Alignment to College and Career Ready Standards: Overall Summary

The materials reviewed for Grade 6 do not meet the criteria for alignment. The materials do not meet grade level expectations for work with texts in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language.

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Understanding Gateways

Alignment

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Does Not Meet Expectations

Gateway 1:

Text Quality

0
17
32
36
17
32-36
Meets Expectations
18-31
Partially Meets Expectations
0-17
Does Not Meet Expectations

Gateway 2:

Building Knowledge

0
15
28
32
2
28-32
Meets Expectations
16-27
Partially Meets Expectations
0-15
Does Not Meet Expectations

Usability

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Not Rated

Not Rated

Gateway 3:

Usability

0
23
30
34
0
30-34
Meets Expectations
24-29
Partially Meets Expectations
0-23
Does Not Meet Expectations

Gateway One

Text Quality & Complexity and Alignment to Standards Components

Does Not Meet Expectations

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Gateway One Details

Grade 6 StoryTown materials do not meet the expectations for text quality and complexity and alignment to the standards.

Criterion 1a - 1f

Texts are worthy of students' time and attention: texts are of quality and are rigorous, meeting the text complexity criteria for each grade. Materials support students' advancing toward independent reading.
13/20
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Criterion Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed partially meet the criteria that anchor texts are of publishable quality and worthy of especially careful reading/listening and consider a range of student interests and reflect the distribution of text types and genres required by the standards. Materials have the appropriate level of complexity and support students’ literacy skills over the course of the school year. The instructional materials reviewed partially meet the expectation of supporting students’ increasing literacy skills over the course of the school year and partially meet the criteria for range and volume of reading to support students' reading at grade level by the end of the school year.

Indicator 1a

Anchor texts are of publishable quality and worthy of especially careful reading and consider a range of student interests.
2/4
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 partially meet the criteria for anchor texts being of publishable quality and worthy of especially careful reading and consider a range of student interests.

Anchor texts in the majority of lessons and across the year-long curriculum are of publishable quality. Anchor texts are well-crafted, content rich, often award winning titles, and include a range of student interests, engaging students at the grade level for which they are placed. However, many texts include excerpts that may be missing information needed for students to understand the text. In some texts, much background knowledge is needed for students to engage with the materials. For example:

  • In Theme 1, Lesson 2, students read an excerpt from “The Color of My Words” by Lynn Joseph. This is an age/grade appropriate text which contains thought-provoking material and vibrant illustrations.
  • In Theme 2, Lesson 7, students read an excerpt from “S.O.R. Losers” by Avi. This is a modern, thought-provoking, age/grade appropriate text.
  • In Theme 3, Lesson 11, students read “Life Under Ice” by Mary M. Cerullo. This award-winning nonfiction is an age/grade appropriate text containing vibrant photographs and strong content and academic vocabulary worthy of multiple reads.
  • In Theme 4, Lesson 17, students read an excerpt from “Maniac Magee” by Jerry Spinelli. This Newberry Medal winning text is age/grade appropriate text and worthy of multiple reads.
  • In Theme 5, Lesson 23, students read “The Sons of the Dragon King: A Chinese Legend” by Ed Young. This text contains strong academic vocabulary and vibrant illustrations.
  • In Theme 6, Lesson 29, students read an excerpt from “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster. This age/grade appropriate adaptation on a classic play contains strong academic vocabulary worthy of multiple reads.

Indicator 1b

Materials reflect the distribution of text types and genres required by the standards at each grade level.
4/4
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 meet the criteria for materials reflecting the distribution of text types and genres required by the standards at each grade level.

Anchor and paired texts include a mix of informational and literary texts. Each of the six Themes integrates various genres to support student’s understanding of the Theme. Additional self-selected reading selections are suggested as part of the classroom library to support the Themes. Text types include realistic fiction, personal narrative, historical fiction, poetry, biography, magazine article, almanac, persuasive article, expository nonfiction, short story, how-to article, myth, fable, legend, folktale, advertisement, website, science fiction, and play.

The following examples of literature found within the instructional materials include:

  • Theme 1: "Maxx Comedy: The Funniest Kid in America" by Michael Witzer as told to Laura Daily
  • Theme 2: "Focus” and “Flying Solo" by Charles R. Smith, Jr.
  • Theme 3: "The Long Bike Ride" by Melina Mangal
  • Theme 4: "How Athens Was Named" retold by Pat Betteley
  • Theme 5: "A Time to Dance" by Helen Ward
  • Theme 6: "Eager" by Helen Fox

The following examples of informational text found within the instructional materials include:

  • Theme 1: "The Wright Brothers: A Flying Start" by Elizabeth MacLeod
  • Theme 2: "Get in Gear With Safety" by Tracy Early
  • Theme 3: "Life Under Ice" by Mary M. Cerullo
  • Theme 4: "Calder” by Doug Stewart
  • Theme 5: "A Hidden City in the Andes” by Claire Llewellyn
  • Theme 6: "What Goes Up Doesn’t Always Come Down" from NASA website

Indicator 1c

Texts have the appropriate level of complexity for the grade according to quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis, and relationship to their associated student task.
4/4
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 meet the criteria for texts having the appropriate level of complexity for the grade according to quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis, and relationship to their associated student task.

The majority of texts are at the appropriate quantitative level. Texts that are above or below grade level quantitative bands have qualitative features and/or tasks that bring it to the appropriate level for students to access the text. Within the series, quantitative texts levels range from 620L-1170L, with some text above and some below, the current grade level Lexile band. Books identified for small group instruction are noted as below level, on level, advanced, and Intended for ELL students.

Examples of text that is above the quantitative measure, but is at the appropriate level based on qualitative analysis and associated task:

  • "Life Under the Ice" by Mary M. Cerullo, Lexile 1170. The text structure (descriptive, cause and effect) help students navigate the information. Photos and other text features also support understanding. Application of the comprehension strategy of adjusting reading rate, taught during the reading of the text, would also be very helpful in comprehending the text. Finally, there are figurative comparisons made on several occasions, which help students visualize the concepts being described.

Example of text that is below the quantitative measure, but is at the appropriate level based on qualitative analysis and associated task:

  • "S.O.R. Losers" by Avi has a quantitative score of 520L. It is realistic fiction with characters and problems that students can relate to. Students will be highly engaged in the text and the associated tasks make this text appropriate.

Indicator 1d

Materials support students' increasing literacy skills over the course of the school year. (Series of texts should be at a variety of complexity levels appropriate for the grade band.)
2/4
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 partially meet the criteria for materials supporting students’ increasing literacy skills over the course of the school year. (Series of texts should be at a variety of complexity levels appropriate for the grade band.)

As the year progresses, students read texts at a variety of complexity levels. For each text, the routine for reading and analyzing the text is similar and does not change based on text complexity. Scaffolding remains the same with no gradual release of responsibility and very little increase in expectations. Expectations from beginning to ending units don't seem to increase significantly. Most comprehension skills or strategies so not spiral back during the year, and don't necessarily increase in rigor or increase students' skill development. Culminating tasks do not require an increase of skills across the year and do not lead to proficiency in reading independently at grade level at the end of the school year.

While there is a variety of text complexities across the year, and most texts increase in difficulty throughout the year quantitatively, scaffolding remains the same with no gradual release of responsibility and very little increase in expectations. For example, in the beginning of the year, Theme 2 includes direct instruction with summarizing. Students are told to "use only the main ideas and combine them into a description of the whole passage", and "you must use your own words to summarize." That is the extent of the instruction. In Theme 6, when summarize is taught again, students are told "to write a summary, identify the main idea and the series of events that it includes. Identify details necessary to report the important events. Write one or two sentences, putting the main idea and details in your own words. Put events in the correct order." Paraphrasing isn't mentioned or modeled. There is no increase in student independence or ability to complete a summary without teacher assistance.

Indicator 1e

Anchor texts and series of texts connected to them are accompanied by a text complexity analysis and rationale for purpose and placement in the grade level.
0/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 do not meet the criteria that anchor texts and series of texts connected to them are accompanied by a text complexity analysis and rationale for purpose and placement in the grade level.

Anchor texts and series of texts connected to them are not accompanied by a text complexity analysis or a rationale for educational purpose and placement in Grade 6. The publisher identifies anchor text by genre and leveled readers are suggested by Below-Level, On-Level, and Advanced. Texts are identified as Below-Level, On-Level, and Advanced; no specific complexity level or rationale is provided.

Indicator 1f

Anchor text(s), including support materials, provide opportunities for students to engage in a range and volume of reading to achieve grade level reading.
1/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 partially meet the criteria that anchor and supporting texts provide opportunities for students to engage in a broad range of text types and disciplines as well as a volume of reading to achieve grade level reading proficiency. There are opportunities for students to read a range and volume of texts. The materials provide some experiences with independent reading. Teacher materials lack explicit directions to help students build their skills to read on grade level independently by the end of the year, and weekly lessons have minimal time dedicated to students reading independently.

In each lesson, students interact with a getting started story, a read-aloud, a whole-group vocabulary selection, anchor text, paired text read, and a self-selected text read during center work. Leveled readers are provided for small-group, differentiated work. Resources are provided to offer students a variety of texts of different lengths and genres. There are longer main selections, which often are excerpts from complete literary or informational books for children. There are paired selections, shorter in length, provided as a companion text, so students can compare and contrast characters, genre elements, text features, content, and other aspects of the texts.

There are opportunities for students to read a range and volume of texts. The materials provide some experiences with independent reading. Teacher materials lack explicit directions to help students build their skills to read on grade level independently by the end of the year, and weekly lessons have minimal time dedicated to students reading independently.

A Reading Adventure: Student Magazine is used for supplemental lessons to extend the Common Core. Additional texts related to the Themes are provided as leveled reading selections. These selections are suggested in the Resources section of the Teacher Edition on pg. R9.

Criterion 1g - 1n

Materials provide opportunities for rich and rigorous evidence-based discussions and writing about texts to build strong literacy skills.
4/16
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Criterion Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed meet the criteria that questions, tasks, and assignments are text-based, requiring students to engage with the text directly. Materials do not contain questions sequence that build to a culminating task. Materials provide some protocols for discussions that encourage the modeling and use of academic vocabulary and syntax, but do not provide adequate opportunitiy for evidence-based discucssion. Materials partially meet the criteria for including a mix of on-demand and process writing and short, focused projects, incorporating digital resources where appropriate. Materials offer some opportunities for students to engage in writing tasks across the text types required in the standards. Materials do not include frequent opportunities for evidence based writing. Materials do not meet the criteria for materials including explicit instruction of the grammar and conventions standards for grade level as applied in increasingly sophisticated contexts, with opportunities for application both in and out of context.

Indicator 1g

Most questions, tasks, and assignments are text-dependent, requiring students to engage with the text directly (drawing on textual evidence to support both what is explicit as well as valid inferences from the text).
0/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 do not meet the criteria that most questions, tasks, and assignments are text dependent/specific, requiring students to engage with the text directly (drawing on textual evidence to support both what is explicit as well as valid inferences from the text).

The materials reviewed contain questions and tasks that require students to engage with the text directly and to draw on textual evidence to support answers. However, the questions and tasks do not meet the expectations of the Grade 6 standards. There are some quality examples provided in the Extending the Common Core State Standards Teacher Support Book, but only a few examples are included for each theme. The teacher will need to supplement throughout the year's worth of material to ensure students have support to master Grade 6 standards.

Questions asked include those which require explicit answers and some inferences from the text. Materials include questions requiring students to engage with the text in multiple sections including Check Comprehension, Monitor Comprehension, and Making Predictions. Students must engage with the text to answer questions and complete activities. Examples of text dependent/specific questions, tasks, and assignments include:

  • In Theme 2, Lesson 7, students are asked to find answers to the questions in the section titled “Paired Selection.” Students are required to use the story from the Anthology text, “Get in Gear with Safety.” Students are asked the question, “How does the article try to persuade you to wear a helmet?” Students will need to use the text to find evidence that support their answer.
  • In Theme 3, Lesson 12, after reading the core text for the lesson, “The Long Bike Ride,” students answer the following Think Critically questions: “Why doesn’t Antoine know what to do when he finds the stranded sea lion? How can you tell that Antoine always wants to do the right thing? Use details from the selection to support your answer.”
  • In Theme 4, Lesson 17, students read “Maniac Magee” by Jerry Spinell. Questions that follow after the first two pages are, “How is Maniac Magee like a normal boy? How is he different?” Comprehension is monitored every two pages with both explicit and inferential questions.
  • In Theme 5, Lesson 23, Day 2, the teacher is provided formative questions to monitor student comprehension. Students are asked, “Why does the Dragon King disguise himself as a common peasant?" Then, after reading the selection, students are asked to respond to the question, “What does the way the Dragon King treats the unsettling rumors about his sons tell you about his personality? Use details from the text to support your answer.”
  • In Theme 6, Lesson 26, in Respond to the Website Text section, students are asked to reread the selection to identify main idea and details, and answer the following: “Why do scientists track larger pieces of debris carefully but not the smallest ones? How does the problem of “space junk” connect to what you know about problems with trash on Earth? How is orbital debris like a planet? How is it different?”

Indicator 1h

Sets of high-quality sequences of text-dependent questions and tasks build to a culminating task that integrates skills (may be writing, speaking, or a combination).
0/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 do not meet the criteria for having sets of high-quality sequences of text-dependent/specific questions and tasks build to a culminating task that integrates skills (may be writing, speaking, or a combination).

At the end of each lesson, students answer questions which can be either personal response or text-dependent as they read each text selection. Reading selections are directly or loosely tied to the unit’s overarching theme. At the end of each main selection, students discuss or write responses to five Think Critically questions about their reading, but these questions do not build to a culminating task that integrates skills.

The Reading-Writing Connection, identified as Theme Writing, takes students through the steps of the writing process leading to a final written product and ending with an on-demand piece of the same genre. While the process piece is not dependent upon questioning from the lessons’ anchor texts, there is a text used to teach the writing genre or analyze a specific writing trait. Daily, weekly, and theme planning do not provide teachers with time allotment or suggestions for how and when the Theme Project and Reading-Writing Connection are to be completed.

Materials are divided into Themes. Each of the six Themes includes a culminating Theme Project related to the Theme but not necessarily to the Theme’s text. These projects follow the same routine of Building Background and Following Project Steps leading to a final project. The final project may include a writing component. The Theme Projects can be completed without reading or understanding the text selections within the Themes. The projects do not integrate skills developed during instruction throughout the unit. For example:

  • In Theme 2, “Joining Forces,” the Theme Project is to develop a proposal to meet a specific community need. Students brainstorm ideas for a community project, research different projects that may already exist, work in small groups to write a proposal for a project, and present. While all anchor texts are related to the theme, this project could be completed without reading or responding to the texts in any of the lessons from the Theme.
  • In Theme 6, the Reading-Writing Connection is a persuasive composition. Students read, and with the teacher’s direction, analyze a passage from “Next Stop Neptune” by Alvin Jenkins, the anchor text from lesson one, and discuss organization and word choice. With the teacher’s direction, students analyze a student model of persuasive writing and proceed to choose their own topic for a persuasive composition. The completion of this Theme-long piece is not dependent upon the reading of the anchor text or deep understanding of the Theme.

Indicator 1i

Materials provide frequent opportunities and protocols for evidencebased discussions that encourage the modeling and use of academic vocabulary and syntax. (May be small group and all-class.)
1/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 partially meet the criteria for materials providing frequent opportunities and protocols for evidence-based discussions (small groups, peer-to-peer, whole class) that encourage the modeling and use of academic vocabulary and syntax.

The curriculum provides opportunities for students to engage in evidence-based discussions but not all are rich and rigorous. The opportunities provide limited protocols to support vocabulary and syntax throughout each unit or within lessons. Materials include practices to build robust vocabulary and application of content words, but not academic vocabulary and syntax. Themes provide limited information on how teachers can provide support and scaffolds with collaborative conversations. Most discussions are whole group with limited opportunities for small group or peer-to-peer discussion.

Each Theme has a Speaking and Listening page that provides minimal scaffolding of instruction for students to prepare and share their writing. Although speaking and listening tasks are included in various spots throughout the year, there is limited instruction to support students’ mastering of listening and speaking skills. The opportunities do not adequately address the mastery of grade-level speaking and listening standards. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • In each lesson, the Warm-Up Routines include objectives such as “listen attentively and respond appropriately to oral communication; and to write and speak in complete sentences." There are some basic directions about communicating with words and without words. Two discussion questions are included after each warm-up read aloud.
  • In Theme 2, Lesson 8, following the reading of “The Great Serum Race,” students are to complete the Think Critically section in their book. The teacher has the option to assign students to either discuss or write their responses to the questions. This pattern is followed after the reading of each anchor text for each lesson. Some of the evidence-based questions include: “How did the author show that the sled dogs were brave and loyal? What is the main idea of the selection? How do you know that dogsleds were a common form of transportation in Alaska at the time the events in this story took place?” However, there are no directions reminding students to return to the text or use evidence from the text in their discussion. Other questions do not require students to reference the text to answer the questions. For example, in the Suggested Lesson Planner before each lesson, there is a Question of the Day. One example from Theme 2, Lesson 6, Day 3 is “Imagine that you are helping someone prepare for an important performance. Give your best advice for overcoming nervousness or stage fright.” The questions do not require that students utilize text, are not addressed at any other point during the lessons.
  • On Day 4 of each lesson, there is a Speaking and Listening mini-lesson. For example, in Theme 4, Lesson 19, Day 4, students are asked to tell a folktale they know or the one they are writing. Students are provided with Speaking and Listening Strategies. However, there is not a protocol to support evidence-based discussions that encourage the modeling and use of academic vocabulary and syntax in the Leveled Reader routine pages.
  • In Theme 4, Lesson, Day 4, Speaking and Listening, students are asked to discuss and listen to each other’s review of an artist’s masterpieces A rubric is provided for students to follow as they present their persuasive speech. However, the teacher’s guide does not provide scaffolded instructions to support students speaking and listening skills.
  • In the supplementary students magazine, Reading Adventures, Theme 2, pg. 18-19, after reading the selection, “The Pole,” students are assigned to small groups and asked to read the statement, “Exploring new territories is one of the bravest and most important things a person can do” and determine if they agree or disagree with it. They are to then “assign discussion roles and share their opinions, remembering to use evidence from the selection to support their ideas, to ask and answer questions, and to reflect on and paraphrase each other’s thoughts to show understanding.” This is the only example of using this protocol for discussion.
  • In Theme 3, Lesson 11, in the Speaking and Listening section, students prepare and deliver an oral presentation that describes a setting. The teacher shares strategies for listening (focus attention on the speaker, create a picture in your mind of what you hear, save questions until the end). After listening to peers’ presentations, students are asked to share any sensory details the speaker used that were effective and are encouraged to ask questions about details that could use elaboration.
  • In Theme 5 of the “Teacher Support Book: Extending the Common Core State Standards,” in the Speaking and Listening section, the teacher discusses the importance of listening carefully during group discussions so that the listener can draw conclusions about the topic. In small groups, students deliver a persuasive speech while each group member listens then asks clarifying questions then summarizes the speech. Students then draw conclusions on the opinions presented in each group member’s speech.
  • In Theme 6, Lesson 29, Speaking and Listening section, the teacher shares the following organizational and speaking strategies with students to support them as they present aloud a persuasive composition written from writing prompts: “Plan your presentation beforehand. Make sure you introduce the topic and your position on the topic. Support your opinions with detailed evidence presented in a logical sequence. End with a strong conclusion in which you restate your position. Be prepared to further defend your argument and answer any questions. Use a tone, volume, and rate that are appropriate to your audience. If you need to look at written notes, look up before starting to speak. Use occasional hand or body gestures to clarify information or to make a point.” Further instruction is provided on listening strategies including: “Listen for the speaker’s topic and identify the speaker’s position or point of view on the topic. Listen for the evidence and reasons that the speaker uses to support his or her point of view. Write down questions that you will later use to clarify information or challenge the speaker’s point of view.” Students then evaluate the content of each speech and if they thought the speaker used compelling evidence or reasoning to support the argument.

Indicator 1j

Materials support students' listening and speaking about what they are reading and researching (including presentation opportunities) with relevant follow-up questions and supports.
0/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 do not meet the criteria for materials supporting students’ listening and speaking about what they are reading and researching (including presentation opportunities) with relevant follow-up questions and supports.

Some grade appropriate speaking and listening opportunities are provided frequently over the course of the year. The curriculum includes minimal protocols and graphic organizers to support academic discussions. Anchor text for each lesson are read by students with the teacher asking whole-group discussion questions throughout the reading to monitor comprehension. Teachers are not provided direction or protocols for these discussions. Each theme has a “Speaking and Listening” page that provides very little scaffolding of instruction for students to prepare and share their writing or how to gather evidence from text to include in discussions. Although speaking and listening tasks are included in various spots throughout the year, there is limited instruction to support students’ mastering of listening and speaking skills. Many discussions do not require students to return to the text or provide evidence for their thinking. Students will often be asked to speak about something they have written, but do not have many opportunities to speak about what they have read.

The materials contain some activities for students to engage in speaking and listening activities but do not provide many opportunities for follow up questions, supports, or appropriate feedback. Questioning opportunities are provided but do not provide frequent opportunities for students to engage in peer conversations to develop answers.Many discussions do not require students to return to the text or provide evidence for their thinking. Examples include:

  • In Theme 1, Lesson 3, in the Speaking and Listening section, students present a casual speech based on a personal letter written about an idea they have for an invention. The teacher gives presenters the following speaking tips: “Make eye contact with more than one person in the audience. Speak in your natural voice, as if you were just talking about your viewpoints and feelings. Vary your speed and the volume of your voice when appropriate.” Listeners were provided the following tips: “Try to understand the viewpoints and feelings that the speaker is expressing. Ask yourself if the speaker’s nonverbal message matches what he or she is saying. Evaluate the speaker’s word choice and tone.” Students do not ask follow-up questions of the speakers.
  • In Theme 3, Lesson 11, in the Speaking and Listening section, students prepare and deliver an oral presentation that describes a setting. The teacher shares strategies for listening (focus attention on the speaker, create a picture in your mind of what you hear, save questions until the end). After listening to peers’ presentations, students are asked to share any sensory details that the speaker used which were effective and are encouraged to ask questions about details that could use elaboration.
  • In Theme 6, Lesson 27, in the Speaking and Listening section, students give an oral book report based on a written book review completed on a book read recently. Students are reminded to: “Practice delivering the presentation, using a reasonable rate and varying the pitch and tone of their voice. Practice using little note cards. Maintain eye contact with audience.” Listeners are reminded to: “Listen to details the create a vivid impression. Listen for examples that support the speaker’s opinion. Think about how the speaker’s point of view and interests differ from yours.” Students are then encouraged to give feedback about what they found most interesting and if they were convinced to read the book. This is one of the few examples where students are speaking about something they have read. However, there is little opportunity for discussion requiring follow-up questions.

Indicator 1k

Materials include a mix of on-demand and process writing (e.g. multiple drafts, revisions over time) and short, focused projects, incorporating digital resources where appropriate.
1/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 partially meet the criteria for materials including a mix of on-demand and process writing (e.g. multiple drafts, revisions over time) and short, focused projects, incorporating digital resources where appropriate.

Within each lesson, students read paired texts. Following these readings, a writing prompt requires students to use their knowledge of the texts to complete an on-demand writing task. As part of the daily, small group instruction, students have a short writing assignment aligned with the whole-class writing activity for that lesson. In each Lesson, students are asked to work through the writing process to produce a short piece of writing. Day 1: Introduce, Day 2: Pre-write, Day 3: Draft, Day 4: Revise/Edit, and Day 5: Revise/Share.

Each Theme includes a Reading-Writing Connection that spans the entire five week Theme incorporating the stages of the writing process, prewrite, draft, revise, proofread, and publish. Materials include both on-demand and process writing with opportunities for students to edit and publish pieces. Each process writing is completed within one week. While there are many opportunities for writing, there are few opportunities for students to use technology to produce and publish writing as required by standard W.6.6. Additionally, thematic projects are only partially aligned to the grade-level standards, and there is little evidence to suggest students write routinely over an extended time frame as required by the writing standard, W.6.10.

Writing opportunities exist for on-demand writing at the end of each selection with a timed writing. Writing prompts include some guidance for students but lack pacing guidance. Student writing opportunities frequently do not require textual evidence. There is no provision for utilizing digital resources in writing. On-demand writing opportunities include prompts such as:

  • In the margin on page T91, titled “Technology”, the Teacher Edition states, “Students who are proficient on a computer may want to create a graphic presentation, using presentation software. Allow students enough time to prepare the presentations.”
  • Think Critically: There is a text-dependent on-demand writing task included with the question set following each main reading selection. For example, in Theme 1, Lesson 1, following Maxx Comedy: The Funniest Kid in America, question 5 asks, “How do Maxx’s feelings toward his stepfather change? Use details and information from the story to support your answer.”
  • In Theme 3, Lesson 14, after reading “Brian’s Winter” by Gary Paulsen and “Find Your Way Anywhere Using Only the Sun and Your Wristwatch” by Merry Vaughan, students respond to the following: "Imagine that a new season is approaching. How are you feeling? What you doing to prepare? Create a piece of writing that expresses your concerns or excitement about the change in season."
  • Once during each Theme, students are asked to complete one 45-minute on-demand piece of writing in response to a prompt. Students prewrite, organize ideas using a graphic organizer, draft, revise and proofread.

Writing opportunities also exist for process writing during each five week Theme. Writing prompts include guidance for students but lack pacing guidance. Literary selections are utilized as mentor texts but writings do not require textual evidence. There is no provision for utilizing digital resources in process writing. Process writing opportunities include prompts such as:

  • In Theme 2, Lesson 16, students write a summary of what they read then form an opinion and support their opinion with details from the text. A side note in the teacher's edition states: "Students may want to use a word processing program to record their questions and answers." Students have the opportunity to write a more extended process piece during the 5-week Theme. Each Theme focuses on one or more traits. For example, the focus traits in Theme 3 are Sentence Fluency and Organization. A literature model is provided, and students self-select their topic within the form being taught. For example, in Theme 3, students write an expository nonfiction piece for a topic of their choice. Students plan, draft, revise for specific craft elements, edit, and publish. Pacing or time allocations for this process piece is not clear.
  • The Reading-Writing Connection in Theme 3, following Lesson 1, pages T78-T93, indicates students will analyze an expository nonfiction literature model, narrow a topic, learn and apply note-taking skills, draft their expository composition, elaborate on the initial draft, revise by adding transitions, and publish and present the final version. In the margin on page T91, titled “Technology,” teachers are told, “Students who are proficient on a computer may want to create a graphic presentation, using presentation software. Allow students enough time to prepare the presentations."

Indicator 1l

Materials provide opportunities for students to address different text types of writing that reflect the distribution required by the standards.
1/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 partially meet the criteria for materials providing opportunities for students to address different text types of writing that reflect the distribution required by the standards.

The Reading-Writing Connection ties a process writing task to the anchor text in Lesson 1 of each Theme. The writing genres for each of the six Reading-Writing Connections are: Narrative, Response to Literature, Expository Essay, Autobiographical Narrative, Research Report, and Persuasive Essay. The writing prompts are balanced between informative, persuasive, and narrative. Weekly lessons partially support students’ skill development to complete the Reading-Writing Connection. Genres for the weekly lessons include: personal letter, news story, summary, problem/solution essay, journal entry, compare/contrast essay, how-to essay. While materials provide sufficient opportunities for a year’s worth of writing, materials lack the rigor to support students in meeting the standards for writing.

Materials lack instructional writing support for students and teachers. Examples include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • In Theme 3, Lesson 12, all daily writing prompts are descriptive composition prompts. On Day 1, students begin a descriptive composition after analyzing the mentor text, “Life Under Ice” by Mary Cerullo, and a student model for sentence fluency. They address the prompt: “Think of the setting of the story you have read or a movie you have seen. Write a descriptive composition that creates a clear picture of this place. Use sensory details and a variety of sentence types in your composition.” Students are instructed to: 1. Introduce the topic, 2. Use a variety of sentence types, 3. Use vivid language, and 4. Conclude with a satisfying statement that sums up the composition. The rubric teachers can provide for students to use during their follow-up peer conference does not address grade level requirements from the standards.
  • In Theme 2, Lesson 9, Day 3, the teacher instructions are insufficient to provide support or effectively monitor student progress writing a summary. The directions state, “Have students use a sequence chart like the one below to help them plan their summary paragraphs.” Some additional guided statements are offered to help support the writer. The directions state,”Tell students to check their organizer to make sure all the important events are listed in the correct order." However, students are not explicitly taught what this would look like and sounds like other than the Day 1 model.

There does exist a balance of types of writing, but writing tasks do not build in rigor throughout the year as shown by:

  • Theme 1 – Reading Writing Connection: Fictional Narrative; On Demand Writing – Fictional Narrative
  • Theme 2 – Reading Writing Connection: Response to Literature; On Demand Writing – Response to Literature
  • Theme 3 –Reading Writing Connection: Autobiographical Narratives; On Demand Writing – Autobiographical Narratives
  • Theme 4 – Reading Writing Connection: Story; On Demand Writing – Story about getting lost
  • Theme 5 – Reading Writing Connection: Research Report; On Demand Writing – Expository Composition
  • Theme 6 – Reading Writing Connection: Persuasive Composition; On Demand Writing – Persuasive Composition

Indicator 1m

Materials include frequent opportunities for evidence-based writing to support careful analyses, well-defended claims, and clear information.
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 do not meet the criteria for materials including frequent opportunities for evidence-based writing to support careful analyses, well-defended claims, and clear information appropriate for the grade level.

Writing prompts do not frequently provide opportunities for students to produce evidence-based writing. The materials sometimes address evidenced-supported writing in one question at the end of each main selection. When students are required to return to the text to answer a writing prompt, there are no clear teacher directions for how to support students in this exercise. While reading the main selection, questions are included for discussion, but no support or scaffolding is provided to infuse writing into daily routines.

The first 4 lessons in each of the 6 Themes contain a paired text in which students compare the anchor text in that lesson with an additional, shorter text, often of a different genre but on the same topic or a related topic. Questions follow each pairing, but there is no clear direction requiring students to respond to these questions in writing. The questions are Text to Self, Text to Text, and Text to World connections that do not require careful analyses, and many can be answered without returning to the text. Each paired text includes a written response, but these responses often do not require analysis of how the texts approach similar themes. There are times when students are directed to reread a section or paragraph of a text, but the questioning following this is frequently class discussion with no written component and no careful analyses or well-defended claims. Lessons do not routinely require writing after a close reading of text. Daily writing prompts, Reading-Writing Connection extended writing, on-demand writing, and most paired-selection writing tasks do not require students to engage in text-dependent analysis. There are very few opportunities for students to write opinion pieces supported with reasons. Examples of writing tasks showing a lack of consistent evidence based writing include:

  • In Theme 2, Lesson 6, students are asked to write a focused realistic fiction story. In Theme 2, Lesson 8, students are asked to write a skit. In Theme 2, Lesson 6, students are asked to write a news story. These forms of writing do not provide an opportunity for evidence-based writing.
  • In Theme 4 , students are asked to write an extended autobiographical narrative, not a more developed analysis or a piece with a well-defended claim.
  • In Theme 1, Lesson 3, students read ”The Wright Brothers, A Flying Start” by Elizabeth MacLeod and “From Inspiration to Invention” by Cate Baily and respond to the following questions: “Which inventor are you more like, Wilber or Orville Wright? Explain. How are the inventors in “From Inspiration to Invention” like the Wright Brothers? How are they different? Why do you think the Wright brothers are two of the best known inventors in history?” Students then complete a writing assignment to write a narrative about items they use every day that could break, and what happens when it does. These questions do not require drawing evidence from the text to support analysis or reflection in how these texts approach similar themes.
  • In Theme 5, Lesson 24, students read an “Egyptian News Advertisement” and discuss the language and images used to persuade the reader to buy the product. Students then choose the advertisement they feel is the least successful, discuss why they chose it, and work in pairs to rewrite and redesign the ad. They then discuss why the new advertisement is more successful than the original. While this assignment engages students in discussion of argument claims, the writing task does not require students to draw evidence from texts.

Indicator 1n

Materials include explicit instruction of the grammar and conventions standards for grade level as applied in increasingly sophisticated contexts, with opportunities for application both in and out of context.
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Indicator Rating Details

The materials reviewed for Story Town Grade 6 partially meet the criteria for materials including explicit instruction of the grammar and conventions standards for grade level as applied in increasingly sophisticated contexts, with opportunities for application both in and out of context.

The Teacher Edition materials include a five-day lesson sequence for spelling, grammar, and writing for every lesson in each of the six themes. In each theme, the final lesson includes a five-day sequence lesson that reviews the skills taught in spelling, grammar, and writing. Grammar and convention lessons provide opportunities for students to practice skills both in- and out-of-context. Lessons increase in complexity; however, some lessons include a grammar focus that overlaps with previous grade level language standards. For example, in Grade 6, Theme 1, the grammar focus includes subjects and predicates, compound subjects and predicates, simple and compound sentences, which are introduced in the Grade 3 Language standards. While the majority of the language standards are covered in the materials, several of the standards are not covered in the main materials of the program, but rather in the Extending the Common Core State Standards. In this supplement, students do have the opportunity to learn the skill through modeling, guided practice, and independent practice; however, these are single lessons and do not follow the five-day sequence of the lessons contained in the main materials.

Materials include instruction of grammar and conventions standards for the grade level. Opportunities are missed for students to learn how to recognize and correct vague pronouns, recognize variations from standard English in their own and others’ writing and speaking, and identify and use strategies to improve expression in conventional language, use punctuation (commas, parentheses, dashes) to set off nonrestrictive/parenthetical elements, vary sentence patterns for meaning, reader/listener interest, and style, and maintain consistency in style and tone. For example:

  • Students have opportunities to ensure that pronouns are in the proper case (subjective, objective, possessive). For example:
    • In Theme 3, Lesson 14, students identify the possessive pronouns in sentences and tell whether they are singular or plural.
    • In Theme 3, Lesson 13, the teacher explains that a pronoun takes the place of one or more nouns, a subject pronoun replaces the subject of a sentence and that the noun or nouns that a pronoun replaces is called an antecedent. The students identify the subject pronouns and their antecedents in given sentences.
  • Students have the opportunities to use intensive pronouns (e.g., myself, ourselves). For example:
    • In Theme 3, Lesson 14, students work in pairs to discuss their compositions and check to see that the author used possessive, reflexive, and indefinite pronouns correctly.
  • Students have opportunities to recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in pronoun number and person. For example:
    • In Theme 4, Lesson 17, the teacher reviews pronouns with students. The teacher points out the first person pronouns and tells students that if they see these pronouns in a story, the story is written in the first-person point of view.
  • Students have opportunities to spell correctly. For example:
    • In Theme 4, Lesson 17, over the five-day spelling sequence students take a pretest, participate in a word sort based on the prefix that is used in each word, participate in an activity where they must fill in the missing part of the spelling word, and use reference sources to confirm correct spelling. On day five, students take the post test.

Materials include limited opportunities for students to demonstrate application of skills both in- and out-of-context. For example:

  • In Theme 2, Lesson 9, students are instructed to write an expository paragraph that has a main idea and supporting details. Students are encouraged to vary the structure of their sentences to make their paragraphs more interesting to the reader.
  • In Theme 2, Lesson 10, students revise their writing for appropriate conventions and students then switch papers to make sure all errors are identified and corrected. This includes using punctuation correctly to assure meaning is understood.
  • In Theme 5, Lesson 25, students proofread their writing to ensure pronouns are in proper case and agree with antecedents.
  • In Theme 3, Lesson 13, instruction includes daily lessons to teach subject and object pronouns. On Day 1, the class discusses the definition of pronoun, subject pronoun, and antecedent. On Day 2, students complete Grammar Practice Book page 45 by writing the correct pronouns. On Day 3, students identify if the underlined word on page 46 of the Grammar Practice Book is a subject pronoun or object pronoun. On Day 4, students look at their own writing and find five sentences that they can replace the noun with a pronoun. On day five, students copy three sentences by including the correct pronoun.

Gateway Two

Building Knowledge with Texts, Vocabulary, and Tasks

Not Rated

Criterion 2a - 2h

2/32

Indicator 2a

Texts are organized around a topic/topics (or, for grades 6-8, topics and/or themes) to build students' ability to read and comprehend complex texts independently and proficiently.
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 do not meet the criteria for texts being organized around a topic or theme to build students’ ability to read and comprehend complex texts independently and proficiently.

Each unit is organized around a central theme with a theme introduction entitled Build Theme Connections provided at the beginning. This section introduces the big idea or theme, and includes a poem and brief discussion. Unit themes are broad and do not focus on specific vocabulary or knowledge across daily lessons. Students are not supported in accessing texts and building conceptual knowledge throughout the five-week Theme. The series of texts in each lesson are sometimes cohesive and related to the central theme, but there are limited opportunities embedded for students to build expertise on specific topics so that they can increase their knowledge and vocabulary.

Materials do not provide teachers with guidance to help connect the texts to broader concepts. Sufficient time is not always allotted for students to refine their knowledge in order to access and comprehend future complex texts proficiently.

  • In Theme 1, the overarching idea is Personal Triumphs, which revolves around people on their journeys to self-discovery. Personal Triumphs is directly or loosely connected to texts in this lesson. There is no line of inquiry to connect texts back to the central theme. In Lesson 1, students read or listen to the following texts:
    • Day 1: Question of the Day – Think about a time when you were crestfallen. What cheered you up? Why do you think it worked? Texts: “Laughing Matters” (read aloud during the Listening Comprehension) and “Cougar’s Win, Eggs Lose” (Build Robust Vocabulary)
    • Day 2: Question of the Day – Do you think it is possible to be too prepared for a special event, such as a race or a competition? Explain. Text: “Maxx Comedy: The Funniest Kid in America” (main selection)
    • Day 3: Question of the Day – How might performing onstage help someone to gain confidence? Text: “Are You Laughing At Me?” (paired selection)
    • Day 4: Question of the Day – If Max had won the Funniest Kid in America contest, do you think the message of Gordon Korman’s story would have been different? Explain.
    • Day 5: Question of the Day – “Laughter is the best medicine” is a popular saying. Do you agree that laughter can be therapeutic? Why or why not?
  • In Theme 5, all texts are organized around exploring and learning from the past. There are three literary pieces and seven informational pieces centered around the theme. Though centered around a topic, texts do not build knowledge about the topic. There are few vocabulary terms shared between texts and students do not bring knowledge gained from one text to access another. In Theme 5, Lesson 24, the anchor text is “Secrets of the Sphinx” by James Cross Giblin, an expository nonfiction piece about Egyptian monuments. The paired selection, “Advertisements from the Egyptian News” by Scott Steedman, is a fictional Egyptian advertisement. The leveled texts used in small group instruction for Lesson 24 include: “The Colossus of Rhodes” by Meish Golden, the story of a mysterious, ancient statue that was toppled and no longer exists; “The World’s Greatest Lighthouse” by Meish Golden, the story of an ancient lighthouse built in Alexandria; and “The Statue of Zeus” by Meish Golden, the story of a famous Greek sculpture.

Indicator 2b

Materials contain sets of coherently sequenced questions and tasks that require students to analyze the language, key ideas, details, craft, and structure of individual texts.
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 do not meet the criteria that materials contain sets of coherently sequenced questions and tasks that require students to analyze the language, key ideas, details, craft, and structure of individual texts.

After reading the core text for a lesson, students either discuss or write responses to the Think Critically questions. However, there are very few examples of questions requiring students to determine author’s purpose for the use of specific language or craft, and these were found in the separate Teacher Support Book. Questions often ask about key ideas and details, but rarely addresses language, craft, or structure of texts.

Additionally, the sequence of questions lacks coherence. Teachers could select any of the six themes to start with and see the same approach is used in every lesson, which does not provide sufficient growth of rigor. Throughout the materials, students independently and as a whole group complete questions and tasks that require analysis of individual texts. Lessons also teach these skills discretely and they are not embedded within the lessons. Students are asked questions during whole group instruction as the teacher monitors comprehension. Examples include:

  • In Theme 1, Lesson 2, the teacher asks the following questions during the whole group instruction to monitor comprehension: “How do you think the writer of the poem feels while sitting in the gri gri tree? Why doesn’t anyone around Ana Rosa agree with how she spends her time? What does Ana Rosa want to do in the future? What conflict does she face?
  • In Theme 3, Lesson 13, the teacher asks the following questions during the whole group instruction to monitor comprehension: “Is Daren refusing to admit that he was afraid consistent with what you know about his character? Explain. Why do you think Kyle invited Daren to stand in line with him and BeeBee? What does this show about him?
  • In Theme 2, Lesson 7 in the text S.O.R. Losers, author’s craft is addressed in the question, “Why do you think the author put this paragraph in parentheses?”
  • In Theme 2 Lesson 8, the Listening Comprehension read-aloud The Pony Express includes a brief genre study on narrative nonfiction. Students are then advised to listen to the read aloud for the author’s main ideas.
  • In Theme 4, Lesson 18, before reading The Kid Who Named Pluto, students learn about the elements of expository nonfiction, and are taught to use a detail and main idea chart.
  • In Theme 4, Lesson 18, before reading How Athens Was Named, students preview and discuss that the selection is a myth and also a play. Students compare and contrast myths and other forms of fiction.
  • In Theme 5, Lesson 23, the teacher asks the following questions during the whole group instruction to monitor comprehension: “What do the tutor’s words reveal about his attitude toward the son of the king? What character trait does Chi Wen symbolize? Why? Why are scales a good symbol for justice? What is the irony in Tao-Tieh’s love of fussing in the kitchen?”
  • In Theme 6, Lesson 29, while reading the play of The Phantom Tollbooth, students are asked to to analyze tone and idioms.

Indicator 2c

Materials contain a coherently sequenced set of text-dependent questions and tasks that require students to analyze the integration of knowledge and ideas across both individual and multiple texts.
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Indicator Rating Details

Materials reviewed for Grade 6 do not meet the expectations that materials contain a coherently sequenced set of text-dependent questions and tasks that require students to analyze the integration of knowledge and ideas across both individual and multiple texts.

The units are organized into six Themes that span the school year. Each theme includes an overarching idea, with text selections that directly or loosely connect to that concept. Each weekly lesson has a new topic connected to the unit theme, but it does not build knowledge or ideas. Some questions and tasks support students’ analysis of ideas, but most are intent on building students’ literal comprehension of text.

As a Theme progresses, students may come to understand more about the Theme’s big idea, but the overarching concept is broad. Deep comprehension or integration of ideas would often be incidental, not intentional. Tasks and/or culminating tasks are often disconnected from a thematic study. The amount of class time allotted to each text and question set may not be sufficient to provide the time needed for students to analyze texts and gain knowledge and ideas. The teacher’s edition contains little direction for how teachers support students' engaging in a deep analysis of and across texts.

Within each weekly lesson, text-specific questions appear in the Think Critically section. There are typically 5 questions following each selection. Examples of questions and tasks that meet the expectations are:

  • In Theme 1, Lesson 4, after reading the anchor text, “”Wilma Unlimited” by Kathleen Krull, students orally respond to the question, “Why was participating in the Tennessee state basketball championship an important event in Wilma Rudolph’s life, even though her team lost?” Students complete an on-demand writing task, “In your opinion, why did Wilma Rudolph become a great athlete? Use specific details from the selection to support your ideas?” After completing the paired text, “”The World’s Fastest” from Scholastic book of World Records 2005, students respond orally to, “How is “Wilma Unlimited” similar to “The World’s Fastest”? How is it different?” There are no instructional directions for teachers to support students’ engagement.
  • In Theme 3, lesson 12, after reading the anchor text, “The Long Bike Ride” by Melina Mangal, students orally respond to the question, “What happens when Antoine sees the newspaper headline about the sea lion?” Students complete an on-demand writing task, “How can you tell that Antoine always wants to do the right thing? Use details from the selection to support your answer.” After completing the paired text, “Water Music” by Jane Yolen, students orally respond to the following: “The poems and “The Long Bike Ride” give the author's’ unique descriptions of scenes in nature. Which do you think is most effective? Compare the descriptions of water in the poem “Embroidery” and on page 314 of “The Long Bike Ride.” Students are not directed to use text evidence to respond.
  • In Theme 5, Lesson 23, after reading the anchor text, “The Sons of the Dragon King” by Ed Young, students orally respond to the question, “What is the Dragon King’s main reason for visiting each of his nine sons?” Students complete an on-demand writing task, “Imagine that the Dragon King discovers a long-lost tenth son. Describe the tenth son’s talent and the position the Dragon King gives to this son.” After completing the paired text, “Fire, Water, Truth, and Falsehood” by Heather Forest, students respond orally to the following: “Compare the theme in “The Sons of the dragon King” with the theme in “Fire, Water, Truth, and Falsehood.” Students are not directed to use text evidence to respond.

Each Theme is followed by a Theme Wrap-up in which teachers guide students in making connections across the texts in the Theme by asking whole-group questions. These questions do not require an analysis of ideas across texts to complete.

  • In Theme 1, the question is, “In what way are the selections in this theme similar?”
  • In Theme 3, the question is, “In what way do the selections in this theme tell about the relationship between people and nature?”
  • In Theme 5, the question is, “What do the selections in this theme have in common?”

Students return to the graphic organizer started at the beginning of the Theme to include information about all the selections read. Most of the graphic organizers do not support students in a deep analysis of multiple texts.

  • In Theme 1, the graphic organizer is a chart that students complete with a character’s name and their triumph.
  • In Theme 3, the graphic organizer is a web to list things that cause the planet to change.
  • In Theme 5, the graphic organizer is a KWL chart that students complete with information from the selections read.

Indicator 2d

The questions and tasks support students' ability to complete culminating tasks in which they demonstrate their knowledge of a topic (or, for grades 6-8, a theme) through integrated skills (e.g. combination of reading, writing, speaking, listening).
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 do not meet the criteria that the questions and tasks support students’ ability to complete culminating tasks in which they demonstrate their knowledge of a theme through integrated skills (e.g. combination of reading, writing, speaking, listening).

Each Theme has a big idea that aims to tie the unit together. Texts and discussions, directly or loosely, connect to the big idea. Each Theme also includes a Theme Project. Theme Projects do not consistently integrate reading, writing, speaking, and listening, nor do they require close reading and comprehension of the texts read. Question sets that accompany texts within the Theme do not support students in integrating skills required for the Theme Project. For example:

  • In Theme 1, the teacher introduces the theme, "Personal Triumphs," and students are asked use pencil, paper, markers, scissors, glue, poster board, maps of modern or ancient Europe, books about Greek mythology, and the Internet to research Greek mythology and understand the role the heroes played. Students present their findings in a poster. Students can complete this task without reading any of the selections during the week.
  • In Theme 2, the teacher introduces the theme, "Joining Forces," and students research and write a proposal for implementing a community service project as the Theme Project (pages T12-T13). The teacher leads a discussion on community service projects to help people have a better life to build background knowledge. Students follow the project steps: Brainstorm topics for community service projects, research community service projects already in place in their community, work in small groups and write a proposal for a project that can be implemented in their community, and present their findings and tell why it is important. Completion of this project can be achieved without reading or analysis of the anchor text, and it fails to demonstrate comprehension and knowledge of the Theme.
  • In Theme 3, pages T78-T91, the teacher introduces the theme, "A Changing Planet," and the Reading-Writing Connection task is an autobiographical narrative about an event that happened to students. The writing lessons across the Theme are: Lesson 1-Journal Entry, Lesson 2-Autobiographical Narrative, Lesson 3-Letter of Request, Lesson 4-Essay of Explanation, Lesson 5-Student Choice: Revise and Publish. The students used a student writing model of an autobiographical narrative to analyze for organization and voice. While some of the daily writing supports students in completing the culminating task of an autobiographical narrative, they do not build the student’s knowledge of the theme.
  • In Theme 5, the teacher introduces the theme, "Ancient Wisdom," and students are asked use a computer, paper, art supplies, and books about community to create an advertisement to “sell” their community. Students can complete this task without reading any of the selections during the week.
  • In Theme 6, pages T14-T15, the teacher introduces the theme, “The Outer Limits,” and helps students access prior knowledge by leading a discussion about places the students would like to explore. Students develop the theme by beginning a web of different kinds of exploration. Students will add to this chart as they read the Theme selections. At the end of the five week Theme, page T344, the teacher leads discussion of the Theme Wrap-up asking the following questions: “Why do you think “Eager” was included in this theme? How does “The Road Not Taken” relate to the work of Robert Ballard? Which selection from this theme do you think Milo from “The Phantom Tollbooth” might find most interesting?” Students review and revise the chart started at the beginning of the Theme and respond by reflecting on and writing about what they learned about different environments. These tasks are not multifaceted, nor do they require students to demonstrate mastery of several different standards for sixth grade.

Indicator 2e

Materials include a cohesive, year-long plan for students to interact with and build key academic vocabulary words in and across texts.
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 do not meet the criteria that materials include a cohesive, year-long plan for students to interact with and build key academic vocabulary words in and across texts.

The materials do not include a cohesive, year-long plan that allows for repeated exposure and use of different types of vocabulary or for students to interact with and build key academic vocabulary words across texts throughout the year. Some vocabulary is repeated before texts and within the anchor texts but not across multiple texts.Attention is paid to vocabulary essential to understanding the text and, although key academic vocabulary is used in discussion, it is not taught directly. Students are provided minimal opportunities to accelerate vocabulary learning by using vocabulary in their speaking and writing tasks. Opportunities are present for students to learn, practice, apply, and transfer words into familiar and new contexts such as centers, discussions, and partner work.

Within each weekly lesson, students have the opportunity to interact with 8 target words. Words are introduced in context. On Day 1, the 6-8 words are introduced in a contextual setting. On Day 2, students review the words in the Connections: Comparing Texts section. This section follows the paired selection. On Day 3, words from the week are revisited by answering a question about each word. On Day 4, students extend word meanings answering critical thinking questions related to each word. On Day 5, there is a Cumulative Review of words from the current and previous week. Words are encountered in two of the reading selections for that week, a passage specifically written to introduce the words, and the main selection. The words are not found in the paired selection or Leveled Readers. For example in Theme 6, Lesson 26:

  • On Day 1, the teacher introduces the 8 vocabulary words for the week using student-friendly explanations: scale, impact, barren, warped, mottled, chasm, prominent, and distinctive. The teacher then asks questions: “Why would a mottled surface be hard to describe? What are some distinctive features of Earth?” Students read the Vocabulary selection, “Comet Crash,” and respond to questions: “What is lacking in a barren surface? Would you expect this impact to create a chasm? Why or why not?” In the Word Scribe section, students are encouraged to use the vocabulary words in their writing and share their writing with a classmate.
  • On Day 2, after reading the anchor and paired texts, students sort the vocabulary words into categories (Noun, Adjective, Verb, and Multiple Meaning Words) and compare to their group members' sorted lists.
  • On Day 3, students reinforce word meanings by responding to questions about the anchor text, “Next Stop Neptune” by Alvin Jenkins, such as: “Why must we use a scale to represent the solar system? On which planets would your view be warped by the atmosphere?”
  • On Day 4, students extend word meanings by answer questions that include vocabulary words: “What makes each person distinctive? How can prominent features of the landscape be used to give directions to a place?”
  • On Day 5, students complete a cumulative review from Lessons 25 and 26 by answering vocabulary-related questions in a group discussion.

Indicator 2f

Materials support students' increasing writing skills over the course of the school year, building students' writing ability to demonstrate proficiency at grade level at the end of the school year.
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 do not meet the criteria that materials support students’ increasing writing skills over the course of the school year, building students’ writing ability to demonstrate proficiency at grade level at the end of the school year.

The materials reviewed offer prompts and performance tasks, and students practice writing in each lesson; however, materials do not increase the student’s writing skills over the course of the school year. Students write to address multiple topics and genres across the year with limited cohesiveness in placement throughout Themes. Rubrics are provided to help students self-assess their writing, but are general in nature and do not address specifics required by the standards. The teacher edition has limited development in well-designed models, protocols and support for teachers in helping students meet the writing standards for sixth grade.

There are options for daily prompts provided each day in the Suggested Lesson Planner, but no instruction is provided for these. A weekly writing task is built into the instruction; these writing forms are not connected to the overall Theme writing mode. The teacher’s edition includes several lesson plans for the Reading-Writing Connection process piece in each Theme, but no pacing time frames are suggested. A 45-minute on-demand writing task connects to the extended writing mode. Examples include:

  • In Theme 1, Lesson 2, Literacy Center “Writing,” students and teachers are not provided with a well-designed protocol for teachers to implement and students to progress monitor. Students are asked to write a Scene. Student directions say, “Write a scene from Ana Rosa’s story. You may choose to write about the underwater fiesta or another scene.” A graphic organizer “model” is provided, but further examples and opportunities for reflections and feedback are not offered.
  • In Theme 2, Lesson 7, students write a persuasive article about a topic that interests them. The instructions the teacher gives read: “First, have students plan their writing by stating their main points in two sentences or less. Then, have them list evidence that supports their points of view.” In Theme 6, the unit long Reading-Writing Connection process writing task is a persuasive composition in which teachers directly instruct students in analyzing the mentor text and a student writing model, writing an opinion statement, selecting reasons and support, building an argument, writing a good beginning, revision, and proofreading for errors. Students then use peer conferencing and the provided rubric to self-assess. While students are instructed to include a focused, clear opinion statement, there is no instruction on using relevant evidence, clarifying the relationships among claims, or providing a concluding statement that follows from the argument as required by the standards.
  • In Theme 2 the Reading-Writing Connection writing mode is Response to Literature, the on-demand writing task is a timed response to a book, story, or other piece of literature. The weekly writing lessons include Lesson 6: Realistic Story, Lesson 7: Response to Literature, Lesson 8: Skit, Lesson 9: News Story, and Lesson 10: Revise and Publish choice piece. Daily prompts for Theme 2, Lesson 6 include:
    • Think about someone who has taught you something. What did you learn, and how did this person teach you? Write a paragraph telling about a time when someone taught you something.
    • Think about a time when you had to speak in front of a group. What did you speak about and how did you feel? Write a paragraph describing the experience.
    • Imagine a situation in which a boy or girl must face a realistic fear and overcome it. Think about a setting that could be a real place and characters with feelings that real people have. Write a story about what happens to that boy or girl.
    • Imagine you are going on a family trip. Where would you go and what would you do? Write a story about your trip.
    • Imagine you are asked to write a story for your school newspaper about the sixth grade talent show. What realistic details would you include to help readers picture the events? Write a two paragraph story for the newspaper.
  • In Theme 5, Lesson 25, Day 3 students and teachers are not provided with a well-designed protocol for teachers to implement and students to progress monitor their work. Students are asked to proofread their “Research Report.” Next a series of tips are bulleted that may be helpful for students. The directions say, “Remind students that good writers follow the conventions of written English. They check their spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. When revising students should:...” Next a series of tips are suggested for students but no examples of what this would look like or sound like in a completed Research Report. The scoring rubric provided is on a 6-point scale measuring conventions, support, organization, and focus. The rubric is generalized for any paragraph and does not provide the support students would need to effectively offer feedback for a their selection.

Teacher guidance for weekly writing lessons lack specificity and do not include direction or questions to support individual or small group writing conferences. All instruction is intended for whole-class delivery. For example, in Theme 2, Lesson 6, Day 1, students are briefly introduced to a realistic story. They look at a paragraph from the text, “Befuddled” and identify the characters, setting, conflict, and plot events in a graphic organizer.

The required time the weekly lesson would take, along with the amount of writing students are responsible for, is not indicated in the materials. Students do not have time to adequately refine and reflect on their writing before moving on to a new topic. Different forms and modes of writing are introduced throughout the year without in-depth instruction, and without spiraling back to build previously introduced skills. Students will not demonstrate proficiency by the end of the school year.

Indicator 2g

Materials include a progression of focused research projects to encourage students to develop knowledge in a given area by confronting and analyzing different aspects of a topic using multiple texts and source materials.
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 do not meet the criteria that materials include a progression of focused research projects to encourage students to develop knowledge in a given area by confronting and analyzing different aspects of a topic using multiple texts and source materials.

Each unit includes a Theme Project. This is outlined at the beginning of each Theme, and teachers decide when and how to integrate it into the flow of the Theme. The materials do not include a progression of focused lessons, or engaging topics to research, nor do they provide students with robust instruction, practice, and application of research skills as they employ grade-level reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language skills. The research skills that are directly taught minimally build to student independence. Materials lack the direction and support for teachers to facilitate these projects. Research skills for Theme Projects do not follow a clear progression; it is unlikely that students develop deep knowledge on a given topic.

Theme Project research topics are often broad, may employ print or online resources, and almost always involve art supplies. In Theme 6, Research Report is the focus of the Reading-Writing Connection. This incorporates a purpose and audience for writing, more of a writing process progression, a checklist for elements of a research report, and a 4-point scoring rubric; however, the topic does not develop students’ knowledge of multiple text or source materials or require investigation of different aspects of a topic. For example:

  • In the Theme 1 Project, students create a character profile of a hero in Greek mythology to answer the research question, “Who were the Greek heroes and how did their characteristics affect their world?” The teacher directs students to use classroom and library books and the internet to research heroes in Greek myths then select one hero and read at least two myths featuring that hero taking notes about their actions and traits. There is little direction for how teachers support students completing this project. This project loosely connects to the unit theme “Personal Triumphs” where students read about characters on their journey to self-discovery, and it does not require students synthesize and analyze the texts and source materials within the Theme to complete the project.
  • In the Theme 3 Project, students develop and deliver an informative presentation and answer the research question, “How would your life be different if the Southern and Northern Hemispheres switched places?” The teacher directs students in pairs to use an encyclopedia or the Internet to complete their research, taking notes as they do. There is little direction for how teachers support students completing this project. There is a disconnect to the unit theme, “A Changing Planet,” where students read about how living things adapt to the ever-changing planet, and it does not require students synthesize and analyze the texts and source materials within the theme to complete the project.
  • In the Theme 5 Project, students select one building from ancient Greece or Rome and compare it to modern-day architecture and answer the research question, “How do ancient architectural designs from Greek and Roman times affect how we live today?” The teacher directs students to use classroom or library books and to search the Internet for the origins of useful and/or attractive architectural designs, taking notes, and listing sources. There is little direction for how teachers support students completing this project. The project loosely connects to the unit theme, “Ancient Wisdom,” where students read about how modern communities are linked to the past; however, it does not require students synthesize and analyze the texts and source materials within the Theme to complete the project.
  • In Theme 5, the Reading-Writing Connection is a research report on a topic of their choice. While there is instruction on skills, such as reference sources earlier in the school year, this is the first opportunity to write a report. Students are guided through the writing process of Pre-Write, Draft, Revise, Proofread, Evaluate/Publish. Within each of these lessons there is modeling, guided practice, and application to writing. Students are required to take notes, categorize information, and provide a list of sources as directly taught during whole group instruction.

Indicator 2h

Materials provide a design, including accountability, for how students will regularly engage in a volume of independent reading either in or outside of class.
0/4
+
-
Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 do not meet the criteria that materials provide a design, including accountability, for how students will regularly engage in a volume of independent reading either in or outside of class.

Students read a main selection and paired selection each week as part of the reading program. They also read a short passage with each week’s Build Robust Vocabulary lesson. Additionally, a Leveled Reader is included each week as a way to differentiate instruction and reinforce skills introduced in whole group. However, the materials offer few ways to support students who struggle with grade level texts, nor do they provide instructional scaffolds that lead readers toward independence. A weekly independent reading objective is included with the suggested literacy centers at the beginning of each weekly lesson, but the routine provided is simplistic, with no suggested time allotments, accountability, or goal-setting components. The are no procedures for independent reading at home and/or while reading core texts, and there is no independent accountability system appropriate for in- and out-of-school independent reading. While opportunities for independent reading exist, they are minimal and do not build students’ reading abilities or their knowledge base and vocabulary. Examples include:

  • Each theme contains suggested titles for additional related reading by “Easy, Average, Challenge”; however, teachers are not given suggestions on how to set up the classroom library or how to help students select an independent reading book in the teacher edition.
  • Each anchor text has “Options for Reading” suggesting that below-level students read in small group, on-level students read in whole group or with a partner, and advanced students read independently.
    • In Theme 1, Lesson 1, prior to reading “Max Comedy: The Funniest Kid in America” by Gordon Korman, teachers are instructed to preview the selection with below-level students in a small group and model how to use the preview and genre to set a purpose for reading; to use the Monitor Comprehension questions as on-level students read the selection in whole-group or partner-read and complete Practice Book page 2; and have advanced students read the selection independently using the student Practice Book page 2 to monitor their own comprehension.
    • In Theme 6, Lesson 29, by the end of the year, the suggestions given to the teacher in “Options for Reading” are the same.
  • Each lesson includes fluency practice after reading the paired selection and during guided reading in which students work in pairs reading aloud sections of the anchor text or the leveled reader.
  • During “After Reading” whole-group comprehension instruction, students are often directed to reread specific sections to respond to questions.
    • In Theme 3, Lesson 13, after reading “Escaping the Giant Wave” by Peg Kehret and “A World in Motion” from Scholastic Atlas of Oceans, students are reviewing theme. The teacher directs them to reread specific selections and answer questions.
    • In Theme 5, Lesson 21, prior to reading the anchor text, the teacher is providing direct instruction on comparing and contrasting. Students are directed to read a paragraph then complete the provided graphic organizer
  • Students work in 15-minute centers during guided reading when they are not meeting as a small group. Literacy Centers include a reading center instructing students to choose one of the additional theme books and use their reading log to keep track of their independent reading. Teachers are not provided direction on helping students select a book or how to record in their reading log. There is no direction for how teachers are to follow up with students on their independent reading log.
  • In the Resources section of the Teacher’s Edition, under Additional Reading, there is a list of additional theme- and topic-related books. Instructions include: “You may wish to use this list to provide students with opportunities to read at least thirty minutes a day outside of class,” but there is no guidance for student accountability.
  • In Theme 5, Lesson 21, the student objective during a literacy center rotation titled “Reading Log” is to “select and read books independently." The Management support system states, “While you provided direct instruction to individuals or small groups, other students can work on these activities.” There is no evidence of a clear protocol or accountability system in place other than recording their reading in a reading log.
  • In the Teacher Support Book, Extending the Common Core State Standards Companion, the instructions state, “After completing each theme in StoryTown, The Teacher Support Book builds on and extends the instruction in that theme to meet the Common Core State Standards.” However, there are no instructions and/or protocols that support and/or encourage independent reading.
  • An Additional Resource section is included in each Theme unit. Additional resources do not provide any support or resources to encourage at home independent reading.
  • Reading Literacy Center includes one objective: to select and read books independently. Reading Log routine:
    • Look for these books about working with others to solve a problem: Trial By Ice by K.M. Kostyal; Project Ultraswan by Elinor Osborne; Unwitting Wisdom: An Anthology of Aesop’s Fables by Helen Ward.
    • Select one that you find interesting.
    • Keep track of what you read each day in your Reading Log.

This simple routine and log is repeated with each weekly lesson, with the three book suggestions being the only difference. No time allocations for independent reading are included. Other than a reading log form, no guidance for goal-setting or accountability is included.

Gateway Three

Usability

Not Rated

Criterion 3a - 3e

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0/8

Indicator 3a

Materials are well-designed and take into account effective lesson structure and pacing.
0/2

Indicator 3b

The teacher and student can reasonably complete the content within a regular school year, and the pacing allows for maximum student understanding.
0/2

Indicator 3c

The student resources include ample review and practice resources, clear directions, and explanation, and correct labeling of reference aids (e.g., visuals, maps, etc.).
0/2

Indicator 3d

Materials include publisher-produced alignment documentation of the standards addressed by specific questions, tasks, and assessment items.
0/2

Indicator 3e

The visual design (whether in print or digital) is not distracting or chaotic, but supports students in engaging thoughtfully with the subject.
0/0

Criterion 3f - 3j

Materials support teacher learning and understanding of the Standards.
0/8

Indicator 3f

Materials contain a teacher's edition with ample and useful annotations and suggestions on how to present the content in the student edition and in the ancillary materials. Where applicable, materials include teacher guidance for the use of embedded technology to support and enhance student learning.
0/2

Indicator 3g

Materials contain a teacher's edition that contains full, adult-level explanations and examples of the more advanced literacy concepts so that teachers can improve their own knowledge of the subject, as necessary.
0/2

Indicator 3h

Materials contain a teacher's edition that explains the role of the specific ELA/literacy standards in the context of the overall curriculum.
0/2

Indicator 3i

Materials contain explanations of the instructional approaches of the program and identification of the research-based strategies.
0/2

Indicator 3j

Materials contain strategies for informing all stakeholders, including students, parents, or caregivers about the ELA/literacy program and suggestions for how they can help support student progress and achievement.
0/0

Criterion 3k - 3n

Materials offer teachers resources and tools to collect ongoing data about student progress on the Standards.
0/8

Indicator 3k

Materials regularly and systematically offer assessment opportunities that genuinely measure student progress.
0/2

Indicator 3l

The purpose/use of each assessment is clear:
0/0

Indicator 3l.i

Assessments clearly denote which standards are being emphasized.
0/2

Indicator 3l.ii

Assessments provide sufficient guidance to teachers for interpreting student performance and suggestions for follow-up.
0/2

Indicator 3m

Materials should include routines and guidance that point out opportunities to monitor student progress.
0/2

Indicator 3n

Materials indicate how students are accountable for independent reading based on student choice and interest to build stamina, confidence, and motivation.
0/0

Criterion 3o - 3r

Materials provide teachers with strategies for meeting the needs of a range of learners so that they demonstrate independent ability with grade-level standards.
0/10

Indicator 3o

Materials provide teachers with strategies for meeting the needs of a range of learners so the content is accessible to all learners and supports them in meeting or exceeding the grade-level standards.
0/2

Indicator 3p

Materials regularly provide all students, including those who read, write, speak, or listen below grade level, or in a language other than English, with extensive opportunities to work with grade level text and meet or exceed grade-level standards.
0/4

Indicator 3q

Materials regularly include extensions and/or more advanced opportunities for students who read, write, speak, or listen above grade level.
0/2

Indicator 3r

Materials provide opportunities for teachers to use a variety of grouping strategies.
0/2

Criterion 3s - 3v

Materials support effective use of technology to enhance student learning. Digital materials are accessible and available in multiple platforms.
0/0

Indicator 3s

Digital materials (either included as supplementary to a textbook or as part of a digital curriculum) are web-based, compatible with multiple Internet browsers (e.g., Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, etc.), "platform neutral" (i.e., are compatible with multiple operating systems such as Windows and Apple and are not proprietary to any single platform), follow universal programming style, and allow the use of tablets and mobile devices.
0/0

Indicator 3t

Materials support effective use of technology to enhance student learning, drawing attention to evidence and texts as appropriate.
0/0

Indicator 3u

Materials can be easily customized for individual learners.
0/0

Indicator 3u.i

Digital materials include opportunities for teachers to personalize learning for all students, using adaptive or other technological innovations.
0/0

Indicator 3u.ii

Materials can be easily customized for local use.
0/0

Indicator 3v

Materials include or reference technology that provides opportunities for teachers and/or students to collaborate with each other (e.g. websites, discussion groups, webinars, etc.).
0/0

Additional Publication Details

Report Published Date: Thu Apr 12 00:00:00 UTC 2018

Report Edition: 2009

Title ISBN Edition Publisher Year
Storytown Teacher Edition Theme 1 Grade 6 978-0-1534-3179-1 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2009
Storytown Teacher Edition Theme 1 Grade 6 978-0-1537-2149-6 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2009
Storytown Teacher Edition Theme 2 Grade 6 978-0-1537-2158-8 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2009
Storytown Teacher Edition Theme 3 Grade 6 978-0-1537-2159-5 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2009
Storytown Teacher Edition Theme 4 Grade 6 978-0-1537-2160-1 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2009
Storytown Teacher Edition Theme 5 Grade 6 978-0-1537-2161-8 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2009
Storytown Teacher Edition Theme 6 Grade 6 978-0-1537-2162-5 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2009
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Storytown Reading Adventure Teacher Support Book Grade 6 978-0-5476-8567-0 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2012
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Storytown Reading Adventure Student Magazine Grade 6 978-0-5476-8591-5 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2012

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ELA 3-8 Rubric and Evidence Guides

The ELA review rubrics identify the criteria and indicators for high quality instructional materials. The rubrics support a sequential review process that reflect the importance of alignment to the standards then consider other high-quality attributes of curriculum as recommended by educators.

For ELA, our rubrics evaluate materials based on:

  • Text Quality and Complexity, and Alignment to Standards with Tasks Grounded in Evidence

  • Building Knowledge with Texts, Vocabulary, and Tasks

  • Instructional Supports and Usability

The ELA Evidence Guides complement the rubrics by elaborating details for each indicator including the purpose of the indicator, information on how to collect evidence, guiding questions and discussion prompts, and scoring criteria.

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