WestEd's Teacher Professional Development Program developed the "Persuasion Across Time and Space: Analyzing and Producing Complex Texts" in conjunction with the Understanding Language Initiative. The goal of this unit (involving five conceptually linked lessons) is to provide exemplars illustrating how English Language Arts Common Core Standards in Reading Informational Text and Writing Arguments can be used to deepen and accelerate the learning and instruction of English Language Learners (ELLs), especially at the middle school level. The unit consists of an introduction, detailed lesson descriptions, student handouts, and rubrics. It also provides "Guidelines for ELA Instructional Material Development" that help teachers understand the principles that guided the unit design. The unit was designed for students who have reached at least an intermediate level of proficiency in English. The five lessons involve students in examining and writing persuasive texts. The authors write that the unit is grounded in the theory and research that is presented in papers on the Understanding Language website.
The "Persuasion Across Time and Space" unit might be helpful for district curriculum leaders, school-based instructional coaches, and teachers. The authors provide a nicely packaged five-lesson module for middle school English Language Learners who have achieved an intermediate level of proficiency. The activities are scaffolded to increase in rigor and complexity, focusing on engaging students in higher order thinking through various interrelated text-based activities. The materials themselves are clearly organized, with appropriate visual supports and formatting of the student materials. The materials also provide the teacher with in-depth supporting material and rationales for the instructional practices used, allowing them to make thoughtful decisions around the application. These are based on the foundational research of the Understanding Language group pertaining to English Language Learner supports and instructional/language needs. According to the "frequently asked questions," teachers in districts across the United States were involved in providing feedback on the unit. This is a great resource for teachers working with the target student population, for both novice and veteran teachers. While some of the suggested timeframes for the activities seem a little ambitious, the modules are presented so that the teacher can modify them for the classroom. The "Guidelines for ELA Instructional Material Development" document could also be useful for teachers as they adapt existing instructional units or design new ones.