We've Refreshed Part of the ThinkCERCA Curriculum
New lessons reflect topics of current interest, and updated writing prompts support more rigorous instruction.
This fall, we’re delighted to present updated, enhanced versions of some of your favorite Writing Modules — new and improved resources to spark courageous thinking in every classroom. You will notice a mix of new reading selections, more rigorous writing prompts, and more precise multiple choice questions.
Why We Did It
Our updated lessons are part of our fundamental commitment to building a rich library that features both time-tested and fresh, new texts — a resource that helps provide exposure both to canonical favorites and to writers, characters, and topics that are as diverse as the students and educators we serve.
Some Upcoming Changes to the Curriculum
New selections include great writers and important thinkers, such as:
- Ursula K. Le Guin, award-winning novelist and science fiction author, on the morality of a flawed utopia in “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (Conflict and Dominance, Grade 12)
- James Blake, best-selling author and winner of the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year Award, on Billie Jean King and her contribution to gender equality (Sports and Society, Grade 10)
- Arthur C. Brooks, New York Times columnist and president of the American Enterprise Institute, on why we reward bullies (Bullying, Grade 12)
We’re highlighting topics of current interest, such as:
- The ethics of using robotic pets in the care of dementia patients (Role of Machines, Grade 5)
- Online safety and privacy (Social Media, Grade 5)
- The potential for video games to treat ADHD (Video Games, Grade 7)
- Ending world hunger with solar-powered irrigation (Social Entrepreneurship, Grade 8)
- The breakthrough movie Black Panther (Cultural Perception, Grade 12)
And to ensure that all students have the chance to see the value of diversity, we’re offering new texts that represent a variety of perspectives, such as:
- “Misty Copeland Says the Ballet World Still Has a Race Problem, and She Wants to Help Fix That” (Cultural Perception, Grade 7)
- “The One-Legged Wrestler Who Conquered His Sport, Then Left It Behind” (Sports and Society, Grade 11)
- “Raising My Kids to be Unapologetic Muslims” (Personal Identity, Grade 12)
How We Did It
For fall 2018, we chose to focus on a limited number of frequently used Writing Modules that we felt could benefit from fresh updates to content, based on feedback from teachers, usage data, and our own analysis. After identifying the modules to focus on, we asked a series of questions about each lesson in each module:
- How is it working in the classroom?
- Is the text still engaging and relevant?
- Is the writing prompt generating effective examination of the text and providing a springboard for critical thinking and writing?
- Are kids likely to go home and talk about these around the kitchen table?
The answers to these questions and others led to a specific revision path for each lesson.
A great reading selection is essential to a great lesson. When our existing texts didn’t quite fit the bill, we replaced them with something that did. In every case, we were looking for texts that would be both engaging to students and worthy of their time and attention.
Our editorial team, most of whom are former teachers, worked with current teachers and professional editors to research, review, and select new texts. We read far and wide, focusing on sources of good writing including The New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, and The Atlantic. We’ve worked hard to ensure that every text in the library:
- models good writing;
- provides an interesting perspective on a topic that will generate engagement, good critical thinking, and strong writing;
- is appropriately challenging for the grade level;
- is current and pertinent;
- offers multiple perspectives, so that students have enough fodder to take any of multiple positions in response to a writing prompt — or is paired with a second text offering an alternative position;
- allows students to practice performing the tasks found in new standards and assessments.
In many cases, we thought the texts were still sound, but we found other ways to improve the lessons. In a few places, we’ve crafted new writing prompts that should be even more effective in helping students engage in meaningful analysis. Throughout, we scrutinized and tweaked each part of the lessons to ensure that they embody instructional best practices for our ThinkCERCA lesson design:
- Comprehension questions check comprehension and lead students to notice essential elements of the text.
- Highlighting instructions draw out key details needed to help students find their own answers as they develop writing in response to the prompt.
- Sentence stems and academic language models help students with the specific writing task, as well as help build critical thinking muscle.
With our thorough editorial process and feedback from current and former teachers, we've been able to ensure that new lessons and content updates are rigorous, standards-aligned, and worthy of valuable instructional time.
Seeking more resources on academic writing?
Explore our Writing Across the Curriculum series, which guides administrators and teachers through a successful writing initiative.