Voices of Adversity
In this eight-week module, students explore the idea of adversity of people across time and place, and through multiple modes of writing. Students begin this module with a research-based unit on the Middle Ages. They read informational articles about various aspects of medieval life, learning and practicing the skills of summarizing an article, analyzing how ideas are developed across a text, and describing how a part of a text contributes to the whole. Students then break into expert groups to read closely about one demographic group. They practice the informational reading skills they have learned and explore the adversities faced by that group. In the second half of Unit 1, students write an informational essay based on their research as their end of unit assessment. In Unit 2, students use their background knowledge built during Unit 1, but move to reading literature: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village. This is a book of monologues told from the perspective of children living in the same village during the Middle Ages. Students have dual tasks: First, they identify the various adversities faced by this cast of characters; secondly, they examine the author’s craft, specifically by identifying and interpreting figurative language in the monologues as well as analyzing how word choices affect the tone of the text. In the second half of Unit 2, students write a literary argument to address the question “Do we struggle with the same adversities as the people of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!?” In Unit 3, students move into modern voices of adversity by reading concrete poems in the books Blue Lipstick and Technically, It’s Not My Fault. These concrete poems highlight adversities faced by the speakers of the poems, an adolescent girl and her younger brother. Students apply the same reading skills they learned in the reading of Unit 2, but this unit is discussion-based, allowing teachers to assess students’ speaking and listening skills in small group discussions about the texts. For their performance task, students choose a writing format—narrative, like the monologues of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, or concrete poem—and write their own text about adversities faced by sixth-graders. Students then perform their writing for a group of their peers. This task addresses NYSP12 ELA CCLS W.6.3, SL.6.4, SL.6.6, L.6.1, L.6.3, and L.6.6.