The more students know about the topic of a story, or nonfiction text, the greater their understanding and learning will be as they read. Reading several texts on a single topic increases students’ acquisition of new vocabulary.
Across the Read Side By Side Reading Program, students read literary and informational chapter books. Their understanding of the concepts, ideas, and themes in these text is extended through the reading shorter, topic-aligned articles, poems, passages, maps, and primary documents.
Some of these articles are written for the program and are included in the guide, while others are electronic resources, requiring students to participate in on-line reading. It is also an option for teachers to print these articles for students if computers are not available for the lesson.
The way in which the texts are sequenced across the program is important. Each unit of study bootstraps the language and knowledge that will be needed for the next. This careful sequencing makes advanced text more accessible to less proficient readers; the sequence intentionally builds students vocabulary and domain knowledge. Across sixth grade units, students explore the topic of the American Dream and ask the question, “Is the American Dream still alive?”
The story Esperanza Rising introduces many ideas and themes, but the ideas students will explore across the unit include the push and pull factors that lead people to emigrate, including war, poverty, and the desire for a better life. At the beginning of this unit, readers will study Mexico’s history and culture. Students will learn that many people who have experienced these challenges in life, will use these challenges to make them stronger—they will rise out of the ashes like the mythological phoenix. Students study the article titled, Phoenix Mythology. (download lesson.) They also learn about the Hispanic culture when they read the article, Our Lady of Guadalupe and watch a video about the same topic.
Near the end of the unit, students begin a research project in which they study the push and pull factors that have impacted Mexican migration to the United States, past and present, and the people impacted by this. Articles and videos include:
The book I have selected for the 6.3 book club…drumroll please…is Four Perfect Pebbles, by Lilah Perl and Marion Blumenthal Lazan. This book continues the theme of the American Dream, and also looks at the affects of strict immigration regulations on Jewish families who were forced to flee Europe following Hitler’s rise to power. These strict immigration regulations established by the United States in the 1930’s (the time period of Esperanza Rising) kept the Blumenthal family from being able to leave Holland, and forced them into prison camps.
Students will explore this topic further by reading nonfiction articles, reviewing primary documents, and reading testimonies archived on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Website.
Written by Sarah Collinge