 6–8 weeks of deep study of one topic, considered from multiple perspectives.

There are countless topics worth studying. When our team considered what knowledge would best empower students to access and understand the world, we honed in on literature, science, and history topics that would provide a solid foundation on which students can build.

Literary texts featured in the Wit & Wisdom English curriculum draw students into engaging stories told in exemplary ways. Kindergarteners enjoy Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, learning how rhythm and rhyme bring a text to life. Fourth graders explore how poetry can unleash powerful emotions in Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. Fifth graders explore Shakespeare’s Elizabethan England through a close read of Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood, and eighth graders dive into A Midsummer Night’s Dream to understand the bard’s genius. Through the exploration of poetry, prose, novels, and short stories, the depth of what literature can offer deepens students’ understanding of the world and inspires a love of reading.

Scientific topics in selected texts illuminate the realities of our world. Topics range from weather (Grade 1) to the circulatory system (Grade 4) to epidemics (Grade 7). Students closely read texts on scientific topics that deepen their understanding of the experiments and scientific study they do as part of their science classes.

Students explore American history in each grade, K–8. Kindergarteners learn about the construction of the White House, third graders read about the experiences of immigrants at Ellis Island, and fifth graders explore the reality of the Civil War. Informational texts on these topics are integrated with engaging literature to complement and reinforce knowledge building.

Parents can take advantage of students’ growing knowledge with trips to local museums, science centers, and historical sites. Students are often excited to demonstrate their growing expertise, which can spark exploration of new and interesting areas that all family members can enjoy.

Wit & Wisdom English Purchasing

Do you offer print versions of your material?
Wit & Wisdom offers both teacher and student editions in print. If you are interested in purchasing Wit & Wisdom print materials, please contact sales.
How do I order the books for the Wit & Wisdom English modules?

Mackin Educational Resources will fill all book orders for Wit & Wisdom.

You can submit a purchase order to the following address: 

Mackin Educational Resources
Attention: Great Minds Order Processing

3505 County Road 42 West

Burnsville, MN 55306

 

Mackin Educational Resources can be reached at:

 800-369-5490 toll free fax
800-245-9540 toll free voice
classroomservices@mackin.com

THE WHEATLEY PORTFOLIO

Wheatley English Background

What is the Great Minds Wheatley Portfolio?
Early on during the development of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Great Minds recognized that these influential standards would have the potential to raise student achievement if the standards were implemented with first-rate curriculum materials. We therefore set out to create tools that teachers could use to develop strong, CCSS-aligned curricula. The first tool we created is the Great Minds Curriculum for English. The curriculum provides a coherent sequence of thematic curriculum units, roughly six per grade level, K–12. The units connect the skills delineated in the CCSS in ELA with suggested works of literature and informational texts and provide sample activities that teachers can use in their classrooms.
Does the Wheatley Portfolio comprise a complete curriculum?
Wheatley Portfolio is intended to serve as a “road map” for the school year, as an aid for jumpstarting the lesson planning process. Our Portfolio does not comprise a complete curriculum, nor does it prescribe how teachers are to teach the material included in the Portfolio. As a common planning tool, the Portfolio can facilitate school and district-wide collaboration. It also can become the backbone of rich, content-based professional development as teachers work together to create and then refine curricula for their particular schools and classrooms.
How is the Great Minds Wheatley Portfolio funded?
The development of the Great Minds Wheatley Portfolio was initially funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Currently, membership fees are the key source of support for maintaining the portfolio and for creating new curriculum-related tools and services.
How many of the CCSS K-12 standards are covered in the Great Minds Wheatley Portfolio?
All standards in the CCSS are addressed at least once, if not a number of times. Each grade includes a “standards checklist” showing which standards are covered in which unit. The curriculum writers worked carefully to ensure that the content and skills in each unit would build on one another so that in the aggregate, all standards would be addressed in a coherent, logical way. They grouped standards that they could envision fitting together in one unit. For example, if a unit was focused on asking and answering questions in informational text, then standards for shared research and expository writing were included in that unit as well.
What components comprise a complete curriculum?
We envision a "complete curriculum" to be a working set of documents and practices for daily instruction and assessments that teachers collaboratively develop and refine using the content and skills delineated in the Wheatley Portfolio. A "complete curriculum" would not only include the components of our portfolios as they are now, but also further guidance about differentiating instruction to suit advanced and struggling students (for example, those who are reading above or below grade level, English language learners, and students with disabilities). A full curriculum would also include a scope and sequence, samples of student work, more scoring rubrics, and—ultimately—more suggested lesson plans. It could also include pacing suggestions to guide instruction of the content and skills in ways that address specific student objectives and link them to the standards, much like our sample lesson plans do. Other levels of detail might be included, such as lists of important vocabulary words for each text, assessment blueprints, detailed pacing of grammar instruction that is integrated with the works (i.e., sentence structure and usage conventions are studied in the context of what students are reading).
Can I comment on the Wheatley Portfolio? Will the curriculum be revised in the future?
Wheatley Portfolio is based on the CCSS. The CCSS dictated both the goals and contours of our curriculum. In addition to the CCSS, we have consulted a wide range of model curricula and other content materials, including the International Baccalaureate course outlines, curriculum maps and scoring rubrics used by the Brooklyn Latin School, and the Massachusetts English Language Arts Curriculum Frameworks. We have tried to incorporate the best aspects of these successful programs and materials into our curriculum, such as a focus on a sequence of specific content, the inclusion of both oral and written expressions of student proficiency, and attention to the detailed aspects of genres, subgenres, and characteristics of various kinds of literary and informational texts. Whenever possible, we have suggested ways to integrate digital learning tools and resources to enhance both teaching and learning.
Who wrote the Wheatley Portfolio?
The Wheatley Portfolio was written by public school teachers for public school teachers. More than three dozen teachers had a hand in drafting, writing, reviewing, or revising the Portfolio. Collectively, the teachers who contributed to this curriculum bring several dozen years of teaching experience to the project.
What are the component parts of each unit?

Overview: This is a brief description of the unit. It explains the unit’s theme and provides a summary of what students will learn. It explains the structure, progression, and various components of the unit. It may offer some guidance regarding the selection of texts. The unit descriptions illuminate the connections between the skills identified in the standards and the content of the suggested works. 

Essential question: The “essential question” highlights the usefulness, the relevance, and the greater benefit of a unit. It is often the “so what?” question about material covered. It should be answerable, at least to some degree, by the end of the unit, but it should also have more than one possible answer. It should prompt intellectual exploration by generating other questions. Here’s an example from eighth grade: “How does learning history through literature differ from learning through informational text?” 

Focus standards: These standards are taken directly from the CCSS and have been identified as especially important for the unit. Other standards are covered in each unit as well, but the focus standards are the ones that the unit has been designed to address specifically. 

Suggested student objectives: These are the specific student outcomes for the unit. They describe the transferable ELA content and skills that students should possess when the unit is completed. The objectives are often components of more broadly-worded standards and sometimes address content and skills necessarily related to the standards. The lists are not exhaustive, and the objectives should not supplant the standards themselves. Rather, they are designed to help teachers “drill down” from the standards and augment as necessary, providing added focus and clarity for lesson planning purposes. 

Suggested works: These are substantial lists of suggested literary and informational texts. In most cases (particularly in the middle and high school grades), this list contains more texts than a unit could cover; it is meant to offer a range of options to teachers. Several permutations of the list could meet the goals of the unit. The suggested texts draw heavily from the “exemplar texts” listed in the CCSS. Exemplars are works the CCSS identified as meeting the levels of complexity and rigor described in the standards. These texts are identified with an (E) after the title of an exemplar text. An (EA) indicates a work by an author who has another work cited as an exemplar text. 

Art, music, and media: These sections list works of visual art, music, film, and other media that reflect the theme of the unit and that a teacher can use to extend students’ knowledge in these areas. Each unit includes at least one sample activity involving the works listed under this heading. In some cases, a prompt also has been provided. ELA teachers who choose to use this material may do so on their own, by team teaching with an art or music teacher, or perhaps by sharing the material with the art or music teacher, who could reinforce what students are learning during the ELA block in their classroom. The inclusion of these works in our curriculum is not intended to substitute for or infringe in any way upon instruction students should receive in separate art and music classes. 

Sample activities and assessments: These items have been written particularly for the unit, with specific standards and often with specific texts in mind. Each activity addresses at least one standard in the CCSS; the applicable standard(s) are cited in parentheses following the description of each activity. The suggested activities or assessments are not intended to be prescriptive, exhaustive, or sequential; they simply demonstrate how specific content can be used to help students learn the skills described in the standards. They are designed to generate evidence of student understanding and give teachers ideas for developing their own activities and assessments. Teachers should use, refine, and/or augment these activities, as desired, in order to ensure that they will have addressed all the standards intended for the unit and, in the aggregate, for the year. 

Reading foundations: To help kindergarten through second-grade students master the skills necessary to become strong readers, Great Minds offers a consolidated pacing guide of instructional goals for the teaching of the CCSS reading Foundational Skills. 

Additional resources: These are links to lesson plans, activities, related background information, author interviews, and other instructional materials for teachers from a variety of resources, including the National Endowment for the Humanities and ReadWriteThink. The standards that could be addressed by each additional resource are cited at the end of each description. 

Terminology: These are concepts and terms that students will encounter—often for the first time—over the course of the unit. The list is not comprehensive; it is meant to highlight terms that either are particular to the unit, are introduced there, or that play a large role in the work or content of the unit. These terms and concepts are usually implied by the standards, but not always made explicit in them. 

Interdisciplinary connections: This is a section included only in our curriculum for the elementary grades. Here we very broadly list the content areas the unit covers and then suggest opportunities for “making interdisciplinary connections” from the curriculum to other subjects, including history, civics, geography, and the arts. We hope this section will be particularly helpful for K-5 teachers, who typically teach all subjects. 

Sample Lesson Plan: One unit in each grade includes a supplementary document that outlines a possible sequence of lessons, using one or more suggested unit texts to meet focus standards. These sample lessons include guidance for differentiated instruction. 

Sample lesson plans can be found in the following units: Kindergarten Unit 3, Grade One Unit 3, Grade Two Unit 3, Grade Three Unit 3, Grade Four Unit 2, Grade Five Unit 1, Grade Six Unit 5, Grade Seven Unit 3, Grade Eight Unit 3, Grade Nine Unit 6, Grade Ten Unit 4, Grade Eleven Unit 1, Grade Twelve Unit 6. 

Standards Checklist: Each grade includes a standards checklist that indicates which standards are covered in which unit—providing teachers an overview of standards coverage for the entire school year.

Why are art, music, and media components of the units?
Great Minds promotes the importance of all students studying the arts, and so we have highlighted places where ELA instruction could be enhanced by connecting a work of literature or an objective of the unit to art, music, or film. For example, students might compare a novel, story, or play to its film or musical rendition. Where a particular period of literature or the literature of a particular region or country is addressed, works of art from that period or country may also be examined. We suggest, for example, that students study self-portraiture when they are encountering memoirs. In each case, connections are made to the standards themselves. The inclusion of these works in our English curriculum is NOT intended to substitute for or infringe in any way upon instruction students should receive in separate arts and music classes.
What are the special features of Wheatley Portfolio?

Our Great Minds Wheatley Portfolio contains:

 

  • Guidance for differentiated instruction in each Sample Lesson Plan
  • Pacing guides for K-2 reading instruction
  • Hundreds of writing, grammar, and research activities
  • A thirteen-step process for writing a senior research paper
  • Recommended informational and contemporary texts throughout
  • A library of seventy digital resources
  • 179 arts activities throughout all seventy-six units
  • A glossary of more than 375 ELA terms
  • The option to purchase suggested works at discounted prices
What kinds of reading materials are included in Wheatley Portfolio?
Many of the texts listed as exemplars in the CCSS Appendix B are included in Wheatley Portfolio. These texts take priority in our units and indeed shape unit themes. Like the exemplar texts themselves, the additional texts suggested in our curriculum include literary works and informational texts that have stood the test of time, as well as excellent contemporary titles. The suggested texts include novels, short stories, poetry, essays, speeches, memoirs, biographies, autobiographies, fables, folk tales, and mythology. Teachers will find texts written by authors of wide-ranging diversity: young and old, living and dead, male and female, American and international. In the early grades, our Portfolio prioritizes students’ exposure to traditional stories and poetry, Mother Goose rhymes, and award-winning fiction and nonfiction chosen for quality of writing and relevance to themes. They also emphasize concepts of print, phonological awareness, phonics, and text reading fluency. In upper elementary and middle school grades, students read a variety of fiction and nonfiction on science and history topics, as well as diverse selections of classic and contemporary literature. High school begins by establishing in ninth grade a common understanding of literary and informational genres, sub-genres, and their characteristics. Grades ten through twelve each focus on a different literary tradition, both American and international. Along the way, our Portfolio highlights numerous points of connection with history, science, and the arts.
Is the curriculum tailored to any specific reading instruction method or management technique?
The Wheatley Portfolio is not tailored to any specific reading instruction method or management technique. It is up to local school districts and teachers to determine how reading will be taught. The sample activities and assessments reflect a mix of teacher- and student-centered instruction, but emphasize eliciting evidence of student understanding through authentic assessments.
How did Great Minds come up with the themes on which Wheatley Portfolio is based?
The unit themes grew organically out of the process of selecting exemplar texts. The teachers who wrote the curriculum intentionally chose themes that would resonate with students, as well as lend coherence to the skills and content addressed. Some of the themes introduced in the early elementary grades, such as courage, re-emerge in later years. We have done so in a deliberate attempt to invite students to wrestle with some of the “great ideas,” a hallmark of a liberal education. We hope that as students progress through school, they will consider the themes at greater levels of depth.
How does the Great Minds Wheatley Portfolio address the CCSS “Reading Foundations”?
Under the “Reading Foundations” sections for the K-2 curriculum (and embedded into the curriculum for grades 3-5) is a pacing guide for reading instruction. This guide is aligned with the CCSS reading “Foundational Skills.” The guide paces instruction in reading foundations logically across the grades. Concepts of print, phonological awareness, phonics, and text reading fluency are all addressed and woven into a developmental progression that leads to word recognition and text reading. Accomplishment of these milestones can be achieved with daily practice and brief activities that would require thirty to forty minutes of instructional time per day. A sample of those activities is also provided. Explicit, sequential, and cumulative teaching of these skills in no way should detract from, substitute for, or prevent the teaching of the oral language, comprehension, and literature-focused instruction, also described in the units.
How are the CCSS cited in the Wheatley Portfolio?
Our citations for the standards follow the format established by the CCSS (found in the upper right hand corners of the pages in the CCSS ELA document): strand.grade.number. For example, the first Reading Literature (RL) standard in grade four would be cited as: RL.4.1. You will find our citations in the front of each focus standard and at the end of each sample activity/assessment. Where standards clearly corresponded to lessons listed under “additional resources,” standards also have been cited.
How did you develop the Wheatley Portfolio?
Wheatley Portfolio is based on the CCSS. The CCSS dictated both the goals and contours of our curriculum. In addition to the CCSS, we have consulted a wide range of model curricula and other content materials, including the International Baccalaureate course outlines, curriculum maps and scoring rubrics used by the Brooklyn Latin School, and the Massachusetts English Language Arts Curriculum Frameworks. We have tried to incorporate the best aspects of these successful programs and materials into our curriculum, such as a focus on a sequence of specific content, the inclusion of both oral and written expressions of student proficiency, and attention to the detailed aspects of genres, sub-genres, and characteristics of various kinds of literary and informational texts. Whenever possible, we have suggested ways to integrate digital learning tools and resources to enhance both teaching and learning.

Wheatley English Implementation

How are educators meant to use the Wheatley Portfolios?
Educators can view the curriculum as a “road map” for the school year, using the Portfolio to jumpstart the lesson planning process. As a common planning tool, the portfolio also can become the backbone of rich, content-based professional development as teachers collaborate to refine the curricula for their particular schools and classrooms.
How will the Great Minds Curriculum for English help me, my school, my district, or my state implement the CCSS?

The Common Core State Standards call for the new standards to be taught within the context of a “content-rich curriculum.” But the CCSS do not specify what content students need to master, as this fell outside the scope of the standards-setting project. Here is how this is explained in the introduction to the CCSS:

[W]hile the Standards make references to some particular forms of content, including mythology, foundational U.S. documents, and Shakespeare, they do not—indeed, cannot—enumerate all or even most of the content that students should learn. The Standards must therefore be complemented by a well-developed, content-rich curriculum consistent with the expectations laid out in this document.

Responsibility for developing such a curriculum falls to schools, districts, and states. The Great Minds Curriculum for English is designed to meet the needs of the teacher, principal, curriculum director, superintendent, or state official who is striving to develop, or to help teachers to develop, new ELA curricula aligned with the CCSS. The curriculum can also serve as a resource for those endeavoring to conduct professional development related to the standards.

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (Washington, DC: Common Core State Standards Initiative), 6.

Are teachers expected to use every text and do every sample activity or assessment?
No and no. The suggested texts offer a range of materials from which teachers may choose. The suggested activities or assessments are not intended to be prescriptive or exhaustive. Teachers can select from among them, modify them to meet their students’ needs, or use them as inspiration for creating their own activities.
Should the units be taught in sequential order?
Most of the units, particularly in elementary school, are designed to be taught in sequence, but teachers could certainly make modifications to the units so that they may be taught in a different order.
Why does the Great Minds Wheatley Portfolio emphasize memorization and recitation?
Recitation requires close reading and therefore nurtures deeper levels of students’ understanding. Students also benefit from the satisfaction of making a poem or piece of prose one’s own for life. In addition, many teachers observe that memorization and recitation help develop a student’s experience and confidence in public speaking, which could help students marshal evidence and make effective arguments in other contexts. Keep in mind that our suggestions for memorization activities are not meant to be mandatory in every unit.
Does the curriculum provide sample student work or scoring rubrics for activities and assessments?
Aside from the inclusion of a scoring rubric for high school seminars, the Wheatley Portfolio does not provide sample student work or scoring rubrics. We expect to develop such additional tools as teachers and curriculum developers use and customize the curriculum, and as we conduct ongoing professional development.

Wheatley English Purchasing

What are the benefits of joining the Great Minds Wheatley Portfolio?
Members are able to access Wheatley Portfolio, rate and comment on each of the seventy-six units, rate and comment on thousands of suggested works, activities, and resources, purchase print copies of the Portfolio at a 30% discount, submit lesson plans for possible posting on the website, receive a “first alert” for news related to the Portfolio, and get preferred pricing on curriculum services and tools that are under development.
Why isn't the curriculum available for free?

Great Minds shoulders considerable costs to maintain the integrity of the curriculum. The membership fee helps us to fund those costs, which include providing comprehensive professional development, making ongoing revisions to reflect member feedback, reviewing submitted lesson plans, and maintaining the general quality, reliability, and security of the website. 

In instances of financial hardship you may write to Great Minds to request that the fee be waived and we will respond within 30 days.

Who has reviewed the curriculum?
Our Great Minds Wheatley Portfolio reflects the input of the many dozens of teachers who have reviewed the curriculum. In the fall of 2010 the portfolio was made available for public comment. During that period and since we’ve received hundreds of comments from teachers, superintendents, principals, curriculum directors, and many others who have taken the time to send along their reactions and suggestions and the curriculum has been enriched by their input. We were fortunate that the American Federation of Teachers was willing to convene the same panel of AFT teachers that reviewed the CCSS to review the first edition of our curriculum. The Milken Family Foundation provided us access to a dozen winners of the Milken Educator Award. These teachers, nationally recognized for excellence in the classroom, have provided considerable input and insight. We are also grateful to the National Alliance of Black School Educators for identifying superintendents, teachers, and content area specialists from across the country to review our curriculum as well.
Must I become a member in order to use Wheatley Portfolio?
Yes, only members of Wheatley Portfolio can view the curriculum online.
What is the cost of membership and are institutional rates available?
The price of membership is $30 per year if you are seeking access to just one grade span (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, or 9-12). Access to the K-12 curricula in their entirety is available for $90 annually. School districts and other institutions with more than five hundred users should contact Great Minds to discuss institutional pricing. States, networks, co-ops, districts, or schools seeking to provide access to all English, reading, and English Language Arts teachers will receive a significant discount. It is important to Great Minds that teachers continue to shape and enhance the Portfolio.
How long does membership last?
Membership lasts one calendar year from the date of purchase and must be renewed annually.
Can I view the Portfolio before I purchase it?
Sure. You see two units and two sample lesson plans, selected from across our grades on our website. Our complete K-12 curricula are comprised of 76 units and 13 sample lesson plans.
Is Wheatley Portfolio Available in Print Form?
Yes. Wheatley Portfolio members receive a 30% discount (and free shipping) on the 3-volume print edition of our English curriculum, published by Jossey-Bass.

THE ALEXANDRIA PLAN

History Background

How is Alexandria Plan supported?
Our Alexandria Plan is made possible with generous funding from the Louis Calder Foundation. Membership fees are the key source of support for maintaining and expanding the Plan with more resources for more grades.
What is Alexandria Plan?

Alexandria Plan is a strategic framework for identifying and using high quality works of non-fiction and historical fiction as resources for meeting the expectations of the CCSS.  This Plan is not meant to supplant ELA instruction—but rather to show how such instruction can be integrated with, and draw from, informational texts on topics in history.  The Plan helps teachers to pose questions about featured anchor texts on a wide range of topics in United States and world history.  Topics range from the caves at Lascaux to King Tut’s tomb, Chief Joseph to Kubla Khan, and the birth of democracy to fall of the Berlin Wall.  These books tell stories that will thrill students.  Accompanying text-dependent questions (TDQs) will drive student learning to a deeper level of understanding.  Please read below for detailed descriptions of each component of this new curriculum tool.

Alexandria Plan is the second in a suite of curriculum materials Great Minds has developed to help educators implement the CCSS-ELA.  In 2010 Great Minds released its Curriculum Maps in English Language Arts, now titled Wheatley Portfolio.  Wheatley Portfolio is a coherent sequence of thematic units, roughly six per grade level, K–12.  Wheatley Portfolio connects the skills delineated in the CCSS with suggested works of literature and informational texts and provide sample activities that teachers can use in their classrooms.

 

What is the relationship between Great Minds and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?
Great Minds and the Common Core State Standards are not affiliated. Great Minds was established in 2007, prior to the start of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which was led by the National Governors Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers.
How will Alexandria Plan help me, my school, my district, or my state implement the CCSS?
The CCSS emphasize the importance of literacy across the curriculum. Indeed, CCSS architect David Coleman he said: “There is no such thing as doing the nuts and bolts of reading in kindergarten through fifth grade without coherently developing knowledge in science, and history, and the arts – period.” Unfortunately, research and demonstrated that history is among a group of core subjects that has been squeezed out of many classrooms. Our Alexandria Plan guides educators through the process of reprioritizing the teaching of history in the CCSS classroom. Alexandria Plan will assist teachers in addressing key CSSS literacy standards, while also meeting state social studies standards.
How Is Alexandria Plan Structured?

Alexandria Plan organizes United States and world history in to 36 eras (18 each for US and world), providing historical summaries, grade-span-based learning expectations, suggested anchor texts, text studies (comprised of TDQs, student responses, and assessments based on a featured anchor text), and more select resources for each era.  The Plan currently provides instructional materials customized for the “lower elementary” (Kindergarten – 2nd grade) and “upper elementary” (3rd-5th grades) grade spans.  In the future, we expect to add materials for middle and high school. 

ERA SUMMARIES: Each of the 36 eras contains a concise and compelling summary of the history of that time period—highlighting the people, events, places, and ideas that are essential knowledge for students. Drawn from exemplary state social studies standards, the summaries were written by a historian with expert knowledge of those standards.  They were also vetted by other historians who checked and rechecked this work for accuracy. These concise, easy-to-read narratives contain what college and career-ready high school graduates should know about each era.  The summaries also make it convenient for teachers to review the history of the era in preparation for lesson-planning and deeper research. 

LEARNING EXPECTATIONS: This is the portion of the era summary that our teachers have identified as being appropriate and necessary for students in each grade band.  So, for each era, we have indicated what knowledge is essential for students in “lower elementary” (most likely Kindergarten through 2nd grade) and “upper elementary” (3rd grade through 5th grade).  It is this knowledge that students would need to master in order to be prepared for later learning expectations. 

SUGGESTED ANCHOR TEXTS: For each grade span of each era, we provide a list of up to 10 anchor texts that can be used to teach essential knowledge found in the era summaries and learning expectations. We provide teachers with text recommendations on an array of topics in the era, so that educators can select what is best suited to their individual classroom.  These carefully curated selections include exceptional works of narrative nonfiction, informational texts, and historical fiction. Each text is rich in historical content, well-written, fair in its presentation of history, and often beautifully illustrated, allowing for the development of text dependent questions that illuminate both the historical content as well as the author and illustrator’s craft. These texts may also serve as very good mentor texts for students’ own writing. 

TEXT STUDIES: The “text study” is the portion of these materials that provides teachers detailed guidance about how to lead students through a close, patient reading of a featured anchor text.  The text studies contain The Alexandria Plan’s central feature: sets of text-dependent questions, sample student responses, and performance assessments. The text studies provide support for an instructional process that is promoted by the writers of the CCSS as an effective means of teaching close reading of complex texts through a carefully crafted sequence of text-dependent questions.  These TDQs are followed by at least one comprehensive performance assessment for each study.  Both the TDQs and the performance assessments require students to support conclusions or opinions about aspects of the text with specific evidence from the text. 

FEATURED ANCHOR TEXT: One of the suggested anchor texts has been selected as the “featured anchor text” for each grade span in an era. It is for this text that we have created a “text study,” comprising a rationale for the selection of the particular text, TDQs, performance assessments, and extensions.  Each text study also includes CCSS citations for nearly every one of the TDQs, performance assessments, and extensions, along with explanations of how they help address CCSS standards for literacy. 

TEXT-DEPENDENT QUESTIONS: Each text study includes a set of TDQs that guide students to a comprehensive understanding of a particular component of the history outlined in the learning expectations.  The questions lead students through a close read of the text; they require students to use evidence directly from the text to explain/support their answers. Such close reading leads students to absorb key historical knowledge while honing essential CCSS literacy skills.  Sample student answers are provided for each question.  Connections to the CCSS also are provided for nearly every text-dependent question.  Please note that our citations for the standards follow the format established by the CCSS; when a question or assessment could apply to multiple grade levels—or just to a particular grade level within a band—the standards are listed in “K-2” or “3-5” chunks in the following way:  strand.gradeband.number. 

PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENTS: Each text study culminates in performance assessments that allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the key ideas, historical events, and figures discussed in the featured anchor text.  These performance assessments flow naturally from the progression of TDQs about the featured anchor text. 

MORE RESOURCES: Finally, we also include a list of related resources, including works of historical fiction, art and music, primary sources, and multimedia resources that can be incorporated into lessons or used to extend or enrich instruction.  They may also use them simply to build their own content knowledge.  Teachers often ask for quality primary sources that they can use in elementary grades, so Great Minds sought out engaging, relevant, accessible primary sources for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.  Sources of essential geographic knowledge are incorporated where appropriate.  Like our suggested anchor text selections, these resources have been carefully selected—curated—in order to save teachers countless hours searching for resources to extend students’ knowledge of history.  

How Were Anchor Texts Selected?

Teacher-writers with decades of classroom experience reviewed countless nonfiction texts and selected the most engaging, content-rich, informational books that would convey an essential aspect of the history addressed in the learning expectations for each era.  The list of texts is neither comprehensive, nor exhaustive.  In other words, a text has not been selected for every aspect of the history contained in the era summaries, nor do we imagine that we have identified all of the great texts available that are relevant to an era.  The list represents a great start—and one that we look forward to building with Plan users over time.   

We were looking for rigorous, accurate, well-written, and wonderfully illustrated texts that would enliven historical events in ways that nurture children's innate curiosity; make teaching more fun, by engaging the teacher in compelling history; and serve, in their quality and complexity, as exemplars for teaching the literacy skills defined in the CCSS.

Criterion One: The text should enliven historical events in ways that nurture children's innate curiosity.

We sought texts that bring to life the historical setting, events, and story being told.  While our focus was the selection of rich, complex, content-rich texts, we also recognized that the texts needed to be age-appropriate.   Much consideration was given to readability, and whenever possible, we have placed texts in appropriate bands, based on their Lexile level. Where Lexile levels may pose ostensible challenges for teachers, we have explained how teachers might approach instruction; for example: through read-alouds and the scaffolding of reading.

We have geared our questions and answers to the upper level of each grade band. Teachers will have to use the questions that are appropriate for their students and anticipate the answers that are appropriate for their students, building their capacity over time.  Teachers who have piloted these materials have reported sometimes being surprised at how successfully students mine and appreciate these texts, even when they were at first considered “too hard.”  They have told us—and we believe—that it is important not to underestimate what students can do when they are presented with compelling, high-quality texts.

Criterion Two: The text should make teaching more fun, by engaging the teacher in compelling history.

One of the key instructional shifts called for in teaching to the CCSS in English language arts is the significant increase in the amount of time and attention students are asked to spend in evidence-based analysis of what they are reading.  Rather than focusing on meta-cognitive reading strategies at the expense of content, teachers can now focus on the content of the text, confident that it lends itself well to the kind of analysis demanded in the CCSS, but also giving them a chance to immerse themselves in the content, making the teaching more interesting for them.

Criterion Three: The text should serve, in its quality and complexity, an exemplar for teaching the literacy skills defined in the CCSS.

The third important criterion for text inclusion was that it was significantly complex enough to support the rich text study, including the focus on important English language arts standards.  If the texts weren’t well-written and compelling, they simply would not lend themselves to the kind of analyses that the CCSS demands – and that teachers and students enjoy.  These texts, by celebrated authors including Peter Sis and Diane Stanley, exhibit the power of narrative history, the efficacy of great illustrations, the effect of figurative language in informational text, and the strength of arguments that are supported with clear evidence.

Why "Alexandria"?
We call these curriculum materials “Alexandria Plan” because we enjoy thinking about the role that they—and the teachers who use them—play in passing along important knowledge to future generations. The Library of Alexandria in ancient Egypt and its associated museum formed the greatest center of learning the world had ever seen. The library sought to collect and catalog “all the knowledge in the world.” It became a center of learning, attracting scholars, philosophers, scientists, and physicians from all corners of the earth. Though it fell to fire, the spirit of Alexandria remains. Some 2300 years later, a new library stands near the site of its ancient ancestor, and the story of Alexandria and its Great Library inspires our efforts to help teachers illuminate the future by inculcating in their students an understanding of the past.
Has Alexandria Plan Been Piloted?

Yes. Teachers from rural, urban, charter and private schools across the country piloted a selection of the materials and shared their experience. Just fewer than 100 teachers participated, including new teachers, National Board Certified teachers, and veterans who have been recognized by their districts for excellent teaching. Their generous feedback helped us to improve these materials, and to more clearly explain how to use the features of Alexandria Plan. Rather than speak for them, here are two testimonials from piloters:


“The map made it very easy for the teacher by giving information about the book as well as historical information. The direction of the lesson was centered around the character of Christopher Columbus and the vocabulary used to describe him—brave, studious, curious, patient, dreamer. The students described Columbus and were able to defend their answers. I never really thought about the character of Columbus and all that he went through to make his dreams come true. He was a true leader. Our school is a "Leader in Me" school and this lesson illustrated several of the habits (character traits) we want our students to exhibit.”

—Trudy Phelps, Kindergarten Teacher, Dolby Elementary School (LA)


“The text was the core of the social studies lesson. I worked from the text out. In most social studies lessons you start from the outside and move in. Students related to the characters and seemed to feel they were there. They simply had a better understanding of the history behind the text. The text, with a well-balanced set of questions, made the experience easier as they developed an understanding of the history.”

—Jayne Brown, Kindergarten Teacher, Avery’s Creek Elementary School (NC)

History Implementation

Why Are There so Many Text-Dependent Questions?
It is important to know that we do not expect teachers to ask ALL of the questions we’ve provided. Our rather exhaustive sets of question are intended to support teachers in the scaffolding that will be necessary to meet the needs of all learners, and because the careful study of these questions and how the questions are constructed will help teachers to craft similar text-dependent questions about other texts on their own. Indeed, the Alexandria Plan can be used effectively as a professional development tool. Please contact Great Minds if you would like to learn about our professional development services.
Does Alexandria Plan Require Me to Adopt a Particular Method of Instruction?
No. The way a teacher chooses to prepare students to approach the study of a text depends on their teaching style and the needs of their students. The teacher may choose to have students read short sections of text with a few assigned questions, preparing students to participate fully in discussion. The teacher may also choose to have students work in pairs or small groups to read and to discuss questions orally--preparing to pull their ideas together for a rich whole class seminar or discussion. Another teacher may want to allow students to first grapple with the text independently. During their first read, students might circle passages where they are confused and/or underline points that they thought were important. Students might annotate the passage with questions and notes. As the teacher circulates during independent reading block, he or she could note how the students’ questions gather throughout the passage. The teacher could then use the TDQs to clarify misunderstandings as needed and to dive deeper into the text than students were able to independently. We offer these questions for teachers to use as they see fit.
How can I scaffold up to a text?

If a teacher wishes to use one of the Featured Anchor Texts, but feels it is too difficult for his or her children, “stair stepping” of texts might be considered.  This strategy involves doing a read aloud of a somewhat easier text to prepare the student to tackle the more difficult text.  Following is an example of how to “stair step” up to the Featured Anchor Text for US Era 11, Abraham Lincoln: Lawyer, Leader, Legend, recommended for the lower elementary grades.

At a Lexile level of 790, this text is certainly at the upper range for the age level, and we are not suggesting students in the K-2 range read this book independently. Instead, we suggest that they follow along (with their own copy or using a document camera) as the teacher reads it aloud.  Even still, some of the vocabulary and concepts might best be introduced first through easier “building up” books, such as:

 

  • Abe Lincoln’s Hat 330L
  • Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers 420L
  • Looking at Lincoln 480L
  • Lincoln and Me  650L
  • When Abraham Talked to the Trees 670L

 

Each of the books tells interesting stories about Lincoln as a person and a leader, creating a whole reservoir of background knowledge. This mounting knowledge creates curiosity in the children for more information. By the time the teacher is ready to share the more challenging Abraham Lincoln: Lawyer, Leader, Legend, the students know that Lincoln stored important things in his hat, grew whiskers because a young girl thought it would make him more dignified, stood tall while making hard decisions, and practiced his stump speeches in the woods.