Alignment: Overall Summary

StudySync Grade 8 materials meet the expectations of alignment to the Common Core ELA standards. The materials include instruction, practice, and authentic application of reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language work that is engaging and at an appropriate level of rigor for the grade.

See Rating Scale Understanding Gateways

Alignment

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Meets Expectations

Gateway 1:

Text Quality

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

Gateway 2:

Building Knowledge

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

Usability

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Meets Expectations

Not Rated

Gateway 3:

Usability

0
23
30
34
31
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

Meets Expectations

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Gateway One Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the expectations for high-quality texts, appropriate text complexity, and evidence-based questions and tasks aligned to the Standards. Although there is a heavy reliance on text excerpts at times, the anchor texts are of high-quality and reflect the text type distribution required by the Standards. Quantitative, qualitative, and associated reader and task measures make the majority of texts appropriate for use in the grade level; however, the variety in text complexity is not coherently structured. Students engage in a range and volume of reading and have several mechanisms for monitoring their progress. Questions and tasks are text-specific or text-dependent and build to smaller and larger culminating tasks. Speaking and listening opportunities consistently occur over the course of a school year. The materials provide opportunities for students to engage in evidence-based discussions about what they are reading and include prompts and protocols for teacher modeling and use of academic vocabulary and syntax. Students have opportunities to engage in on-demand and process writing that reflects the distribution required by the Standards. As students analyze and develop claims about the texts and sources they read, writing tasks require students to use textual evidence to support their claims and analyses. Grammar and usage standards are explicitly taught with opportunities for students to practice learned content and apply newly gained knowledge in their writing.

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.
16/20
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Criterion Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 partially meet the criteria for text quality and text complexity. Although the majority of the anchor texts are of high quality, many of the lengthier core texts, such as memoirs, novels, and plays, are excerpts. Most texts that either fall below the text complexity band or do not have quantitative measures are appropriate for use in the grade due to qualitative and associated reader and task measures. Texts above the grade band are supported through Skill lessons. Although there is a marked increase in text complexity, text complexity varies without a coherent structure and does not support students’ grade-level reading independence. Students engage in a range and volume of reading and have opportunities to monitor their progress toward grade-level reading independence.

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 for Grade 8 partially meet the expectations that anchor texts are of publishable quality and worthy of especially careful reading and consider a range of student interests. Texts include a wide range of genres, and address a range of topics that are high–interest and age-appropriate for Grade 8.Anchor texts are well-crafted and content rich, engaging students at the grade level for which they are placed. The texts address themes—our attraction to mystery and suspense, how we see ourselves in the world, taking risks, choosing the right words, how times of crises affect people, and what imagined realities can help us understand about our own world—that are of interest and are age-appropriate. Many of the core texts are timeless classics by authors like Walter Dean Myers, CCSS exemplar texts, and are written by award-winning authors and are culturally diverse. The texts range from classic literature from the traditional canon to more contemporary works from diverse authors. With the exception of short stories, poems, letters, and essays, StudySync materials heavily rely on the use of text excerpts. Although students may use one of the unit texts as a mentor text during the Extended Writing Project, the materials rarely provide opportunities for students to read texts in their entirety during core instruction lessons or Self-Selected Reading lessons. The StudySync Library includes the following note about text excerpts: “Please note that excerpts in the StudySync® library are intended as touchstones to generate interest in an author's work. StudySync® believes that such passages do not substitute for the reading of entire texts and strongly recommends that students seek out and purchase the whole literary or informational work.”

Examples include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • In Unit 1, students read an excerpt of the novel Monster by Walter Dean Myers. Myers’ use of realistic suspense, dialogue, and dramatic elements will draw students into the tense story of Steve Harmon, a 16-year-old boy on trial for murder.
  • In Unit 2, students read “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” by Emily Dickinson. This timeless poem with unconventional structure is relevant today as students examine their real identity and social media identity.
  • In Unit 3, students read “The Vanishing Island” by Anya Groner. This informational text provides readers with an intimate look at the trials the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Native American tribe face as creeping waters cause their ancestral homeland to vanish before their eyes. Groner’s use of academic language provides a platform for students to determine the meaning and usage of words derived from Greek and Latin roots, and students will also find interest in analyzing and evaluating her use of media.
  • In Unit 4, students read a section of the novel Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt. The excerpt from this widely-known novel will be of interest to students as they read and analyze the characters’ choice of words and arguments when attempting to convince others to agree with their point of view.
  • In Unit 5, students read an excerpt from the novel Refugee by Alan Gratz. Gratz’s use of parallelism to merge three separate narratives into one novel will hook readers as they follow the excerpt’s focus on Mahmoud, a young Syrian boy who struggles to survive in the ancient city of Aleppo in war-torn Syria.
  • In Unit 6, students read an excerpt from a chapter of The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, a four-time Nobel Prize in Literature nominee. Students are sure to find interest in the story of an invasion from the Martians’ perspective and think about what their own reaction would be if they were in a similar situation as they read an excerpt from this science fiction classic.

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 8 meet the criteria that materials reflecting the distribution of text types and genres required by the standards at each grade level.

Texts include a balance of 56% literary (35 literary texts) and 44% informational texts (27 informational texts). There is a wide array of literary and informational anchor texts for every unit. Additional supplementary texts are included, resulting in a wide distribution of genres and text types as required by the standards. Literary texts include, but are not limited to short stories, folktales, dramas, and poetry. Informational texts include, but are not limited to diary entries, speeches, and articles.

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

  • In Unit 1, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson (short story)
  • In Unit 2, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” by Emily Dickinson (poetry)
  • In Unit 3, The Call of the Wild by Jack London (novel)
  • In Unit 4, “/Hug” by Ehud Lavski & Yael Nathan (graphic short story)
  • In Unit 5, Teen Mogul by Lucy Wang (drama)
  • In Unit 6, “Manuel and the Magic Fox” by Ekaterina Sedia (folktale)

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

  • In Unit 1, “Let ‘Em Play God” by Alfred Hitchcock (article)
  • In Unit 2, Commencement Address to the Sante Fe Indian School by Michelle Obama (speech)
  • In Unit 3, “A Night to Remember” by Walter Lord (article)
  • In Unit 4, “The Gettysburg Address” by President Abraham Lincoln (speech)
  • In Unit 5, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (diary)
  • In Unit 6, Universal Declaration of Human Rights by The United Nations Commission on Human Rights (primary source document)

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 8 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.

Most texts in the StudySync materials fall within either the Current Lexile Band or the Stretch Lexile Band for Grades 6–8. Texts range from 590L to 1360L; most texts are appropriate for Grade 8 according to quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis, and relationship to the reader and task. A number of texts fall below the Grades 6–8 Lexile band, but are sufficiently challenging for students based on background knowledge needed, unfamiliar vocabulary, and connections to the unit themes and tasks. Some of the quantitative information indicated in the StudySync materials is different from other sources, such as The Lexile Framework for Reading website. In some cases the materials provide Lexile levels for the excerpt, rather than the Lexile levels of the full texts.

Most texts have the appropriate level of complexity for Grade 6 students. Examples of texts with appropriate text complexity include:

  • Unit 2 students read “Abuela Invents the Zero” by Judith Ortiz Cofer
    • Quantitative: 970L
    • Qualitative: The text is a fictional piece that appears to be humorous and entertaining, but is actually meant to teach a moral or lesson. The story is not linear; it starts with the ending, and jumps back to the past. This may be confusing to the reader. Spanish words are used and some readers may not be familiar with these words.
    • Reader and Task: Students write a narrative letter that continues the story and apologizes to Abuela to resolve the conflict between her and Constancia.
  • Unit 4 students read “Gaming Communities” by Joshua Vink and Caroline Rodgers
    • Quantitative: 1120L
    • Qualitative: This is an informational piece in which one author argues for a position on an issue, and another author argues against it. The text is organized in two sections with the title posing a question that the author will answer. The vocabulary is domain–specific to this subject and may present some challenges to the reader.
    • Reader and Task: Students write an argumentative letter in which they express their opinions of both pieces by analyzing the argument of each text.
  • Unit 6 students read “The Dark is Rising” by Susan Cooper
    • Quantitative: Excerpt 1000L, Full Text 920L
    • Qualitative: This fictional piece set in England includes many references to the British landscape and the Thames which may need to be explained to the reader. Students will benefit from an overview of the role of magical music and ancient forests in folklore and mythology. Students will need help following the action as the author uses mythology and time travel to move the character to a different time period using magic in this fantasy novel.
    • Reader and Task: Students write a narrative piece in which the character wakes up one morning and finds his or her world transformed as abruptly as Will’s. Students must include how the character’s motivation and behaviors influence events in this new world.

A few anchor texts have quantitative measures that are not within the Grade 8 Current or Stretch Lexile Bands but are appropriate to Grade 8 by other measures. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • In Unit 1, students read Ten Days in a Mad-House (Chapter 4), by Nellie Bly is above the recommended Lexile band for Grades 6–8; however, the text is appropriate to use in Grade 8 because the support provided with vocabulary and organization aids students in comprehension.
    • Quantitative: 1170L
    • Qualitative: Students may struggle with the first-person narrative switching between Bly’s fake insanity and her thoughts on how successful she is in faking her insanity. Students may also be unfamiliar with investigative journalism and insane asylums.
    • Reader and Task: Students write a compare and contrast response in which they pretend to interview the speaker from another text for Bly’s newspaper account.
  • In Unit 1, students read Monster by Walter Dean Myers. Though this text is quantitatively below the recommended Lexile band, its qualitative features make it appropriate for use at this grade.
    • Quantitative: 590L
    • Qualitative: Students will be challenged by the structure of the novel being a screenplay imagined by the main character and the high number of short sentences used to mimic the harsh and curt nature of the criminal justice system.
    • Reader and Task: Students choose a section of the screenplay and rewrite it as a narrative using both dialogue and descriptions.
  • In Unit 3, students read “Address to the Nation on the Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger” by Ronald Reagan is below the recommended Lexile band for Grades 6–8; however, the text is appropriate to use in Grade 8 because the speech presents challenging rhetorical devices not found in other types of texts.
    • Quantitative: 780L
    • Qualitative: Students may not know the context in which Reagan delivered this speech or be familiar with the rhetorical devices used in speeches to evoke certain emotions in the audience.
    • Reader and Task: Students write a compare and contrast response about how different structures of texts communicate information about the topics differently, explaining which type they prefer, using evidence from the text.
  • In Unit 5, students read Teen Mogul by Lucy Wang is above the recommended Lexile band for Grades 6–8; however, the text is appropriate to use in Grade 8 because the vocabulary demands and supports to build knowledge make this text accessible to students.
    • Quantitative: 1192L
    • Qualitative: Suggestions include explaining that a mogul is an important or powerful business person. It is also suggested that the teacher point out that DNA is a nucleic acid found in all living cells and carries hereditary information from parent to child.
    • Reader and Task: Students write part of Scene 8 that continues the story of Tracy and Christopher Brennan. They consider how Tracy’s attitude might change when she reports for her first day of work. Specifically they consider if Christopher will prove to be that “mercurial” boss that Tracy talked about during her interview. Students think about dialogue or specific incidents they might include that continue and propel the action and keep the light, humorous tone of the play.

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 materials reviewed for Grade 8 partially meet the criteria for materials support students’ literacy skills (understanding and comprehension) over the course of the school year through increasingly complex text to develop independence of grade-level skills. (Series of texts should be at a variety of complexity levels.).

While series of texts include a variety of complexity levels, text complexity varies over the year without a coherent structure. Students start the year reading texts ranging from 590L–1170L. The quantitative measures rise, fall, and rise again over the course of the year. Quantitative measures increase across Units 1 and 2, then dip in Unit 3. The Lexile levels rise in Unit 4 and continue to increase through Unit 6. Although Unit 2 includes texts ranging from 660L-1280L, one of the eleven texts reflects above-level quantitative measures, while five texts do not have reported quantitative measures and four are below-level, resulting in one text falling in the appropriate grade band. Units 1, 3, and 4 have the highest number of texts that fall within the Grades 6-8 Lexile Band, with each unit containing four on-level texts. Students respond to a variety of oral and written prompts, such as literary analysis, informative, compare and contrast, essay, research, poetry, discussion, and debate, after reading individual texts and text sets. While qualitative and associated reader and task measures make the texts appropriate for use in the grade, these measures do not consistently increase in complexity over the course of the school year. The materials incorporate Skill lessons to support one or more of the text complexity measures as needed; however, without a coherent structure in text complexity variance, the materials do not reflect a decrease in the use of these scaffolds over the course of the school year.

Some examples are as follows:

  • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” the focus is on fiction but students also read poems and informational texts. Texts range quantitatively from 590L–1170L with most texts falling between 940L–1090L. The unit begins with Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Although the text is slightly below the Grades 6–8 Lexile Band, its point of view, sentence structure, and specific vocabulary add to its complexity. A number of Skill lessons are included to support students’ work. Topics include annotation, context clues, reading comprehension, text-dependent resources, textual evidence; language, style, and audience; collaborative conversations, short constructed responses, and peer review. After reading, students respond to a literary analysis prompt and consider the following question: “Can the narrator of ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ be trusted?” Students must “consider the author’s word choice, tone, and description of events as [they] draw conclusions about the narrator’s state of mind” and use evidence from the text to support their thinking. During the middle of the unit, students read “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. This text has a quantitative measure of 1090L, which falls within the Grades 6–8 Lexile Band. Qualitative features such as prior knowledge and sentence structure add to its complexity. Skill lessons on making and confirming predictions, theme, and allusion are included to support students’ work. After reading, students respond to this literary analysis prompt: “In Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery,’ things aren’t exactly as they appear. What is one theme or message that you think the author develops in the story? How does she use the setting to surprise readers and build on the theme? How do allusions deepen your understanding of the text and its theme? Monitor details from the story to show how Shirley Jackson develops the theme through the setting and allusions.” The unit concludes with “Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science” by W. W. Jacobs. With a Lexile level of 970L and qualitative measures including prior knowledge, narrative elements, and organization, Skill lessons on central or main idea and textual evidence are included to support students’ work with the text. After reading, students respond to an informative writing prompt during which they “Explain how Phineas’s reaction to his serious injury impacts Dr. Williams. How do the details about the interaction between Phineas Gage and Dr. Williams connect to the central or main idea of the overall text?” Students cite textual evidence to support their responses. Additional Skill lessons for the unit worthy of noting include: character, generating questions, author’s purpose and point of view, plot, and story structure.
  • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” the genre focus is poetry, so many of the included texts do not have quantitative measures. Quantitative measures for the speech, persuasive personal essay, and fiction selections range between 660L–1280L. The unit begins with Emily Dickinson’s poem “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” Poetic elements and structure, specific vocabulary, and connection of ideas make this text complex. The associated task is challenging, requiring students to “Write a poem in which the speaker declares who he or she is: ‘I’m _____.’” A Skill lesson on poetic elements and structure is included to support students’ work. Students’ poems must “include rhyme, rhythm, meter, and at least two stanzas” and “The poetic elements and structure should help show the speaker’s attitude toward the topic and contribute to the poem’s overall meaning.” Students read the poem “Slam, Dunk, & Hook” by Yusef Komunyakaa during the middle of the unit. The poem is free verse and includes specific vocabulary and elevated language to connect ideas, adding to its complexity. Skill lessons on poetic elements and structure and allusion are included to support students’ work. After reading, students use a graphic organizer to prepare for a class discussion surrounding the following question: “How is the identity of the speaker and other basketball players tied to the game of basketball?” Students write a reflection after the discussion. The final piece of the unit is an excerpt from Sandra Cisneros’s novel The House on Mango Street. Although the 850L quantitative measure places the text below the Grades 6–8 Lexile Band, the text requires prior knowledge and includes a sentence structure and connection of ideas, which add to its complexity. Skill lessons on figurative language and summarizing are included to support students’ work. After reading the excerpt, students respond to an argumentative writing prompt: “Esperanza faces several internal and external struggles. Overall, what are Esperanza’s biggest challenges?” Students must use textual evidence as they “Summarize the challenges Esperanza faces in each section of the text, and explain how figurative language is used to convey those challenges.” Skill lessons for the unit include, but are not limited to, the following: making inferences, arguments and claims, visualizing, central or main idea, character, plot, and theme.
  • In Unit 3, “No Risk, No Reward,” the focus is on informational texts; however, students also read some poems and a novel excerpt. Text selections range from 780L–1160L with most texts falling between 950L–1050L. The unit begins with Anya Groner’s “The Vanishing Island,” which has a quantitative measure of 1000L. Because of the complex qualitative features, Skill lessons on evaluating details, Greek and Latin affixes and roots, and media are included to support students’ work. After reading, students respond to an informative writing prompt during which they discuss “what makes people care so deeply about this ‘vanishing island’ that nothing can induce them to leave.” Students also write about why “people still continue to inhabit it and work so hard for its cultural survival.” Textual evidence, including different media, must accompany their responses. The text set including the poems “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes and “Learning to Read” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and the novel excerpt Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1010L) by Frederick Douglass falls in the middle of the unit. After reading all three texts, students reflect on the texts’ message about the importance of education and “Think about the use of language, descriptions, and events, and explain how they contribute to this message.” The unit concludes with the poem “Cocoon” by Mahvash Sabet. The poem’s prior knowledge requirements and specific vocabulary add to its complexity and a Skill lesson on connotation and denotation is included to support students’ work. Students respond to a literary analysis prompt after reading the poem: “Write an analysis in which you explain Sabet’s purpose for telling this story about her personal experience. Use textual evidence to support your response, including the author’s use of connotation and denotation.” Skill lessons for the unit include, but are not limited to, the following: summarizing, synthesizing, word patterns and relationships, adjusting fluency, context clues, technical language; and language, style, and audience. As students craft their informative essays for the Extended Writing Project, excerpts from various texts within the unit are reviewed and discussed and serve as models during the Skill lessons located in the Draft and Revise sections of the Instructional Path for the task. The text excerpts assist students with their work on “developing and clearly introducing a main idea about a topic, organizing their informative writing, using supporting details, improving their introductions, using appropriate and varied transitions to create cohesion and clarify relationships, using precise language and domain-specific vocabulary, establishing and maintaining a formal style, and improving their conclusions.”
  • In Unit 4, “Hear Me Out,” students continue their exploration of informational texts, focusing on the argumentative genre. Texts range from 780L–1160L with most texts falling in between 910L–1120L. The unit begins with the graphic short story “/HUG” by Ehud Lavski and Yael Nathan. Although the text does not have a quantitative measure, the text’s qualitative measures, including prior knowledge requirements, connection of ideas, and specific vocabulary, add to its challenges. A Skill lesson on language, style, and audience is included to support students’ work. Students use textual evidence “of the character, the setting, and the plot” to respond to a literary analysis prompt, after reading the text: “What can you infer about the player from the commands he gives Lord Walker? How do they relate to the theme or themes of the story?” During the middle of the unit, students read an excerpt from Irene Hunt’s historical fiction novel Across Five Aprils. The text has a quantitative measure of 1060L, which is mid-range in the text complexity band. The text also includes qualitative measures such as sentence structure and prior knowledge requirements that add to its complexity. Skill lessons on media and point of view are included to support students’ work. Students respond to a personal response prompt after reading the selection: “Using the conversation at the dinner table as a reference, explain which character had the best argument, and state whether he or she was accurately represented in the video clips. You should also mention point of view in your response and cite specific lines from the text.” The unit concludes with an excerpt from the fiction novel Blind by Rachel DeWoskin. The text has a quantitative measure of 970L, which is at the beginning of the Grades 6–8 Lexile Band and its prior knowledge requirements, specific vocabulary, and connection of ideas extend its complexity. Skill lessons on connotation and denotation and word patterns and relationships are included to support students’ work. Students engage in a class discussion after reading the text: “How does this tragic accident affect Emma? Discuss how author Rachel DeWoskin uses word patterns as well as the positive and negative connotations of words to describe how Emma feels and how this life-changing event has impacted her.” Students must use textual evidence to support their thinking. Skill lessons for the unit include, but are not limited to, the following: arguments and claims, reasons and evidence, word meaning, technical language, figurative language, and allusion.
  • In Unit 5, “Trying Times,” the genre focus is drama but students also read poems, fiction selections, and some informational texts. Text selections range from 780L–1270L with the majority of the texts falling between 820L–890L, which is below the Grades 6–8 Lexile Band. The unit starts with a scene from Lucy Wang’s play Teen Mogul. Despite not having a Lexile level, the qualitative features—prior knowledge requirements and specific vocabulary—as well as the associated task make this text a challenging one. Skill lessons on plot and dramatic elements and structure are included to support students’ work. For the task, students must write part of a scene to continue the story of Tracy and Christopher Brenan, thinking about “dialogue or specific incidents you might include that continue and propel the action and keep the light, humorous tone of the play.” During the middle of the unit, students read an excerpt from the autobiography Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston. The text falls at the beginning of the Lexile Band at 990L and includes a host of qualitative features such as author’s purpose, prior knowledge requirements, and textual organization that add to its complexity. After reading the excerpt, students engage in a small group discussion centered on an inference they made while reading the text: “What is the inference, and how can it help readers better understand the text?” Students must use evidence from the text to support their analysis and “reflect on and adjust [their] responses as new evidence is presented.” The unit concludes with a text set which includes the poem “America” by Claude McKay, an excerpt from the biography Gandhi the Man: How One Man Changed Himself to Change the World (1170L) by Eknath Easwaran, and an excerpt from the autobiography Long Walk to Freedom (1270L) by Nelson Mandela. Two of the texts are the highest in the unit and are above the Grades 6–8 Lexile Band. Students respond to a prompt after reading each text. Skill lessons for the unit include, but are not limited to, the following: making connections, word meaning, informational text evidence, informational text structure; language, style, and audience, and author’s purpose and point of view.
  • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” students focus on the science fiction and fantasy genres while reading texts that fall between 810L–1380L. Most of the text selections are in the 810L–1140L range. The unit begins with its lowest quantitative text, “Manuel and the Magic Fox” by Ekaterina Sedia. The text's use of magical realism, prior knowledge requirements, and cultural influences add to its complexity. Skill lessons on making inferences and theme are included to support students’ work. Students use textual evidence as they respond to a literary analysis prompt: “Describe Tomiko from ‘Manuel and the Magic Fox’ and how the reactions and responses of this character develop a theme in the text.” During the middle of the unit, students read a scientific essay “Everybody Out (from ‘What If?’)” (1250L) by Randall Munroe. This text is above the Grades 6–8 Lexile Band and also includes qualitative measures that further enhance its complexity. Skill lessons on generating questions, technical language, and summarizing accompany the text to support students’ with their work. Students respond to an informative prompt during which they “Summarize the author’s analysis that pursues an answer to the hypothetical question: ‘Is there enough energy to move the entire human population off Earth?’” using textual evidence to support their objective thinking. The unit ends with a paired selection that includes a text at the high end of the text complexity band and one below it. Students read “How the Hare Drank Boiling Water and Married the Beautiful Princess” (1140L) by Raouf Mama and “Children of Blood and Bone” (830L) by Tomi Adeyemi and compare and contrast the two African culture inspired pieces. Students must “Compare and contrast the points of view of the narrators in the texts. How much do they know or reveal? Does this create suspense or humor?” and use evidence from each text to support their ideas. Skill lessons for the unit include, but are not limited to, the following: story structure; language, style, and audience; Greek and Latin affixes and roots, context clues, central or main idea, and point of view.

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.
2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 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.

The text complexity analysis and rationale are included in the Grade 8 ELA Overview. It provides a qualitative analysis that includes information about background knowledge needed, vocabulary needs, and other potential challenges related to context as well as tasks students might complete related to the texts. It provides quantitative information measured in Lexiles. Because many of the unit texts are excerpts, the StudySync Library notes the Lexile level for the excerpt used as well as the Lexile level for the full text; however, this distinction is not included in the provided text complexity document.

Some examples are as follows:

  • In Unit 1, Grade 8 ELA Overview, Monster by Walter Dean Myers, the following information is provided: The text is complex based on the author’s choice of writing the piece as a screenplay versus a traditional novel. The opening of the text is a prologue in the form of a journal entry by the main character. Students may not be used to the high proportion of short sentences, which mirrors the nature of the criminal justice system. Lexile is noted at 590L due to the use of an excerpt, although other sources note the full text Lexile is 670L.
  • In Unit 2, Grade 8 ELA Overview, “So where are you from?” by Naomi Sepiso, the following information is provided: This text is an informational essay with a Lexile level of 800L. This text supports readers in answering the Unit 2 Essential Question, “What makes you, you?” Text Complexity notes suggest helping students make the following connections: “While the author focuses on her specific experiences as an immigrant in Australia, the text has universal implications. The author’s personal experiences help to illuminate what many immigrants to other countries around the world experience.”
  • In Unit 4, Grade 8 ELA Overview, “Speech to the Ohio Women’s Conference: Ain’t I a Woman?” by Sojourner Truth, the following information is provided: This text has a Lexile level of 780L. Text Complexity notes suggest students need prior knowledge about how the abolitionist and early feminist causes were intertwined. The task for students is comparing the two versions of Sojourner Truth’s speech. Students identify and analyze the main point of her argument, along with the reasons and evidence that she uses to support her claims. Students analyze how the analogies help her argument, and if they change between the two different versions of the speech. Finally, students evaluate which version seems more effective and why.
  • In Unit 5, Grade 8 ELA Overview, Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston, the following information is provided: The purpose of this text is to inform readers of the federal government's persecution of Asian Americans during World War II, which culminated in Executive Order 9066 and internment camps. Students may have challenges as they may be unfamiliar with these issues and not be aware of California’s large populations of Japanese Americans during this time period. The organization of this text and shifts between first-person narrative and dialogue may provide challenges for the reader. The Lexile for this excerpt is 990L; other sources state the Lexile for the full text is 1040L.

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.
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria criteria that anchor and supporting texts provide opportunities for students to engage in a range and volume of reading to achieve grade level reading proficiency.

The StudySync instructional materials consist of a variety of complex texts and scaffolded instruction to help students develop the skills and strategies necessary to achieve grade-level proficiency in reading. Students read complex texts aloud as a class, independently, in pairs, and in small groups. Texts are organized in units with selections that support the unit’s theme and Essential Question. Genres include, but are not limited to: novels, poetry, drama, essays, articles, and speeches. Each unit contains a variety of texts and activities that require students to think deeply, monitor their understanding, and apply the knowledge they learn through meaningful tasks and assessments, such as Collaborative Conversations, Short-Constructed Responses and Comprehension Quizzes (online quizzes). The Program Guide states that students learn strategies to monitor and improve their own comprehension, and “students use an annotation tool to engage in metacognitive practices as they monitor their own reading comprehension in First Read, Close Read, and Independent Read lessons.” The materials provide teacher guidance for prompts throughout the activities and after assessments, allowing students to reflect on their own learning.

Some examples are as follows:

  • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” the focus is on fiction and the texts are organized around the Essential Question “What attracts us to the mysterious?” Students read a variety of fiction texts like “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe, Monster by Walter Dean Myers, and “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackon, in addition to informational texts and poems that relate to the theme. One text included in the unit is “Let ‘Em Play God” by Alfred Hitchcock. Under the Integrated Reading and Writing tab, the Lesson Plan offers grouping options such as whole group, small group, or independent, for all parts of the First Read task. The Lesson Plan also suggests that the students read and annotate the text independently for focus skills, such as using context clues to make predictions about meanings of words, and generating questions. As the students read independently, the “Check for Success” section of the Lesson Plan suggests that the teacher circulates the room to provide support and to check student progress. Students complete an online quiz to check their comprehension of the text. Students then engage in Skill Lessons on generating questions and the author's purpose and point of view, and a Close Read. In the Close Read, students engage in Collaborative Conversations in the Write section of the lesson before responding to the prompt in a Short Constructed Response on Hitchcock’s purpose and point of view in the text.
  • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” the genre focus is poetry. Poems include Emily Dickinson’s “I’m Nobody! Who are you?,” Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” and Natasha Trethewey’s “Theories of Time and Space.” Students also read a speech, “Commencement Address to the Santa Fe Indian School” by former First Lady Michelle Obama. As they read, students work to answer the Essential Question “What makes you, you?” One text included in the unit is a personal essay entitled “Curtain Call” by WNBA star Swin Cash. Under the Integrated Reading and Writing tab, the Lesson Plan offers grouping options such as whole group, small group, or independent, for all parts of the Independent Read task. The Lesson Plan also suggests that the students read and annotate the text independently for focus skills, such as recording personal reactions to individuals, events, and other elements in the text. As the students read independently, the “Check for Success” section of the Lesson Plan suggests that the teacher circulates the room to provide support and to check student progress. Students complete an online quiz to check their comprehension of the text. Then students engage in Collaborative Conversations before completing the prompt in the Write section of the lesson in which the students respond to the prompt on “a passion that allows you to inspire others or empower those who feel powerless.”
  • In Unit 5, “Trying Times,” the focus is drama and the texts and activities are organized around the Essential Question “Who are you in a crisis?” Students read multiple dramas, including Teen Mogul by Lucy Wang and The Diary of Anne Frank: A Play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, in addition to fiction, nonfiction, and poetry related to the topic and Essential Question. One text included in the unit is the poem “America” by Claude McKay. Under the Integrated Reading and Writing tab, the Lesson Plan offers grouping options such as whole group, small group, or independent, for all parts of the Independent Read task. The plan also suggests that the students read and annotate the text independently for focus skills, such as recording personal reactions to individuals, events, and other elements in the text. As the students read independently, the “Check for Success” section of the Lesson Plan suggests that the teacher circulates the room to provide support and to check student progress. Students complete an online quiz to check their comprehension of the text. Then students engage in Discussion before completing the prompt in the Write section of the lesson in which the students respond to the following prompt: “Why do you think McKay refers to America as ‘she’ in his poem? Do you think there is symbolism behind this choice?”

Criterion 1g - 1n

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

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for evidence-based discussions and writing about texts. The majority of the questions and tasks are grounded in textual evidence. Text-specific and text-dependent questions and tasks build to smaller culminating tasks and the larger end-of-unit task. Students participate in evidence-based discussions on what they are reading and the materials include prompts or protocols for discussions, encouraging teacher modeling and use of academic vocabulary and syntax. The materials include on-demand and process writing opportunities that accurately reflect the distribution required by the Standards. Writing tasks require students to use textual evidence to support their claims and analyses. The materials address grade-level grammar and usage standards and include 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).
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 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).

Text-dependent/specific questions, tasks, and assignments support students’ literacy growth over the course of the school year. Grade 8 consists of six units of study that contain a variety of texts and activities. The majority of the questions and associated tasks require students to engage with the text directly. The Think tab of each First Read section contains a series of constructed response questions that require textual evidence. The Your Turn portion of the Skill sections contain multiple choice questions that refer specifically to the text. The Close Read sections include a Write task that asks students to synthesize text details and to cite textual evidence. Students answer text-dependent/specific discussion questions tied to different types of media that can be accessed via StudySyncTV. Teacher materials provide support for planning and implementation of text-dependent/specific writing and speaking activities. The Teacher Edition provides specific and explicit instruction for teachers to implement materials including, but not limited to, guiding questions, tasks to activate knowledge, and scaffolding for all learners in assisting students in completing activities such as writing a literary analysis and answering multiple-choice questions. When answering text-dependent/specific questions, students receive directions on where to look for details and what information should be included. Sample exemplar answers are provided for all questions.

Instructional materials include questions, tasks, and assignments that are text-dependent/specific over the course of a school year. Some examples are as follows:

  • In Unit 1, Integrated Reading and Writing, Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science by W.W. Jacobs, First Read, Think tab, students answer questions such as “How is Phineas Gage described by the author in the beginning of the excerpt? How might the accident affect or change his behavior? Explain, citing specific textual evidence.” or “Using textual evidence, summarize in three sentences what happens to Phineas Gage on this fateful day and why it is remembered centuries later.”
  • In Unit 2, Integrated Reading and Writing, The Outsiders S.E. Hinton, Close Read, Write tab, after reading the text and watching a StudySync episode of the text, the students complete the following task: “LITERARY ANALYSIS: One theme of the novel The Outsiders has to do with the pressure to remain loyal to a group. Explain how interacting with Cherry has changed Ponyboy’s understanding of similarities and differences between the Greasers and the Socs. How does his conversation with Cherry begin to change his overall character? Be sure to support your ideas with evidence from the text.”
  • In Unit 3, Integrated Reading and Writing, “The Day I Saved a Life” by Thomas Ponce, Skill: Context Clues, Your Turn tab, students answer multiple-choice questions such as: “Which quote from the text best supports the reasoning you used in question 1? What is the meaning of conceded as used in the paragraph? Use context clues to figure out what the word means.”
  • In Unit 5, Integrated Reading and Writing, “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat” by Winston Churchill, Skill: Informational Text Structure, Your Turn tab, students answer multiple choice questions such as “Based on Churchill’s words in paragraph 7, you can conclude that the text structure is meant to—” and “Which sentence best represents the key concept of Churchill's speech?” In the Teacher Edition, teachers receive the following guidance: “Complete Your Turn Activity: Have students complete the multiple-choice questions to demonstrate their understanding of informational text structure. (See answers in the answer key.)”

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).
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 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).

Culminating tasks are rich and of quality, provide opportunities for students to demonstrate what they know and are able to do in speaking and writing, and are evident across a year’s worth of material. Materials include both text-specific and text-dependent questions and tasks that help prepare students for each unit’s Extended Writing Project. The culminating tasks integrate writing, speaking, or both. Reading, writing, speaking, and listening are taught as integrated skills throughout the unit in lessons such as SyncStart, First Read, Close Read, Independent Read, and Skill lessons. The Extended Writing Projects and Extended Oral Projects ask students to explore the theme and Essential Question of the unit in depth. During culminating tasks, students engage in a range of writing and demonstrate proficiency when writing oral research presentations, argumentative essays, literary analysis, informative essays , and narrative pieces.

Tasks are supported with coherent sequences of text-dependent questions and tasks. Some examples are as follows:

  • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” students read the text “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. During the Close Read, students write a short literary analysis in response to this prompt: “In Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," things aren't exactly as they appear. What is one theme or message that you think the author develops in the story? How does she use the setting to surprise readers and build on the theme? How do allusions deepen your understanding of the text and its theme? Monitor details from the story to show how Shirley Jackson develops the theme through the setting and allusions.” Later in the unit for the culminating task, students write a narrative in response to the following prompt: “What happens when fear comes from an unlikely source? Use the techniques you’ve learned in this unit to write your own suspenseful short story. Your characters may experience suspense in a familiar place, or while they’re with people they know and trust. Perhaps the fear comes from an everyday object or situation.”
  • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” during the Extended Writing Project, students use metaphors from the unit texts that express identity to write an argumentative literary analysis in response to the Essential Question “ What makes you, you?” In the Close Read of The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, students prepare for the upcoming culminating task as they freewrite in their Writer’s Notebook in response to the following questions: “How are the characters in The Outsiders influenced by their group of friends?” and “Does that group fully define them, or is each character unique in some way?”
  • In Unit 3, “No Risk, No Reward,” students read the text “The Vanishing Island” by Anya Groner. During the Close Read, students annotate texts, answer text-specific questions independently, and share and discuss their responses in groups. Questions included in this activity are as follows: “Based on the information in the article, what makes people care so deeply about this “vanishing island” that nothing can induce them to leave? Why do people still continue to inhabit it and work so hard for its cultural survival? Use evidence from the text, including different media, to support your understanding of the reading.” This activity helps students prepare for the Extended Writing Project, during which students write an informative essay on the unit’s Essential Question “Why do we take chances?” The prompt for the culminating task is as follows: “Choose three informational texts from this unit, including research links in the Blasts, and explain how the authors inform readers about their risk-taking subjects. Identify the risks individuals take and the outcomes of those risks. Include a clear main idea or thesis statement, and cite evidence from each text to explain your conclusions.”
  • In Unit 5, “Trying Times,” students read the text “Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech” by Elie Wiesel. During the Close Read, students annotate texts, answer text-specific questions independently, and share and discuss their responses in groups. One writing prompt for this activity is “How does Wiesel connect his personal story to the key concept of this speech? Are his reasons and evidence relevant and effective in developing the speech’s message? Support your writing with evidence from the text.” This activity helps students prepare for the Extended Writing Project, during which they write an argumentative oral presentation in response to the unit’s Essential Question “Who are you in a crisis?” The prompt for the culminating task is as follows: “Think about issues that are important to you, and consider what the people and characters you have read about in this unit can teach you about those issues. Taking inspiration from three of those individuals, prepare and deliver a speech in which you advocate a position on a topic you care about. Include claims, reasons, and relevant evidence from your personal experience and the selections to support your position.”

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.)
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 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.

Teacher materials support implementation of speaking and listening, as well as vocabulary standards, to grow students’ skills. Students have multiple opportunities to engage in discussions, debates, and conversations using an array of speaking and listening protocols over the course of each unit and across the year. In the First Read, students discuss the video preview and participate in Text Talk after the initial reading. Students support their responses with evidence from the text as well as their own experiences. In each of the Skill lessons, the Turn and Talk and Discuss the Model activities also allow students to share ideas and review parts of the lessons. In each Close Read, students engage in a Collaborative Conversation to discuss the text in preparation for addressing a writing prompt. The protocols for these discussions are found in the Lesson Plan, Speaking and Listening Handbook, and the Strategies Glossary. The Lesson Plan includes a Check for Success section which supports teachers in responding to struggling students. The Lesson Plan and Teacher Edition tab also include a Scaffolding & Differentiation section that includes guiding questions to support students in their study of the words and scaffolding for ELLs and approaching readers. The supports include, but are not limited to, discussion guides and speaking frames. There is consistency for the teachers to use the same strategies for supporting students to understand academic vocabulary and syntax across the units.

Materials provide multiple opportunities and protocols for evidence-based discussions across the whole year’s scope of instructional materials, including support for teachers to identify students struggling with these skills. Some examples are as follows:

  • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” students have the opportunity to engage in evidence-based discussions in the Text Talk section of the lesson plan in the First Read of the text “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe. The Lesson Plan for the First Read of the unit includes these directions: “Sometimes the best way to understand a text is to talk about it with others. In small groups, each person has a chance to make comments, ask questions, or voice an opinion. Use the following questions on the board to talk about the text. Note: the last question will relate to a cultural awareness or social-emotional learning topic based on the text.” The following information is also provided in the Routines section: “Text Talk: Choose from a variety of engaging, whole-class or small-group discussion strategies to close this portion of the instructional routine, monitor student understanding, and clarify any lingering questions.”
  • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” students read “Abuela Invents the Zero” by Judith Ortiz Cofer. In the Close Read, the Lesson Plan instructs teachers to guide students in having a Collaborative Conversation. “Break students into Collaborative Conversation groups. Using StudySyncTV as a model, have students begin by reading the Close Read prompt. They should then use their Skills Focus annotations, their own ideas and reactions to the text, and any other notes and annotations they have to collaboratively explore the text. The Check for Success feature in the Lesson Plan supports teachers in identifying students who are struggling and suggests how to respond. Guidance provided includes the following: “If students are confused by the prompt, remind them: If students are struggling with beginning their letter, help jumpstart their discussion by asking scaffolded questions, such as: Where in the story does Connie hurt Abuela’s feelings? How does Abuela respond? What do you think Connie can learn from this? Why?”
  • In Unit 4, “Hear Me Out,” students read Irene Hunt’s novel Across Five Aprils and have an evidence-based discussion during the activity, Discuss StudySyncTV. The Lesson Plan instructs teachers to “Project the StudySyncTV episode and pause at certain times to prompt discussion.” One example of a pause and discussion is as follows: Stop the video at 2:15 - “Do you agree with Samrah’s inference that the Creightons might feel pressure to fight for the South? What textual evidence supports this idea?”

Support for evidence-based discussions encourages modeling and a focus on using academic vocabulary and syntax. Some examples include:

  • In Unit 3, “No Risk, No Reward,” during the First Read of the memoir Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglass, students participate in a Text Talk. The Lesson Plan provides the teacher with the questions and suggested answers such as the following: “How did Douglass’s mistress treat him? (See paragraphs 1–2: At first, she treated him well and began to teach him to read, but later, she was unkind and prevented him from learning.) How did Douglass learn to write his first letters? (See paragraph 9: Douglass copied letters he saw on timber that was labeled to show what part of a ship it would form.)” The scaffolds recommended for ELLs and approaching learners include speaking frames and paragraph guides.
  • In Unit 5, “Trying Times,” Vocabulary Review, students complete vocabulary activities, then participate in a Collaborative Conversation based on the prompt “ Imagine that your group is in a large library with people of all ages, and the building suddenly loses power during a storm. What could you and your group do to figure out how to find people in need? What conflicts might you face as you try to help them? How would you respond to those conflicts? Use as many Big Idea and Academic Vocabulary words in your discussion as you can.” In the Check for Success section, teachers receive this information: “If students are struggling with beginning their conversation, help jumpstart their discussion by asking scaffolded questions such as ‘What could you and your group do to figure out how to find people in need? What conflicts might you face as you try to help them?’”
  • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” students read an excerpt from The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. In the Close Read, Academic Vocabulary Focus, Lesson Plan, the teacher instructions state, “Draw attention to the academic vocabulary word undertake. Call on students to share the definition of the word in their own words. Remind students that as a verb, the word undertake can mean “to accept as a challenge.” Undertake can be used in everyday, academic, and workplace contexts. For example: The scientist decided to undertake research in the hope of finding a cure for the disease. Many students in the eighth grade class have volunteered to undertake the task of restoring the old playground. Encourage students to use this vocabulary word in their written responses.”

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.
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 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.

Speaking and listening instruction is applied frequently over the course of the school year and includes facilitation, monitoring, and instructional supports for teachers. Students have many opportunities to engage in speaking and listening throughout the units and across the year. They have many informal opportunities embedded within each lesson, such as Collaborative Discussions and Text Talks, but also more formal speaking and listening opportunities, such as Extended Oral Projects or Extended Writing Projects. Materials include practice of speaking and listening skills that support students’ increase in ability over the course of the school year, including teacher guidance to support students who may struggle. Each grade level has a Speaking and Listening Handbook that outlines strategies and provides graphic organizers, checklists, and rubrics to support the lesson. The Lesson Plans provide Checks for Success as support to teachers in how to scaffold these opportunities for all students. Other supports, such as Sentence Starters and Discussion Guides, may be offered more specifically for students who may struggle (such as ELLs or approaching readers). Speaking and listening work requires students to marshall evidence from texts and sources. Students’ speaking and listening work is rooted in the texts they read and they are often reminded to use evidence from the text to support their conversations. Students work in groups to research topics related to the texts and topics in which they are building knowledge. Students design visual aids and present their findings informally to the class.

Students have multiple opportunities over the school year to demonstrate what they are reading and researching through varied speaking and listening opportunities. Some examples are as follows:

  • In Unit 1 “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” students engage in a discussion about the poem “Ten Days in a Mad-House” Chapter IV by Nellie Bly. In the Close Read, students participate in Collaborative Conversations. The students discuss the following questions: “What questions might Nellie Bly ask in an interview with the speaker of the poem? What would the speaker say in response? How might the speaker’s answers reveal the differences in their situations?” In the Lesson Plan, teachers are provided a Check for Success to gauge students’ understanding of the activity and text. The following instructions are provided: “If students are struggling with beginning their conversation, help jumpstart their discussion by asking a scaffolded question, such as: Think of questions a reporter asks in an interview and their purpose. How might Bly start off her interview? What might the speaker of the poem say in response? What might Bly ask the speaker of the poem about being locked up without a way to escape? How would the speaker answer that question?”
  • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” students read the text, “Inside Out and Back Again” by Thanhhà Lai. In the Independent Read, students have the opportunity to participate in a Text Talk. As a class,, students discuss questions such as the following: “In the section “Outside,” what is happening with the family? What does the text in italics represent? What is the narrator told by her mother in the first text with italics? What images does the narrator use to describe going to school?” In the Lesson Plan, Speaking Frames and Discussion Guides are provided for scaffolding and/or differentiation strategies.
  • In Unit 3, “No Risk, No Reward,” students read the text, “The Day I Saved a Life” by Thomas Ponce. In the Close Read, students participate in pairs or small groups in Collaborative Conservations to explore the text before writing a persuasive narrative essay. Using StudySyncTV as a model, the Close Read prompt, their Skills Focus annotations, their own ideas and reactions to the text, and any other notes and annotations they have to collaboratively explore the text, students discuss the following: “Using Ponce's essay as a point of reference, write a persuasive narrative essay where you defend a subject about which you are passionate. Be sure to include technical language where applicable, as this can lend authority to your opinions and ideas.” In the Lesson Plan, teachers are provided with Check for Success to gauge the task with the following instructions: “If students are struggling with beginning their conversation, help jumpstart their discussion by asking scaffolded questions, such as: What subject area does Ponce talk about? What happened to him that led him to acquire knowledge about this subject?”
  • In Unit 4, “Hear Me Out,” students read the text, “Letters of a Civil War Nurse” by Cornelia Hancock. In the Independent Read, students have the opportunity to participate in a Text Talk. Some of the questions that students answer in their whole group discussion: To whom is Cornelia Hancock writing? Where is Cornelia Hancock, and what is she doing there? What have the soldiers given her, or plan to give her? What has Nurse Hancock had to get used to as part of her job? In the Lesson Plan, Speaking Frames and Discussion Guides are provided as scaffolding/differentiation strategies.
  • In Unit 5, “Trying Times,” students read about crises within and across genres. Throughout unit 5, students have a number of opportunities to practice presentation skills during a variety of lessons and activities as they answer the unit’s Essential Question, “Who are you in a crisis?” The prompt for the Extended Oral Project is as follows: “How do you advocate a position?” Student guidance reminds them to “Think about issues that are important to you, and consider what the people and characters you have read about in this unit can teach you about those issues. Taking inspiration from three of those individuals, prepare and deliver a speech in which you advocate a position on a topic you care about. Include claims, reasons, and relevant evidence from your personal experience and the selections to support your position.”
  • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” Extended Writing Project, in the Revise section, in the Skill lesson: Print and Graphic Features, in the Discuss the Model activity, students engage in a whole-class discussion. After students read the Skill Model text, students answer these questions in the discussion which helps students understand how to develop their research papers by adding print and graphic features: “How does Mason use formatting to better organize information? How does Mason use graphics to improve how he conveys information? How does Mason include relevant multimedia to add interest and variety?”

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.
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 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.

Writing tasks and projects are aligned to the grade-level standards being reviewed. Each unit provides students with on-demand writing and process writing opportunities. During the Close Read, students engage in on-demand writing via Blasts, Think, and Write questions. In addition to shorter, on-demand writing tasks, the students complete an Extended Writing Project at the end of five of the six units. Each project covers one of these essential writing forms: narrative, informative/explanatory, literary analysis, and argumentative writing. These Extended Writing Projects take students through the writing process including the following: prewriting, planning, drafting, revising, editing, proofreading, and publishing. Materials provide lists to remind students of what to include in their writing, suggestions for peer review, and a revision guide with examples. Each unit contains multiple opportunities for students to use digital tools to accomplish the lesson’s goal.

Materials include a mix of BOTH on-demand and process writing that covers a year’s worth of instruction. Some examples include:

  • Students participate in on-demand writing.
    • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” students read the short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe. In the Close Read, students complete an on-demand writing task. They respond to the following prompt: “Can the narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart” be trusted? Consider the author’s word choice, tone, and description of events as you draw conclusions about the narrator’s state of mind. Be sure to support your ideas with evidence from the text.”
    • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” students engage in an on-demand writing prompt after a Close Read of an excerpt from the novel The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. The writing prompt is as follows: “One theme of the novel The Outsiders has to do with the pressure to remain loyal to a group. Explain how interacting with Cherry has changed Ponyboy’s understanding of similarities and differences between the Greasers and the Socs. How does his conversation with Cherry begin to change his overall character? Be sure to support your ideas with evidence from the text..” After completing their writing, students participate in a peer review providing feedback to two of their peers using guiding questions from the teacher.
    • In Unit 3, “No Risk, No Reward,” students read the text “The Day I Saved a Life’” by Thomas Ponce. In the Close Read, students complete an argumentative writing prompt: “Using Ponce's essay as a point of reference, write a persuasive essay where you defend a subject about which you are passionate. Be sure to include technical language where applicable, as this can lend authority to your opinions and ideas.” The teacher manual provides questioning techniques for struggling students, rubrics for the class, suggestions for prewrite, write, and peer review and reflection.
  • Students participate in process writing.
    • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” Extended Writing Project, students plan, draft, revise, and edit a literary analysis essay in response to the prompt, “What is the power of a metaphor? Examine the texts from this unit and select three powerful metaphors that deepen our understanding of identity and belonging. Your analysis should explain each metaphor and make an argument about how the metaphor reveals something about each speaker, narrator, character, or author.” The guidance reminds students to include an introduction, claim, body paragraphs, evidence, and a formal style.
    • In Unit 3, “No Risk, No Reward,” Extended Writing Project and Grammar, students engage in informative writing. Students respond to the following prompt: “Choose three informational texts from this unit, including research links in the Blasts, and explain how the authors inform readers about their risk-taking subjects. Identify the risks individuals take and the outcomes of those risks. Include a clear main idea or thesis statement, and cite evidence from each text to explain your conclusions. Regardless of which sources you choose, be sure your essay includes the following: an introduction; a main idea or thesis statement; a clear text structure; supporting details; a conclusion.” Students engage in the writing process—plan, draft, revise, edit, and publish—throughout multiple lessons. The teacher manual provides questioning techniques for struggling students, rubrics for the class, suggestions for prewrite, write, and peer review and reflection.
    • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” students engage in research writing during the Extended Writing Project. Students respond to the following prompt: “How do works of science fiction and fantasy relate to the real world? Select an author from the unit, one of the texts, or the subject of one of the texts that you would like to know more about. Then write a research report about that topic. In the process, you will learn how to select a research question, develop a research plan, gather and evaluate source materials, and synthesize and present your research findings.” Students then compose their writing as they transition through the planning, drafting, editing, revising, and publishing phases of the writing process. Within the steps of the process, Skill lessons focus on evaluating sources and research note-taking, as well as, grammatical skills including infinitives, misspelled words, sentence fragments, and ellipses.

Opportunities for students to revise and/or edit are provided. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • In Unit 4, “Hear Me Out,” Extended Writing Project and Grammar, students use a revision guide to revise the draft of their argumentative essays for clarity, development, organization, style, diction, and sentence effectiveness.
  • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” the Extended Writing Process takes students through the revision and editing process focusing on skills such as critiquing research, paraphrasing, citing sources, print and graphic features.

Materials include digital resources where appropriate. Some examples are as follows:

  • In Unit 4, “Hear Me Out,” Integrated Reading and Writing, The Big Idea, students read a Blast that gives them background on the unit’s topic and theme of how to choose the right words. Students compose their own Blast in 140 characters or less, answer a poll, and learn about a statistic related to the topic.
  • In Unit 5, “Trying Times,” students read the text Refugee by Alan Gratz. During Skill Lesson: Language, Style, and Audience, students watch a StudySync skills video that provides concept definitions to teach students about perception, audience, style, word choice, tone, and attitude.

Indicator 1l

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

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for materials providing opportunities for students to address different text types of writing that reflect the distribution required by the standards.

Materials provide opportunities for students/teachers to monitor progress in writing skills. The materials provide a variety of writing tasks across the school year. Unit themes and Essential Questions connect writing tasks to the texts students read. Text types of writing include narrative, informative/explanatory, literary analysis, and argumentative writing. Students engage in writing activities multiple times within each unit, including short constructed responses in the Close Read lesson. This informal writing allows students to demonstrate understanding of the specific text while practicing the featured type of writing. A formal type of writing, the Extended Writing Project, concludes five of the six units. Students respond to writing prompts connected to the unit texts. StudySync provides guidance and support for students to develop and strengthen writing as needed, through planning, revising, editing, and specific writing craft lessons. Students and teachers may monitor progress with Checks for Success, Peer Reviews, and Rubrics. Students also have opportunities to use digital sources for research and presentation.

Materials provide multiple opportunities across the school year for students to learn, practice, and apply different genres/modes of writing that reflect the distribution required by the standards. Some examples are as follows:

  • Students have opportunities to engage in argumentative writing.
    • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” Extended Writing Project, students write a literary analysis in response to the following prompt: “What is the power of a metaphor? Examine the texts from this unit and select three powerful metaphors that deepen our understanding of identity and belonging. Your analysis should explain each metaphor and make an argument about how the metaphor reveals something about each speaker, character, or author.” Materials provide rubrics for each step of the process.
    • In Unit 4, “Hear Me Out,” students read the text “Gaming Communities” by Joshua Vink and Caroline Rodger. In the Close Read, students write an argumentative piece in response to the following prompt: “Suppose these two essays appeared in a published journal or magazine. Write a letter to the publisher in which you express your opinions of both pieces by analyzing the argument of each text. In your letter, be sure to use evidence from each text that demonstrates your command of the information and the reasons for your opinion. You may also offer a recommendation of your own.” Students participate in a Peer Review and Reflect. Materials provide the following guidance: “Students should submit substantive feedback to two peers using the review instructions below. After they complete their peer reviews, have them reflect on the feedback they received.”
  • Students have opportunities to engage in informative/explanatory writing.
    • In Unit 3, “No Risk, No Reward,” students read the text “The Vanishing Island” by Anya Groner. In the Close Read, students write a short informative piece in response to the following prompt: “Based on the information in the article, what makes people care so deeply about this ‘vanishing island’ that nothing can induce them to leave? Why do people still continue to inhabit it and work so hard for its cultural survival? Use evidence from the text, including different media, to support your understanding of the reading.” Materials include a Check for Success for this task. The teacher directions are as follows: “If students are confused by the prompt, remind them: Media includes printed text as well as visuals, such as photographs, charts, and maps. In your discussion, focus on key details found in both the text and visuals in the article that help explain why people still live and work on the island.”
    • In Unit 4, “No Risk, No Reward,” Extended Writing Project, students write in response to the following prompt: “What happens when we take risks? Choose three informational texts from this unit, including research links in the Blasts, and explain how the authors inform readers about their risk-taking subjects. Identify the risks individuals take and the outcomes of those risks. Include a clear main idea or thesis statement, and cite evidence from each text to explain your conclusions. Materials include rubrics for each step of the writing process.
    • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” Extended Writing Project, students write a meaningful research paper in response to the following prompt: “Select an author from the unit, one of the texts, or the subject of one of the texts that you would like to know more about. Then write a research report about that topic. In the process, you will learn how to select a research question, develop a research plan, gather and evaluate source materials, and synthesize and present your research findings. Regardless of which topic you choose, be sure your research paper includes the following: an introduction; supporting details from at least three credible sources; a clear text structure; a conclusion; a works cited page; print and graphic features (a chart/map/image/video clip).”
  • Students have opportunities to engage in narrative writing.
    • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Good Mystery,” Extended Writing Project, students write a narrative in response to the following prompt: “What happens when fear comes from an unlikely source? Use the techniques you’ve learned in this unit to write your own suspenseful short story. Your characters may experience suspense in a familiar place, or while they’re with people they know and trust. Perhaps the fear comes from an everyday object or situation.” Materials provide rubrics for each step of the writing process.
    • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” students read the text “Abuela Invents the Zero’”by Judith Ortiz Cofer. In the Close Read, students write a narrative piece in response to the following prompt: “Write a letter that continues the story in which Constancia apologizes to Abuela and resolves the conflict between them. In your letter include an example of Connie’s responses to a decision or incident. In connection to the story’s central idea or theme, explain what Connie has learned and how she has changed.”
    • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” students read The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. During the Close Read, students write a narrative scene in response to the following prompt: Create a scene in which a character wakes up one morning and finds his or her world transformed as abruptly as Will’s. How do the character’s motivations and behaviors influence events in this new world?”

Indicator 1m

Materials include frequent opportunities for evidence-based writing to support careful analyses, well-defended claims, and clear information.
2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 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.

Materials provide frequent opportunities across the school year for students to learn, practice, and apply writing using evidence. In the First Read, Think tab, students write in response to text-specific questions and cite evidence to support their response. In the Close Read at the end of the series of lessons for each text, students analyze and write an evidence–based response reflecting their deeper understanding of the text. Materials provide opportunities that build students’ writing skills over the course of the school year. Students progress in writing in Grade 8 from analyzing the interaction of characters, to analyzing dialogue and its contribution to the theme, then to analyzing how figurative language diction contributes to the tone of the text.

In the Extended Writing Project students write across multiple texts to craft an evidence–based response.

Writing opportunities are focused around students’ analyses and claims developed from reading closely and working with sources. Some examples are as follows:

  • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” students read an excerpt from Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science by W.W. Jacobs. In the Close Read, students write in response to the following prompt: “Explain how Phineas’s reaction to his serious injury impacts Dr. Williams. How do the details about the interaction between Phineas Gage and Dr. Williams connect to the central or main idea of the overall text? Be sure to cite specific textual evidence to support your claim.”
  • In Unit 4, “Hear Me Out,” students read an excerpt from the graphic novel /HUG by Ehud Lavski & Yael Nathan. In the First Read, Think tab, students write evidence–based responses to the following prompts: “Why does Alena think that Lord Walker betrayed her? Cite specific evidence from the text to support your answer.” and “When Alena asks Lord Walker why he visited her world, he offers a response that upsets her. What does Lord Walker say, and why does Alena find his response upsetting? Cite specific evidence from the text to support your answer.”
  • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” students read an excerpt of the science fiction novel The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. In the Close Read, students write a literary analysis using the following prompt: “When authors undertake the task of writing a story in the science fiction genre, they can use their imaginations to create almost anything. Think about some specific words and phrases used by the first-person narrator of The War of the Worlds. How do the figurative and connotative meanings of some of these words help to produce a certain tone of both fear and suspense? Use evidence from the text to support your ideas.”

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.
2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for 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.

Over the course of the year’s worth of materials, grammar and conventions instruction is provided in increasingly sophisticated contexts. In the Extended Writing Project and Grammar section and in the Extended Oral Project and Grammar section, there are Grammar Skill lessons in which students practice grade-level specific grammar skills. Materials include opportunities for students to demonstrate application of skills both in and out of context. In the Your Turn portion of the lesson students practice and demonstrate mastery of the grammar skill and students apply their knowledge during the writing or oral projects.

Materials include explicit instruction of grammar and conventions standards for the grade level. Some examples are as follows:

  • Students have opportunities to explain the function of verbals (gerunds, participles, infinitives) in general and their function in particular sentences.
    • In Unit 3, “No Risk, No Reward,” Extended Writing Project and Grammar, Edit and Publish, Grammar Skill: Participles, Grammar Skill: Gerunds, and Grammar Skill: Infinitives, students complete lessons that explain the function of verbals. In these three lessons, students review the definition and image of each type of verbal, read and annotate the model, discuss the model, and complete the Your Turn activities. The practice items require students to identify gerunds, participles and infinitives and to explain their function in particular sentences. In Your Turn, Question 3, students apply their learning as they read the sample sentence in the first column and note how the gerund is used in the second column. Then students write their own sentence in the third column, using the gerund the same way. In Your Turn, Question 3, students apply their knowledge of infinitives by reading each function in the first column and each sample sentence in the second column. Then students write their own sentence in the third column.
  • Students have opportunities to form and use verbs in the active and passive voice.
    • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” Extended Writing Project and Grammar, Edit and Publish, Grammar Skill: Active and Passive Voice, students learn about active and passive voice and how they are used within text. In the Your Turn section, students practice using active and passive voice by sorting sentences into active voice and passive voice categories. The writing checklist requires students to determine, “Have I used active and passive voice effectively throughout the literary analysis?” If the answer is no, then students must revise their writing to reflect correct usage of active and passive voice.
  • Students have opportunities to form and use verbs in the indicative, imperative, interrogative, conditional, and subjunctive mood.
    • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” Extended Writing Project and Grammar, Edit and Publish, Grammar Skill: Verb Moods, students learn about the rules related to the imperative, indicative, interrogative, and subjunctive moods, as they read example sentences from authentic texts showing each mood. In the Your Turn section, students drag and drop sentences into either the imperative or subjunctive column. Students apply their learning of verb moods by rewriting the sample sentence using the given verb mood.
  • Students have opportunities to recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb voice and mood.
    • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” Extended Writing Project and Grammar, Edit and Publish, Grammar Skill: Consistent Verb and Mood, students study a model of consistency with voice and mood and rules applied in text before practicing in the Your Turn section. To practice the learned grammar skill, students complete sentences using voice and mood, revise sentences using voice and mood, and rewrite sentences making voice and mood consistent. Students apply their learning to their own writing as they respond to a literary analysis prompt. They use a writing checklist and ask themselves, “Does each sentence have a consistent verb voice? Is the mood of each verb correct? Does each sentence have a consistent verb mood?” If the answer is no, then students must revise their writing to reflect correct usage of verb voice and mood.
    • In Unit 5, “Trying Times,” Extended Oral Project and Grammar, Grammar Skill: Writing for Effect, students study a model using verb voice and verb mood before practicing in the Your Turn section. During the practice activities, students determine whether a sentence uses active or passive voice and they write their own sentences to achieve effect in writing. In Your Turn, Questions 3, students apply their learning as they read the sample sentence in the first column and the effect that the writer wanted to achieve. Then students revise the sentence to achieve that effect.
  • Students have opportunities to use punctuation (comma, ellipsis, dash) to indicate a pause or break.
    • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” Extended Writing Project and Grammar, Edit and Publish, Grammar Skill: Dashes, students review the definition and image, read and annotate the model, discuss the model, and complete the Your Turn activities to practice using dashes correctly. The writing checklist requires students to determine, “Have I followed the guidelines for using dashes?” If the answer is no, then students must revise their writing to reflect correct usage of dashes.
    • In Unit 4, “Hear Me Out,” Extended Writing Project and Grammar, Edit and Publish, Grammar Skill: Ellipses for Omission and Grammar Skill: Commas for Pause or Separation, students review the definition and image for ellipses and commas, read, annotate, and discuss the model, and complete the Your Turn activities to practice using ellipses and commas correctly. Students apply their knowledge of the rules for using ellipses when they write their evidence in their argument essay.
    • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” Extended Writing Project and Grammar, Edit and Publish, Grammar Skill: Ellipses for Pause and Separation, students learn about the use of ellipses for pause or separation and how they are used in texts. In the Your Turn section, students practice using ellipses for pause or separation correctly by determining whether the ellipses are used to indicate a pause, an unfinished thought, or to separate items in provided sentences. Students apply this knowledge to their own research paper writing. They use a writing checklist and ask themselves, “Have I used ellipses for pause or separation correctly?” If the answer is no, then students must revise their writing to reflect correct usage of ellipses for pause and separation.
  • Students have opportunities to use an ellipsis to indicate an omission.
    • In Unit 4, “Hear Me Out,” Extended Writing Project and Grammar, Edit and Publish, Grammar Skill: Ellipses for Omission, students learn about ellipses for omission and how they are used within texts. In the Your Turn section, students practice using ellipses for omission correctly by determining whether each quotation uses ellipses correctly. In Your Turn, Question 3, students apply the knowledge by reading each passage. Then students create a quotation from the passage that uses ellipses correctly.
  • Students have opportunities to spell correctly.
    • In Unit 1, ”Everyone Loves a Mystery,” Extended Writing Project and Grammar, Edit and Publish, Grammar Skill: Basic Spelling Rules I, students learn about the spelling patterns of ie and ei words, prefixes and double letters, suffixes and silent e, suffixes and final y, and unstressed vowels. In the Your Turn section, students respond to multiple choice questions that ask them to select the correctly spelled word to go in the blanks for the given sentences. The writing checklist requires students to determine, “Have I followed spelling rules?” If the answer is no, then students must revise their writing to reflect correct spelling rules.
    • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” Extended Writing Project and Grammar, Edit and Publish, Grammar Skill: Commonly Misspelled Words, students learn strategies for spelling words that are unfamiliar or difficult. In the Your Turn section, students respond to multiple choice questions that ask them to determine the correct spelling of a word. Students apply their learning by correcting a commonly misspelled word and using the word correctly when writing an original sentence.

Gateway Two

Building Knowledge with Texts, Vocabulary, and Tasks

Meets Expectations

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Gateway Two Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for building knowledge with texts, vocabulary, and tasks. Texts are organized around an Essential Question and Genre Focus. The Unit Title sets the theme and connects to the Essential Question. Students engage in high-quality, coherently sequenced questions and tasks as they analyze literary elements, such as word choice, and integrate knowledge and ideas in individual texts and across multiple texts. Culminating tasks, such as the Extended Writing/Oral Project, integrate reading, writing, speaking and listening, or language and connect to the texts students read. Each unit contains a Content Vocabulary list and an Academic Vocabulary list. Oftentimes, one of the vocabulary words appears in the directions for discussion and writing prompts, and some vocabulary words repeat across texts. The year-long writing plan allows students to participate in a range of writing tasks that vary in length, purpose, and difficulty. Throughout the year, students conduct short research projects during smaller culminating tasks and long research projects during appropriate Extended Writing/Oral Projects. Students participate in independent reading that includes a range of informational and literary texts and can track their progress using Bookshelf and Reading Quizzes.

Criterion 2a - 2h

32/32

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.
4/4
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria that 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.

The StudySync materials provide texts that are in units which are connected by appropriate topics. The Grade 8 Core ELA Units allow students to experience literary and nonfiction texts that explore individuals facing crucial decisions, learning from their responses, and becoming a better version of themselves. The unit design provides students with opportunities to apply their learning across a wide range of texts that vary in complexity and genre. In the Grade 8 ELA Unit Overview, the unit topic/theme and Essential Question are provided for each unit. The materials also provide a logical sequence of texts that scaffold toward reading and comprehending grade level text proficiently.

For example, some examples include:

  • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” Unit Overview, students examine the curiosity surrounding mystery and suspense. The Essential Question is: “What attracts us to the mysterious?” The fictional texts of this unit present the idea of the human’s fascination with suspense. Some of the selections included in this unit are “The Tell-Tale Heart,” by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Lottery,” by Shirley Jackson, and “The Monkey’s Paw,” by W.W. Jacobs.
  • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” Unit Overview, students examine the idea of looking at the world through a global lens and how that affects our viewpoint of ourselves. The Essential Question is: “What makes you, you?” Students “examine ideas related to identity and community” through the descriptive and figurative language used in the poems “Slam, Dunk, & Hook,” by Yusef Komunyakaa, “Theories of Time and Space,” by Natasha Trethewey, and “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost. Thanhhà Lai investigates questions of belonging in her novel Inside Out and Back Again. Both WNBA star Swin Cash and First Lady Michelle Obama “discuss the people and events who helped make them who they are” in their works “Curtain Call” and “Commencement Address to the Santa Fe Indian School.”
  • In Unit 3, “No Risk, No Reward,” Unit Overview, students examine the idea of taking chances. The Essential Question is: “Why do we take chances?” Students focus on informational text in this unit and “explore risk-taking from a variety of viewpoints,” from Walter Lord’s historical approach to the topic in “A Night to Remember'' to Anya Groner’s contemporary look at risk-takers in “The Vanishing Island” and Thomas Ponce’s current risk-taking efforts to seek environmental justice in his essay “The Day I Saved a Life.” Students learn about “what happens when a big risk has a negative outcome” through the eyes of President Ronald Reagan in “Address to the Nation on the Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger'' and the risks Frederick Douglass took in learning to read and write in his memoir Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave.” Douglas’s memoir is paired with Langston Hughes’s poem “Mother to Son” and Ellen Watkins Harper’s poem “Learning to Read,” affording students “an opportunity to compare and contrast accounts of risks taken by African-Americans.”
  • In Unit 4, “Hear Me Out,” Unit Overview, students examine the author's word choice in texts. The Essential Question is: “How do you choose the right words?” The genre focus is argumentative text. This unit begins with “HUG,” a graphic short story written by Ehud Lavski and illustrated by Yael Nathan that will introduce students to the theme of the unit. The unit also includes two texts selected for Comparison Within and Across Genres—“Denee Benton: Broadway Princess,” by Mekeisha Madden Toby and Tim Schafer’s “Cover Letter to Lucas Arts.” Students read Sojourner Truth’s “Speech to the Ohio Women’s Conference: Ain’t I a Woman?” and analyze argument writing. Next students read “To America,” by James Weldon Johnson, “Letters of a Civil War Nurse,” by Cornelia Hancock, and The Gettysburg Address, by Abraham Lincoln for Comparison Within and Across Genres. All three texts build knowledge of the Civil War and its consequences and also build students’ ability to read and comprehend complex texts independently and proficiently.
  • In Unit 5, “Trying Times,” Unit Overview, students examine the idea of the effect of crisis on people. The Essential Question is: “Who are you in a crisis?” The texts in this unit, which focuses on drama, present the idea of how people respond in a crisis. Some selections from this unit are: The Diary of Anne Frank, A Play, by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat,” by Winston Churchill, and A Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela.
  • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” Unit Overview, students examine the idea behind how fantasy and science fiction can be relevant to our world. The Essential Question is: “What do other worlds teach us about our own?” Students read works such as the science fiction novel The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells, the short story “There Will Come Soft Rains,” by Ray Bradbury paired with the poem “There Will Come Soft Rains,” by Sara Teasdale, the novel The Dark Is Rising, by Susan Cooper, the poem “Spaceships,” by Derrick Harriell, the fantasy story Manuel and the Magic Fox, by Ekaterina Sedia, the African fable “How Hare Drank Boiling Water and Married the Beautiful Princess,” retold by Raouf Mama, paired with an excerpt from the fantasy story Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi. The texts “challenge students to reconsider their understandings of the past, the future, and what makes us human.”

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.
4/4
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 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.

The questions and tasks help students to build comprehension and knowledge of topics. Within each unit, tasks such as literary analysis, Collaborative Conversations, and Reading Comprehension Quizzes are embedded within various strategies that spiral throughout the unit. During the First Read lessons and Skill lessons, students answer comprehension questions that mostly require analysis of language, key ideas, author’s craft and structure. During the Close Read, students hold Collaborative Conversations and respond in writing to a literary analysis prompt that focuses on text structure. By facilitating student work, the teacher monitors students’ understanding of the components identified in each unit. By the end of the year, items are embedded in student prompts rather than taught directly.

For most texts, students are asked to analyze language and/or author’s word choice (according to grade-level standards). For example, some examples are as follows:

  • The materials contain coherently sequenced questions and tasks that address language and/or word choice.
    • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” students read the short story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” by Edgar Allan Poe. In the Skill: Language, Style, and Audience lesson, students define terms related to the topic. The teacher models how to determine the author’s style and the impact word choice has on meaning and tone. To assess their understanding, students answer multiple-choice questions about the impact of word choice on meaning. Questions include the following: “Which phrase from the passage most clearly suggests the narrator’s disturbed mental state at the end of the story?”
    • In Unit 3, “No Risk, No Reward,” in the Big Idea Skill: Academic Vocabulary Lesson, students review a vocabulary table with the term, form, meaning, and other meaning of academic vocabulary words. The teacher models how to use roots and affixes to help determine the meaning of unfamiliar academic vocabulary words. To assess their understanding, students complete a drag-and-drop activity about roots, answer multiple-choice questions to ask about roots and affixes, and write a sample sentence for each of the words learned in the lesson.
    • In Unit 5, “Trying Times,” during the Skill: Word Meaning lesson for The Diary of Anne Frank: A Play, by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, students use context clues to understand unfamiliar words. The teacher models how to find out the meaning or pronunciation of an unfamiliar word. To assess their understanding, students complete multiple-choice questions, like “What does the word rubbish mean as used in the context of paragraph 18?” that ask them to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words.
    • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” students read The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells. In the Skill: Greek and Latin Affixes and Roots lesson, students answer the following questions: “Based on its context and root, what is the most likely meaning of cylinder?”and “Based on its context and root, what is the most likely meaning of communication?” and “Based on its context and root, what is the most likely meaning of circumference?”

For most texts, students analyze key ideas and details, structure, and craft (according to grade-level standards). For example, some examples include the following:

  • The materials contain coherently sequenced questions and tasks that address key ideas and details.
    • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” students read “Commencement Address to the Santa Fe Indian School,” by Michelle Obama. In the first read, students answer questions, such as “Which of the following best states a central message of Mrs. Obama’s speech?” and “Which statement from the text most strongly supports the answer to Question 5?”
    • In Unit 4, “Hear Me Out,” students read “Point: Gaming Helps Develop Communication Skills,” by Joshua Vink. In the Skill: Reasons and Evidence lesson, students reread paragraphs 9 and 10. Then they answer multiple-choice questions such as: “Which claim is supported by Gee’s expert opinion?”
  • The materials contain coherently sequenced questions and tasks that address structure.
    • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” students read “The Monkey’s Paw,” by W.W. Jacobs. In the Close Read lesson, students compare and contrast, “‘The Monkey's Paw,’ a short story, The Conjure-Man Dies, an excerpt from a novel, and The Graveyard Book, a graphic novel excerpt, which all have different story structures. How do these different structures contribute to the meaning of the texts? How do they impact the development of the plot? Compare and contrast how structure helps reveal the meaning of “The Monkey's Paw” against The Conjure-Man Dies or The Graveyard Book. Remember to support your ideas with evidence from the texts.”
    • In Unit 3, “No Risk, No Reward,” students read “Address to the Nation on the Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger,” by President Ronald Reagan. Students answer a series of questions including: “The primary text structure in paragraph 3 is—”, “The author develops this text structure by—”, and “This text structure helps develop the author’s thesis by—.”
  • The materials contain coherently sequenced questions and tasks that address craft.
    • In Unit 5, “Trying Times,” students read Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech. In the Close Read lesson, students write in response to the following prompt: “Which words chosen by the author to describe images, ideas, and events in Refugee do you think strongly convey what it is like to be challenged by living in the midst of a civil war? Cite textual evidence, including specific word choices that affected you in this way, and explain why they had this effect.”
    • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” students read “Manuel and the Magic Fox, by Ekaterina Sedia. In the Close Read, students write a literary analysis in response to the following prompt, “Describe Tomiko from “Manuel and the Magic Fox” and how the reactions and responses of this character develop a theme in the text. How does Tomiko behave? How do her interactions with other characters and events reveal a theme in the story? Be sure to include evidence from the text in your response.”

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.
4/4
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria 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.

Most sets of questions and tasks support students’ analysis of knowledge and ideas. Instructional units include Blasts, Skill Lessons, StudySync TV lessons, First Reads, Close Reads, Independent Reads, and writing tasks. Materials provide guidance to teachers in supporting students’ literacy skills. Teacher edition outlines skill introduction, Turn and Talk opportunities, questions, vocabulary instruction, Checks for Success, and modeling for annotation of the text and skill being taught. Each unit includes opportunities for students to analyze ideas within individual texts and there are paired selections of texts for analyzing across multiple texts. There are Model tabs for students, exemplar responses for teachers, Skill lessons, and StudySyncTV to support students in growing their literacy skills. By the end of the year, integrating knowledge and ideas is embedded in students’ work (via tasks and/or culminating tasks). Students use evidence from one or multiple texts in all discussions and written tasks such as Extended Writing Project and End-of-Unit Assessments.

Sets of questions and tasks provide opportunities to analyze across multiple texts as well as within single texts. For example, some examples are as follows:

  • Sets of questions and tasks provide opportunities to analyze within single texts.
    • In Unit 3, Integrated Reading and Writing, students read “The Vanishing Island,” by Anya Groner, as they explore the theme “No Risk, No Reward” and answer the Essential Question “Why do we take chances?” Students complete the following task: “Informative: Based on the information in the article, what makes people care so deeply about this “vanishing island” that nothing can induce them to leave? Why do people still continue to inhabit it and work so hard for its cultural survival? Use evidence from the text, including different media, to support your understanding of the reading.” In the Teacher Edition, the following guidance is provided for teachers: “Check for Success: If students are confused by the prompt, remind them: Media includes printed text as well as visuals, such as photographs, charts, and maps. In your discussion, focus on key details found in both the text and visuals in the article that help explain why people still live and work on the island.”
    • In Unit 4, Integrated Reading and Writing, students read “Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech,” by Elie Wiesel while exploring the theme “Hear Me Out” and the Essential Question, “How do you choose the right words?” Students complete the following task: “Argumentative: How does Wiesel connect his personal story to the key concept of this speech? Are his reasons and evidence relevant and effective in developing the speech’s message? Support your writing with evidence from the text.”
  • Sets of questions and tasks provide opportunities to analyze across multiple texts.
    • In Unit 2, Extended Writing Project and Grammar, the theme is “Past and Present” and the Essential Question is “What makes you, you?” To conclude their learning, students complete the following culminating task: “Examine the texts from this unit and select three powerful metaphors that deepen our understanding of identity and belonging. Your analysis should explain each metaphor and make an argument about how the metaphor reveals something about each speaker, character, or author. Be sure your literary analysis includes the following: an introduction, a claim, coherent body paragraphs, reasons and relevant evidence, and a formal style.”
    • In Unit 4, Integrating Reading and Writing, the theme is “Hear Me Out” and the Essential Question is “How do you choose the right words?” After reading “The Gettysburg Address,” by Abraham Lincoln and “To America” by James Weldon, students respond to an informational writing prompt: “Compare and Contrast: In the poem ‘To America,’ James Weldon Johnson proposes questions that reflect on the oppression African Americans have faced. In the letter from Nurse Cornelia Hancock to her mother, she discusses the personal costs of the Civil War from her perspective. President Lincoln’s address on the Gettysburg battlefield was a public speech prepared for the nation. In what ways do the authors of the poem, letter, and speech form opinions and make arguments and claims about America? How are their arguments alike or different? Cite evidence from each text in your response.”
    • In Unit 6, Integrating Reading and Writing, students read Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi and “How Hare Drank Boiling Water and Married the Beautiful Princess,” by Raouf Mama as they explore the theme “Beyond Reality” and answer the Essential Question, “What do other worlds teach us about our own?” Students then write in response to the following prompt: “Compare and Contrast: Although ‘How Hare Drank Boiling Water and Married the Beautiful Princess’ and Children of Blood and Bone were both inspired by African culture, the points of view in the stories greatly differ. Compare and contrast the points of view of the narrators in the texts. How much do they know or reveal? Does this create suspense or humor? Cite evidence from each text in your response.”

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).
4/4
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria that 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).

Culminating tasks are engaging and provide students opportunity to demonstrate comprehension and knowledge of a topic or topics. Through the Skill lessons, Close Reads, and Independent Reads within the unit texts, students are prepared to complete the larger culminating tasks, Extended Writing Projects and/or Extended Oral Projects. Every unit title serves as a theme for the entire unit. The facilitation of the Checks for Success provided in the Lesson Plan of many tasks in the unit give the teacher usable information about the student's readiness to complete culminating tasks. Culminating tasks integrate reading, writing, speaking and listening and include but are not limited to the following types of writing: argument, narrative, and research.

Culminating tasks are provided and they are multifaceted, requiring students to demonstrate mastery of several different standards at the grade level. For example, some examples are as follows:

  • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” students read texts about the scary and the mysterious. In the Extended Writing Project, students complete and present a suspenseful scene in the form of a group presentation. This culminating task integrates writing, and speaking and listening skills. To prepare for this task, students read “The Tell-Tale Heart,” by Edgar Allan Poe. Students reflect on how “The Tell-Tale Heart” connects to the unit’s Essential Question, “What attracts us to the mysterious?” by freewriting in their Writer’s Notebooks.
  • In Unit 4, “Hear Me Out,” students read texts about the impact of well-chosen words. In the Extended Writing Project, students plan and present a personal statement in the form of an oral presentation. This culminating task integrates writing, and speaking and listening skills. To prepare for this task, students read “Gaming Communities,” by Joshua Vink. Students reflect on how “Gaming Communities” connects to the unit’s Essential Question, “How do you choose the right words?” by freewriting in their Writer’s Notebooks.
  • In Unit 5, “Trying Times,” students read texts about how times of crises affect people. In the Extended Writing Project, students reflect on a crisis in their own lives as they plan and present a personal soliloquy. This culminating task integrates writing, and speaking and listening skills. To prepare for this task, students read Parallel Journeys, by Eleanor Ayer. Students reflect on how Parallel Journeys connects to the unit’s Essential Question, “Who are you in a crisis?” by freewriting in their Writer’s Notebooks.
  • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” students read texts about imagined futures and science fiction. In the Extended Writing Project, students plan and present a group research project about a science fiction or fantasy author. This culminating task integrates writing, and speaking and listening skills. To prepare for this task, students read The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells. Students reflect on how The War of the Worlds connects to the unit’s Essential Question, “What do other worlds teach us about our own?” by freewriting in their Writer’s Notebooks.

Indicator 2e

Materials include a cohesive, year-long plan for students to interact with and build key academic vocabulary words in and across texts.
4/4
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 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.

Materials provide teacher guidance outlining a plan that builds students’ academic vocabulary that supports building knowledge. The Program Guide outlines the strategies and protocols for teaching vocabulary. Vocabulary is separated into three components—Selection Vocabulary, Skill Vocabulary, and Academic Vocabulary. The Big Idea section at the beginning of each unit contains a Skill: Academic Vocabulary lesson that introduces students to the 10 academic vocabulary words for the unit. The academic vocabulary words are sporadically revisited in the Close Read lessons for multiple texts and appear in some writing prompts and rubrics. Students are also prompted to use these words in their discussions and written responses. Each unit ends with a Vocabulary Review lesson on the unit’s vocabulary. The lesson includes practice opportunities for students to use the words within the context of their writing.

Materials provide teacher guidance outlining a cohesive year long development component that builds students’ academic vocabulary that supports building knowledge. For example, some examples are as follows:

  • Vocabulary is repeated in contexts (before texts, in texts, etc.).
    • In Unit 5, “Trying Times,” the Big Idea Skill: Academic Vocabulary lesson introduces students to 10 vocabulary words including the word despite. Students study the part of speech and the definition of the word. In the Your Turn section, students choose the sentence in which despite is used correctly. The teacher also brings attention to the word during the Close Read portion of the Academic Vocabulary Focus lesson as the class engages in a discussion of the excerpt of the text Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela. The teacher then encourages students to use this vocabulary word in their Collaborative Conversation and written response. In the Write section, despite is included in the prompt: “COMPARE AND CONTRAST: McKay, Gandhi, and Mandela all had a strong sense of purpose that served as motivation not only in their lives, but in their writing as well. In the autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, what is Nelson Mandela’s purpose? How does Mandela communicate his point of view about strength despite living in times of crisis? Cite evidence from the selection to explain.”
    • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” the Big Idea Skill: Academic Vocabulary lesson introduces students to 10 words, including the word undertake. They learn the definitions and parts of speech for the words and use the words in a discussion with peers. During the Close Read of the text The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells, students participate in an Academic Vocabulary Focus discussion. The teacher brings attention to the word undertake and encourages students to use this vocabulary word in their written response. In the Write section, undertake is used in the writing prompt: “LITERARY ANALYSIS: When authors undertake the task of writing a story in the science fiction genre, they can use their imaginations to create almost anything. Think about some specific words and phrases used by the first-person narrator of The War of the Worlds. How do the figurative and connotative meanings of some of these words help to produce a certain tone of both fear and suspense? Use evidence from the text to support your ideas.”
  • Vocabulary is repeated across multiple texts.
    • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” students learn about the word emerged in the Big Idea Skill Academic Vocabulary lesson. In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” students complete a drag and drop activity with vocabulary words, including emerge, and definitions and create a sample sentence with each word, during the Close Read of “There Will Come Soft Rains,” by Sara Teasdale. Students repeat the same drag and drop activity in Unit 6 during the Close Read of the text Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi. The word emerge is included in the vocabulary word list. Afterwards, students read and annotate the text using context clues to determine the meaning of the word emerges.
    • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” students study the vocabulary word obligation across texts. In the Close Read of “Abuela Invents the Zero,” by Judith Ortiz Cofer, students complete a drag and drop activity with the vocabulary words and definitions and create a sample sentence with each word. In Unit 5, “Trying Times,” during the Close Read of the excerpt of the autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela, students read and annotate the text using context clues to determine the meaning of the word obligations.

Students are supported to accelerate vocabulary learning with vocabulary in their reading, speaking, and writing tasks. For example, some examples include:

  • In Unit 3, “No Risk, No Reward,” in the Vocabulary Review, Skill: Vocabulary Review lesson, students review the words they learned throughout the unit. In the Your Turn section, they sort the words based on whether they related to a beginning or an emotion. In the Write section, students respond to the following prompt using the vocabulary from the chapter: “Discussion: In this unit, you have studied why people and characters take chances. Think of a modern story, movie, or show in which a character takes a risk. What risk does the character take? Why does he or she take that risk? Do you think that this risk is worth taking? Use as many Big Idea and Academic Vocabulary words in your discussion as you can.”
  • In Unit 4, “Hear Me Out,” in the Big Idea Skill: Academic Vocabulary lesson, students receive a list of 10 vocabulary words, including the word recommendation. Students study a model of the word meaning and sample sentences before practicing in the Your Turn section. Practice includes dragging and dropping roots and affixes and devising ways to remember the meanings of the words. In the Close Read of the point/counterpoint texts “Gaming Communities,” by Joshua Vink and “Gaming Does Not Promote Positive Communication,” by Caroline Rodgers, the word recommendation is used in the prompt included in the Write section of the lesson: “Argumentative: Suppose these two essays appeared in a published journal or magazine. Write a letter to the publisher in which you express your opinions of both pieces by analyzing the argument of each text. In your letter, be sure to use evidence from each text that demonstrates your command of the information and the reasons for your opinion. You may also offer a recommendation of your own.”

Indicator 2f

Materials include a cohesive, year-long plan to 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.
4/4
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria that materials include a cohesive, year-long plan to 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.

Materials include writing instruction aligned to the standards for the grade level, and writing instruction spans the whole school year. Throughout all the units of study, students engage in a variety of writing activities in response to the reading of texts, including creating short constructed responses and completing Extended Writing Projects. The short constructed responses include Blasts, Think questions, and Prompt responses. Within each unit, students write in response to four Blasts which connect the students to the Essential Question, synthesize information from a variety of online sources, compose a clear response in 140 characters or less, and share their responses with a digital community. The First Reads writing tasks involve answering Think questions that require students to cite evidence. The Close Read Prompt responses connect to the type of featured writing in the unit and prepare the students for the Extended Writing Project or Research assignments. In the Extended Writing Project, materials prepare students to transition through the writing process using supports, such as a Student Model, graphic organizers, checklists, rubrics, and extensive scaffolding of writing skills. For Research, students discuss, plan, research, write, and deliver presentations. Materials include consistent scaffolding and strategies in place to support students through the process to achieve proficiency at the end of the year.

  • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” students read the short story “The Lottery,” by Shirley Jackson. In the Close Read, students respond to the following prompt: “In Shirley Jackson's ‘The Lottery,’ things aren't exactly as they appear. What is one theme or message that you think the author develops in the story? How does she use the setting to surprise readers and build on the theme? How do allusions deepen your understanding of the text and its theme? Monitor details from the story to show how Shirley Jackson develops the theme through the setting and allusions.” Students engage in Collaborative Conversations about the prompt to help them compose the literary analysis. The Lesson Plan includes scaffolding, such as speaking frames and a prompt guide, based upon proficiency. The Lesson Plan also provides Check for Success questions that the teacher may ask to support students. Materials provide graphic organizers and annotation guides for students to use as they compose responses.
  • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” students read an excerpt from The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros. In the First Read, students respond to Think questions such as: “How is the family’s dream house different from their real house on Mango Street? Cite evidence from the selection to support your answer.” and “How does Esperanza’s encounter with the nun affect her? Explain how she feels after this brief encounter. Cite evidence from the text.” In the Lesson Plan, scaffolds include sentence frames and text-dependent question guides.
  • In Unit 3, “No Risk, No Reward,” Extended Writing Project, students write an informative essay in response to the prompt, “What happens when we take risks? Choose three informational texts from this unit, including research links in the Blasts, and explain how the authors inform readers about their risk-taking subjects. Identify the risks individuals take and the outcomes of those risks. Include a clear main idea or thesis statement, and cite evidence from each text to explain your conclusions.” Students draft their essay, keeping questions like this in mind: “Have I developed my thesis statement by using supporting details that help explain key ideas and are closely related to my topic?” Materials include rubrics for every step of the writing process.
  • In Unit 4, “Hear Me Out,” Extended Writing Project, students write an argumentative piece. As students read and study the Student Model, they highlight the seven characteristics of argumentative writing: introduction, claim, thesis statement, textual evidence, transitions, formal style, and conclusion. Students use the Student Model to guide them as they compose their own argumentative essay.
  • In Unit 5, “No Risk, No Reward,” after reading background information on Nelson Mandela, students respond to the Blast prompt “How would you defend freedom?” in 140 characters or less. Students also respond to a QuikPoll and a Number Crunch task.
  • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” Extended Writing Project, students write a research paper. After analyzing a Student Model, students identify the eight characteristics of research writing: an introduction with a clear thesis statement; relevant facts, supporting details, and quotations from credible sources; analysis of the details to explain how they support the thesis; a clear and logical text structure; a formal style; a conclusion that wraps up your ideas; a works cited page; and print features, graphic features, and multimedia. Teachers utilize Skill lessons to provide direct instruction on planning research, evaluating sources, research and note-taking, critiquing research, sources and citations, and print and graphic features. Materials include rubrics for each step of the writing process.

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.
4/4
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 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.

Research projects are sequenced across a school year to include a progression of research skills appropriate for the grade level. Each of the six units include multiple opportunities for students to engage in research activities and present their findings. Materials support teachers in employing projects that develop students’ knowledge on a topic via provided resources. Teachers support the development of students’ knowledge via high-quality texts, text-dependent questioning, and Blast lessons. Blast lessons include multi-media research links related to the theme. As students utilize the included research links, they develop a broader understanding of the theme and texts within the unit. The materials provide many opportunities for students to apply reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language skills to synthesize and analyze information during their grade-level readings. Research activities provide opportunities for students to show their learning in different ways, including presenting their findings to the class, writing about their research, and creating multimedia displays. Each unit includes an extensive, multi-step Extended Writing Project related to the unit’s theme. In Unit 6, students complete a research project showing their learning across the year. This project entails a full-length essay that includes multimedia components, parenthetical citations, and a Works Cited page.

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. For example, some examples are as follows:

  • Students have opportunities to engage in “short” projects across grades and grade bands.
    • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” Grade Level Overview, “The Lottery,” students work in small groups to research traditions in a part of the world that fascinates them. Groups share their findings with the class.
    • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” in the Blast lesson students explore the Essential Question, “What makes you, you?” During the Blast lesson, students read, annotate, and highlight information that builds knowledge centered around this question. Students respond to prompts connected to the Essential Question. There is a jigsaw research activity, during which students research and discuss information from the Blast lesson.
    • In Unit 3, “No Risk, No Reward,” Grade Level Overview, “The Day I Saved a Life,” students research what it means to be vegan and present their research to the class. They have the option of also giving their opinion about veganism.
  • Students have opportunities to engage in “long” projects across grades and grade bands.
    • In Unit 4, “Hear Me Out,” during the end-of-unit Extended Writing Project, students compose an argumentative essay in response to the Essential Question, “How do you choose the right words?” Throughout the unit, students read texts and respond to questions to prepare them for the Extended Writing Project. Students read texts, such as an excerpt from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain, “HUG” a graphic fantasy story written by Ehud Lavski and illustrated by Yael Nathan, and the article “Cover Letter to LucasArts,” by Tim Schafer, to help them explore using words to show expression.
    • In Unit 5, “Trying Times,” the Essential Question for the research project is “Who are you in a crisis?” Students read stories of people in crisis and how they dealt with these times. Novels and real life accounts are used to teach lessons. Texts in this unit include Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank, Parallel Journeys, by Eleanor Ayer, and speeches from Winston Churchill and Elie Wiesel. This knowledge allows students to explore the unit’s topic—crisis shaping people. The research project is an argumentative oral presentation and is completed during the Extended Oral Project at the unit’s close.
    • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” during the end-of-unit Extended Writing Project, students compose a research paper in response to the Essential Question, “What do other worlds teach us about our own?” Throughout the unit, students read texts and respond to questions to help them plan and prepare to write their research paper. Students read texts, such as the science fiction novel The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells, the fantasy story “Manuel and the Magic Fox,” by Ekaterina Sedia, and the poem “There Will Come Soft Rains,” by Sara Teasdale, to help them explore the idea of other worlds.

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.
4/4
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 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.

Most texts In the StudySync materials are organized with built-in supports and/or scaffolds to foster independence. Within the Core ELA Units, there are Integrated Reading and Writing lessons that support students throughout the reading of the texts. These lessons consist of First Reads, Skills focus lessons, Close Reads, Blasts, and Independent Reads. Each unit ends with Self-Selected Reading Lessons; however, procedures for independent reading included in the units are unclear. The Teacher Edition provides teacher guidance to foster all students’ reading independence. Within each Lesson Plan, the Teacher Edition Differentiation tab includes supports for differentiation. Scaffolding is also provided in this section for beginning, intermediate, and advanced ELLs. The proposed schedule for the Independent Read lessons is included in the Pacing Guide. Core ELA Units pair Independent Read lessons with a core text at least two times within each unit. Each unit concludes with five self-selected reading selections, and the Pacing Guide has been updated to include the Self-Selected Reading Selections. The updated Program Guide also includes a section titled Building an Outside Independent Reading Program. A tracking system is provided through the Bookshelf and Reading Quizzes. Student reading materials span a wide volume of texts at grade levels and at various Lexile levels within the grade. There are a variety of informational and fiction texts for students to read, including articles, essays, poems, novels, short stories, and drama, and the texts range in Lexiles from 520L to 1130L.

For example, some examples are as follows:

  • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” three Independent Read lessons are paired with core texts. For example, the first Independent Read lesson, “Curtain Call,” by Swin Cash, is paired with the core text “So where are you from?” by Naomi Sepiso. After engaging in a First Read, Skill: Visualizing lesson, a Skill: Central or Main Idea lesson, a Close Read, and a Blast of the core text, students complete a compare and contrast writing task, citing evidence from the two texts. According to the Pacing Guide, this lesson takes place on Days 7–10 of the unit.
  • In Unit 3, “No Risk, No Reward,” Integrated Reading and Writing, students read a paired reading selection that consists of an excerpt from Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember and Ronald Reagan’s “Address to Nation on the Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger.” During the lesson, students independently read and annotate A Night to Remember. The teacher guides students through a First Read, two Skill lessons, and a Close Read as students read Reagan’s speech. The Close Read, Teacher Edition, Differentiation Tab includes the following scaffolds for the Collaborative Conversation activity: “Approaching Grade Level—Discussion Guide; Beginning and Intermediate ELLs—Discussion Guide and Speaking Frames; Advanced and Advanced-High ELLs—Discussion Guide and Speaking Frames. According to the Pacing Guide, these lessons are completed on Days 6–10.
  • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” Integrated Reading and Writing, Self-Selected Reading, Blast, students “explore background information about new texts in the library in order to self-select a text, establish a purpose for reading, and read independently for a sustained period of time.” The five self-selected reading texts for the unit are as follows: Dragonwings, by Laurence Yep, The Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld, Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell, Captains Courageous, by Rudyard Kipling, and Dragonsong, by Anne McCaffrey. After selecting and reading one of the provided options, students complete the “Write: Self-Selected Response” in which they complete a critical review for their self-selected reading text. The Pacing Guide does not allocate time for the actual reading of the self-selected text.

Gateway Three

Usability

Meets Expectations

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Gateway Three Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for instructional supports and usability. Although the materials are well designed and include lessons that are effectively structured, the pacing of individual lessons is not appropriate. Several significant modifications would be necessary for the materials to be viable for one school year. The materials provide detailed explanations, annotations, and research-based strategies to support teacher learning and understanding of the Standards. Through the use of standards-aligned assessments, time to revisit key concepts, and target lessons, teachers can collect, interpret, and utilize ongoing data about student progress. The materials include a variety of scaffolds and strategies for meeting the needs of a range of learners so that they demonstrate independent ability with grade-level standards. Digital materials are accessible and available in multiple platforms and embedded technology is effectively used to enhance and support student learning.

Criterion 3a - 3e

5/8
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Criterion Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 partially meet the criteria for use and design to facilitate student learning. Although the materials are well designed and include lessons that are effectively structured, the pacing of individual lessons is not appropriate. Many of the lessons do not allocate sufficient time to complete all designated activities within the typical school day. The suggested amount of time for the materials is not viable for one school year, and the expectations for teachers and students are unreasonable for the suggested timeframe. Student materials include clear directions and explanations, and reference aids are correctly labeled. The materials include alignment documentation for all questions, tasks, and assessment items. The design and formatting of the teacher and student materials is not distracting or chaotic and allows for thoughtful engagement with the content.

Indicator 3a

Materials are well-designed and take into account effective lesson structure and pacing.
1/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 partially meet the criteria that materials are well-designed and take into account effective lesson structure and pacing.

Although the materials are well designed and include lessons that are effectively structured, the pacing of individual lessons is not appropriate. The year-long instruction is broken into six units. Units are designed to help students build knowledge across multiple texts through the unit themes, Big Ideas, and Essential Questions. Each unit follows a similar structure beginning with a First Read, then Skill lessons, followed by a Close Reading activity. Each unit includes thirty lessons that are forty minutes long, four of which are independent reading lessons totaling fifty minutes each. Many of the lessons do not allocate sufficient time to complete all designated activities within the typical school day. Also, there is no clarification on the amount of time that should be spent on each component of the lesson.

For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • In Unit 3, “No Risk, No Reward,” students read an excerpt of Jack London’s Call of the Wild. In the Close Read, students must complete eight activities/tasks in 40 minutes. Activities include the following: completion of Vocabulary Chart, Writer’s Notebook assignment, Skills Focus assignment, observation and discussion of StudySync TV episode, Collaborative Conversation, Review of Prompt and Rubric, writing assignment completion, and a Peer Review and Reflection.
  • In Unit 4, “Hear Me Out,” students participate in a Blast: Self-Selected Reading. Within this Blast, students complete 11 activities/tasks in a 40-minute class period. Activities include the following: Introduction of the Task, Turn and Talk, Reading and Annotation of Blast Background, Text Talk, Writer’s Notebook entry, Establishment of Purpose for Reading, Self-Selection of Text, Number Crunch Prediction, QuikPoll Answer, Blast Creation, and Reading of Self-Selected Text.
  • In Unit 5, “Trying Times,” students read an excerpt of Refugee, by Alan Gratz. In the Close Read, students participate in eight activities/tasks in 40 minutes. Activities include the following: completion of Vocabulary Chart, Writer’s Notebook assignment, Skills Focus assignment, observation and discussion of StudySync TV episode, Collaborative Conversation, Review of Prompt and Rubric, writing assignment completion, and a Peer Review and Reflection.

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
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 do not meet the criteria that the teacher and student can reasonably complete the content within a regular school year, and the pacing allows for maximum student understanding.

The suggested amount of time for the materials is not viable for one school year, and the expectations for teachers and students are unreasonable for the suggested timeframe. Several significant modifications would be necessary for the materials to be viable for one school year. As noted in the Pacing Guide, this year-long instruction is broken into six units. Each unit includes 36 lessons that are 40 minutes long, four of which are independent reading lessons totaling 50 minutes. The amount of lessons listed and the number of days allotted for their completion are not structured in a way that students can engage in the lessons in their entirety; thus, the pacing does not allow for maximum student understanding. The Shortcut sections include lesson adaptations. These sections show how lessons can be trimmed to meet local needs and state that the lessons can be tailored to fit instructional needs. The following guidance is provided: “Remember that this guide is only meant to help you plan your unit and visualize how the parts of a StudySync lesson fit together. Use it, adapt it, or change it to meet your needs!”

For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” the Pacing Guide states that students read and analyze 10 texts and complete a research paper within 30 days. Teachers have the option to reduce the units by following the guidance in the Shortcuts section. The Shortcut section provides the following guidance on cutting lessons: “If you are in a rush and looking to cut some of the content in a unit, you can eliminate one of these Skill lessons and feel confident your students will still be exposed to the information they need about story structure,” and “If you are running out of time, you may want to eliminate a StudySync selection that focuses on a similar type of text as a previous lesson. For example, this unit contains four science fiction and fantasy texts: The Dark Is Rising, ‘There Will Come Soft Rains,’ The War of the Worlds, and Children of Blood and Bone.”

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.).
2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria that the student resources include ample review and practice resources, clear directions, and explanation, and correct labeling of reference aids (e.g., visuals, maps, etc.)

Student materials include ample review and practice resources. Whenever a skill is introduced, students learn the definitions of associated terms, have the skill modeled via the teacher or analysis of a student model, and have an opportunity to practice and apply the skill most often in the Your Turn section. Student materials include clear directions and explanations, and reference aids are correctly labeled. The directions for completing the various activities are clear and sometimes include the academic vocabulary of the unit as an additional way to practice those words in context. Skill lessons include learning aids such as StudySync videos to aid students in learning the skill being taught.

For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” students read the poem “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost. In the Skill Lesson: Poetic Elements and Structure, students watch a StudySync video that provides definitions for the academic vocabulary and skill being taught and interact with the vocabulary through either a drag and drop activity or charting the words. Then, students examine and analyze a model with the skill and independently practice during the Your Turn component of the lesson by completing a drag and drop activity with Poetic Elements and Structure.
  • In Unit 5, “Trying Times,” students read part of the novel Refugee, by Alan Gratz. In the Skill Lesson: Language, Style, and Audience, students receive the definitions of terms associated with audience and style, complete a drag and drop activity to practice those words, and examine and analyze the skill modeled using the text. Then in the Your Turn section, students respond to multiple choice questions to demonstrate their understanding of language, style and audience.
  • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” students study context clues while reading “Spaceships,” by Derrick Harriell. As an introduction to the skill, the materials provide students with a definition and explanation of the types of context clues readers use, both in written form and through an informational video. Next, students dive deeper into the skill and its application as they examine and analyze an annotated model. As a last step, students practice what they learned through the Your Turn activity. In this section, students read a short passage, analyze the text, and answer two multiple-choice questions.

Indicator 3d

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

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria that materials include publisher-produced alignment documentation of the standards addressed by specific questions, tasks, and assessment items.

Alignment documentation is provided for all questions, tasks, and assessment items. In the Pacing Guide for each unit, the CCSS standards addressed within those sessions are indicated, including the standards for reteaching and previous skill practice. Within each Lesson Plan, the standards being addressed through instruction, application, and assessment are clearly noted. Each grade level also has a Scope and Sequence document that details how standards are addressed across the year.

Alignment documentation is provided for all questions, tasks, and assessment items. For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” students read “The Tell-Tale Heart,” by Edgar Allan Poe. During the First Read, students respond to questions within the “Think” section of the lesson. One example of a question is, “Write two or three sentences explaining how the narrator feels about the old man and why he decides to murder him.” Standard RL.8.1 is noted within the lesson at the bottom of the screen within the virtual platform and on the Lesson Plan.
  • In Unit 6, ‘Beyond Reality,” the Introduce the Text task in the First Read lesson plan of “Manuel and the Magic Fox,” by Ekaterina Sedia, is as follows: “As a class, watch the video preview and have students read the introduction in pairs to make connections to the video preview.Ask students: What keywords or images from the video do you think will be most important to the story you are about to read? How does this information connect to something you already know? CCSS: RL.8.1, SL.8.2.” The Assessment task, Text Talk, addresses CCSS standards in question format. One of the questions is as follows: “What does Manuel find in the closet? (See paragraph 77: Manuel finds a fox skin.) CCSS: RL.8.1.” The Scope and Sequence mentions the Essential Question, outlines the texts in the unit, and notes if the activity is instructional in nature, including practice and application, or application only.

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
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria that the visual design (whether in print or digital) is not distracting or chaotic, but supports students in engaging thoughtfully with the subject.

StudySync’s virtual platform is visually appealing, has no chaotic or distracting content, and supports student learning through engaging themes, texts, questions, and tasks. The platform is easy to navigate and provides support for students' needs. Each unit is set up in the same format–Unit, Unit Overview, Integrated Reading and Writing, Extended Writing Project, ELL Resources, Novel Study, and End-of-Unit Assessments. The Integrated Reading and Writing section is broken into sections by the title of the text and the lesson component—Skill lesson, First Read lesson, Close Read lesson, Blast, and/or Independent Read. Videos and images are well placed and support students’ engagement with the content. The formatting is consistent across the entire program.

Criterion 3f - 3j

Materials support teacher learning and understanding of the Standards.
8/8
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Criterion Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for teacher planning and learning for success with CCSS. The Teacher’s Edition includes useful annotations, suggestions, and guidance on presenting content in student-facing and ancillary materials. The Teacher’s Edition also includes explanations of more advanced literacy concepts to support teachers with improving and deepening their understanding of the content. The materials explain the role of the Standards in the context of the overall curriculum and also outline the various research-based strategies used during instruction. The materials include suggestions for how parents or caregivers can support students at home, as well as suggestions for how teachers can share student progress with parents and caregivers.

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.
2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria that 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..

Content knowledge is included, where needed, and is accurate, understandable, and gives true assistance to all educators using the materials. There are detailed lesson plans provided for each text within the units. Types of lessons include Blasts, First Reads, Skill Lessons, Close Reads, and Independent Reads with detailed instructions, activities, and answer keys for each task suggested in the lesson plans. The teacher’s edition provides possible student responses to questions and instructional strategy suggestions for struggling students. When applicable and would enhance student learning, technology support is embedded, overarching, and accessible to most. The program’s instruction in reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language is delivered digitally and includes opportunities for collaboration, writing, research, and assessment using technology. Several features of the program were also designed to mimic the style of communication on social media. During the Blasts, students engage in QuikPolls that enhance students' knowledge through questions in which students' responses cannot exceed 140 characters.

For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • In Unit 3, “No Risk, No Reward,” students read The Call of the Wild, by Jack London. In the Skill: Language, Style, and Audience lesson, students reread and discuss a model of a close read. After this, students analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning in The Call of the Wild. The Teacher’s Edition provides detailed instruction for the teacher. An example of this is as follows: “Define: Introduce the Skill—As a class, watch the Concept Definition video and read the definition for Language, Style, and Audience. Turn and Talk—Use the following questions to discuss language, style, and audience with your students. Think of your favorite story by a particular author. Would it be the same story if it were written by someone else? Why is word choice so important? How do the choices that an author makes affect the reader? Have students share their answers with the class.”
  • In Unit 4, “Hear Me Out,” students read “Gaming Communities,” by Joshua Vink and Caroline Rodgers. In the Blast: The World Beyond Warcraft lesson, students explore background information and research links about a topic. After this, students answer the StudySync QuikPoll with a 140-character response.
  • In Unit 5, “Trying Times,” in The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, teachers show a StudySync TV and the Lesson Plan indicates the timestamp to stop the video and the questions to ask. Guidance for teachers includes: “3:49—Drew states that everyone needs a place to privately process stuff, which Anne does in her diary. In the first diary entry, what does the group conclude about Anne, based on examples and evidence in the text?”
  • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” students read Randall Munroe’s “Everybody Out” (From “What If?”). The Blast: The Heroes We Deserve lesson embeds technology, as students compose a 140-character response to the question, “What do our superheroes reflect about our society?” Students also complete a QuikPoll in response to this question, “Is it a good idea to create new characters to take over for established superheroes?”

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.
2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria that 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.

More advanced concepts are consistently explained to support teachers with improving and deepening their understanding of the content. In the Lesson Plan, there are detailed, thorough explanations of all concepts to help teachers understand the content. The materials provide answer keys to student questions. Explanations are accessible to all educators. The Program Guide includes explanations of all the program’s components and suggestions on how to support struggling learners, students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), and English learners.

For example, one example is included in the following:

  • In Unit 3, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” Integrated Reading and Writing, Vocabulary Review, teacher guidance includes language for how teachers might read and discuss the model to practice the unit’s vocabulary. Examples include: “Use the vocabulary word to write one conflict that could happen in a suspenseful story. Using new vocabulary words in writing helps you make sure that you understand what the words mean and how to use them in a sentence. How do you think this strategy might help you learn and recall new vocabulary words? Are there particular words on this list that stand out to you as potential parts of a conflict?”

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.
2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria that materials contain a teacher’s edition that explains the role of the specific ELA/literacy standards in the context of the overall curriculum.

In the StudySync materials, alignment is evident in the Grade Level Overview and the Scope and Sequence for each grade level. The Grade Level Overview outlines how each text and task connects to the Essential Question and explains how the Extended Writing Project, Skills Lessons, Close Reads, Independent Reads and Blasts integrate reading and writing standards across the year and across the overall curriculum. The Scope and Sequence within the units provides an “at a glance” overview of the alignment of the curriculum and frequency of standards (Reading Literature, Reading Informational Text, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language) are addressed within the texts of the units. For each text, the materials identify which standards are being practiced and which ones are being taught and practiced. This is indicated by an “o” and an “x” respectively.

For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • In Unit 1, the Grade Level Overview states, “Skills like Annotation, Context Clues, Reading Comprehension, Textual Evidence, and Collaborative Conversations do not just build a foundation for the school year; they also allow students to encounter this text repeatedly using different perspectives, which makes this difficult text more manageable.”
  • In Unit 6, Scope and Sequence, alignment of Reading: Literature, Reading: Informational, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language standards are available at a glance for teachers for each text in the unit. The frequency of the standards taught in the unit are denoted with an “o” or an “x.” The “o” denotes the standards being practiced or applied. The “x” denotes instruction, practice, and application of the standard respectively. For example, in the Genre lesson, Standard RL.8.10 is instructed, practiced, and applied, and Standard L.8.5c is practice or applied.

Indicator 3i

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

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria that materials contain explanations of the instructional approaches of the program and identification of the research based strategies.

The materials include a substantial document that provides the research base for all of the elements of the program. In Additional Resources, Research-Base Alignments, the materials provide the research base that outlines how the program components address all of the parts of the CCSS standards, including comprehending literary and informational text; writing; knowledge of content, language, and literature; speaking and listening; reading fluency; and conventions. Each one of these sections provides detailed explanations and citations from supporting literacy theory and research.

For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • In the Research-Base Alignments, Text Comprehension, Text Comprehension Research Recommendations, the materials include the following research-based recommendation: “Students identify and use texts’ organizational structure to facilitate close reading.” Support for this recommendation is found in Unit 4, Skill: Informational Text Structure; “The Last Human Light” (from What If?) and in Unit 4, Close Read: “The Last Human Light” (from What If?).
  • In the Research-Base Alignments, Text Comprehension, Text Comprehension Research Recommendations, the materials provide this research-based recommendation: “Students generate questions during reading to gather evidence and build knowledge.” Examples supporting this occur during Unit 1, First Read: Woodsong and in Unit 5, First Read, “The Invisible One” (Algonquin Cinderella).

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
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria that 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.

The Program Guide includes Suggestions for Parents and Caregivers to Support Student Achievement. Educators are encouraged to provide parents with a general overview of StudySync: the philosophy behind the program, the types of assignments and assessments students will complete, the skills they will learn, the expectations for students using an integrated digital and print program, and how caregivers can support students at home. The materials also provide teachers with suggestions about how to share student progress that illustrates how students are progressing within and across each unit with parents and caregivers.

For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • The Suggestions for Parents and Caregivers to Support Student Achievement outlined in the Program Guide states, “Teachers may choose to conduct a StudySync curriculum night to introduce parents to the program, as well as send home the Student User Guide and Grade Level Overview documents to familiarize caregivers with StudySync. In order to view and analyze their child’s progress, teachers should present individual student reports to parents and caregivers. These printable reports contain every StudySync assignment given and completed by the student, including the student’s responses, average review scores from peers, and specific feedback and scores from teachers. When used frequently, student reports can inform teachers and caregivers of areas in which students need additional support.”
  • The Program Guide contains suggestions for how teachers might show parents and students how students are progressing, including using the End-of-Unit Assessment. This assessment assesses the unit’s skills and can be used to determine future instruction and grouping. Highlights of the assessment include skill strengths, skill deficiencies, standard and skill proficiency levels, and across-unit growth.

Criterion 3k - 3n

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

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for assessment. The materials include regular and systematic formal and informal assessment opportunities that genuinely measure student progress. Assessments clearly denote which standards are emphasized. The materials build time for revisiting key concepts into the pacing guide. Data tracking and presentation tools help teachers use the results of assessments to identify which standards and skills present particular challenges for students, as well as where students are excelling and are ready for enrichment. The materials include routines and guidance that highlight opportunities to monitor student progress. Students have two opportunities to engage in independent reading during core instruction, including self-selected reading options where students research background information that would inspire them to choose a particular text.

Indicator 3k

Materials regularly and systematically offer assessment opportunities that genuinely measure student progress.
2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for materials regularly and systematically offer assessment opportunities that genuinely measure student progress.

Materials provide regular and systematic assessment opportunities for assessment throughout all grade levels and units. Teachers use Checks for Success in text-dependent questions, discussions, and short written responses to informally assess students. Formal assessments include Benchmark tests, Diagnostic tests, Extended Writing/Oral Projects, Reading quizzes, and End of Unit assessments. Materials genuinely measure student progress. According to the Program Guide, every StudySync lesson offers students an opportunity to demonstrate progress toward standards mastery. Responding to sources, auto-graded Reading Quizzes, skills mastery checks, and longer written responses in the Extended Writing Projects all include standards labeling.

For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” in the End-of-Unit Assessment, students read grade-level appropriate passages, answer text- dependent questions, and respond to grade-level appropriate writing prompts to assess their performance on key reading, writing, and language standards covered within the unit. For example, Question 4 is a multiple choice question which asks the following: “Which two statements summarize the Emperor’s thoughts during the procession?”
  • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” the First Read lesson plan of “Manuel and the Magic Fox,” by Ekaterina Sedia includes a Reading Quiz that serves as a formative assessment for students. Although the questions are not provided in the teacher Lesson Plan, the answer key is.
  • There are Benchmark assessments available in the Assess tab. There are three forms for each grade level.
  • There are also Reading Diagnostic tests for each grade level. These assessments are under the Placement and Diagnostic tab at the bottom of the grade level page under the units.

Indicator 3l

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

Indicator 3l.i

Assessments clearly denote which standards are being emphasized.
2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for assessments clearly denote which standards are being emphasized.

Materials include denotations of the standards being assessed in both types of assessments. The answer key at the end of the assessments provides item-specific information such as content focus/skill, Common Core State Standard, and Depth of Knowledge (DOK) level. The End-of-Unit Assessment serves as a summative assessment which provides standards aligned to each question to ensure that all standards taught within the unit are being addressed in the assessment.

For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” students read “The Lottery,” by Shirley Jackson. In the Close Read, students respond to the following prompt: “LITERARY ANALYSIS: In Shirley Jackson's ‘The Lottery,’ things aren't exactly as they appear. What is one theme or message that you think the author develops in the story? How does she use the setting to surprise readers and build on the theme? How do allusions deepen your understanding of the text and its theme? Monitor details from the story to show how Shirley Jackson develops the theme through the setting and allusions.” This prompt is aligned to CCSS RL.8.1, RL.8.2, RL.8.9, W.8.1.A, and W.8.1.B in both teacher-and student-facing materials.
  • In Unit 4, “Hear Me Out,” after students read an excerpt from Across Five Aprils, by Irene Hunt, in the Skill: Point of View lesson, students demonstrate their mastery of denoted standards as they answer the following questions: “Part A: Which aspect of Wilse’s point of view best shows the author’s use of dramatic irony?” and “Part B: Which sentence or phrase from the text supports your answer to Part A?” These questions support teachers in identifying students' mastery of Common Core State Standard RL.8.6.

Indicator 3l.ii

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

The materials reviewed for Grade 8 meets the criteria for assessments or provide sufficient guidance to teachers for interpreting student performance and suggestions for follow up.

Materials include quality rubrics and scoring guides. The descriptors on the rubrics are unique to the tasks. Rubrics and scoring guides can be used to assess the standards to their full intent. Rubrics are specific to the writing tasks and include scoring descriptors as guidance to assess the standards to their full intent. Materials provide quality suggestions for follow-up. The Program Guide states that the pacing guide allows time for teachers to revisit key concepts with which students may have struggled during core instruction and application. The Review and Reteaching section of each unit is guided by the data tracking tools in StudySync, which allow teachers to view day-to-day student performance on all standards. Teachers may use Spotlight Skills, targeted lessons that provide resources to reteach or remediate without assigning additional readings. Quality guidance for the teacher to interpret assessment data is provided. Data tracking and presentation tools help teachers use the results of assessments to identify which standards and skills present particular challenges for students, as well as where students are excelling and are ready for enrichment.

For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • Students are assessed often, via formative and summative assessments, and the materials provide teachers with many tools, such as task-specific rubrics, to help them interpret student performance. Each rubric uses a four-point scale to help teachers and students identify areas of strength, weakness, and growth. This system of rubrics allows teachers to compare student performance as the year progresses. The instructional materials provide follow-up suggestions for students who do not master the skills/habits in the Review and Reteach section, and teachers can provide Spotlight Skills lessons to support students with this learning.
  • As stated in the Program Guide, “Data tracking and presentation tools help teachers use the results of assessments to identify which standards and skills present particular challenges for students, as well as where students are excelling and are ready for enrichment. Using the StudySync Gradebook, teachers can effectively decide how to scaffold instruction and provide remediation support for individual students. Tracking tools for these assessments will provide teachers with raw scores as well as a breakdown of student performance against standards and a breakdown of student performance against skills. In addition, color-coded reporting will allow teachers to quickly and easily monitor student performance and needs.”
  • As stated in the Program Guide, “Spotlight Skills are targeted lessons that provide resources to reteach or remediate without assigning additional readings.” Each Core Skill lesson has a corresponding, standards-aligned, Spotlight Skill lesson. Spotlight Skills can be assigned at any point in the year, but the end of each unit provides a set time to pause, review data collected throughout the unit, and reteach skills students have not yet mastered.

Indicator 3m

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

The materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for materials should include routines and guidance that point out opportunities to monitor student progress.

The materials reviewed include routines and guidance for opportunities to monitor student progress. The Lesson Plan includes Vocabulary, Check for Success, and Complete Skills Focus sections which assist teachers in monitoring students’ progress throughout the unit. The materials also provide teachers with prompts and suggestions for supporting students who may be struggling and for understanding students’ thinking about the concepts to make instructional decisions about next steps.

For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” students read “Abuela Invents the Zero, by Judith Ortiz Cofer. The Skill: Theme lesson provides teachers with suggestions for monitoring students’ progress. Suggestions include: “Circulate the room as students work independently to complete the vocabulary chart. If students struggle to match the correct definition, discuss the correct meaning of the word. If a majority of students struggle with the same word, pause the activity and discuss the definition as a class.”
  • In Unit 6, “Beyond Belief,” the Complete the Skills section of the Close Read lesson for Manuel and the Magic Fox, by Ekaterina Sedia, includes the following teacher guidance: “Have students work in small groups to discuss, read, and annotate the first Skills Focus prompt. Check for Success: If students struggle to respond to Skills Focus question 1, ask them the following questions: What does Manuel do after finding out about his mother’s illness? Who does he call on for help? What does that suggest about the story’s theme? Have students transition to read and annotate independently once they have successfully completed the first Skills Focus prompt.”

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
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Indicator Rating Details

The materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for materials indicate how students are accountable for independent reading based on student choice and interest to build stamina, confidence, and motivation.

The materials reviewed are designed to build students’ confidence during independent reading. Bookshelf and Reading Quizzes serve as tracking systems to monitor students’ progress during independent reading. Within the two opportunities for independent reading in the units, Independent Reads and Self-Selected Reading lessons, students often do not read full texts. Many texts provided throughout the materials are excerpts. Teachers provide students with feedback during the Checks for Success that are built into the Independent Reads and Self-Selected Reading lessons. The Pacing Guide indicates that at least one day of each unit should be spent on independent reading that is based on student choice. The Self-Selected Reading lesson may motivate students, as this particular lesson is designed so students research background information that would inspire them to choose a certain text. However, the Self- Selected lessons are 40 minutes long with a minimum of nine activities to be completed. The actual reading occurs during the final activity. The Independent Read lessons are 50 minutes long, and not all of this time is dedicated to students reading independently. It is unclear if independent reading occurs outside of the allotted time, which could impact building students’ stamina.

For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” in the Self–Selected Reading Blast lesson, students read and annotate research, respond to questions within a Text Talk, set a purpose for reading, read independently, and then respond to the blast QuikPoll within a 40-minute lesson.
  • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” in the Independent Read lesson plan, students read an excerpt of The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper. During and after reading, students read and annotate, engage in Collaborative Conversations, answer questions about the text, and write a narrative based upon the reading. The materials allocate 40 minutes for these activities.
  • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” in the Self-Selected Reading Blast, the lesson plan allots 40 minutes for students to explore background knowledge that may influence which text they would like to read. The lesson plan includes the following activities: Introduce the Blast, Turn and Talk, Read and Annotate, and Text Talk. Because students read independently at the end of the lesson, the 40-minute block is not solely for the purpose of independent reading.

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.
10/10
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Criterion Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for differentiated instruction. The materials include a number of scaffolds and strategies to support the needs of a range of learners. Support for English learners is differentiated by ability levels. Both English learners and students who need additional support will benefit from technology supports, such as audio with variable speed, audio text highlight, and supplemental language. Opportunities for students to investigate grade-level content at a greater depth occur during small group instruction. Suggestions for grouping students are outlined in each lesson plan and activity.

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.
2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for 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.

Specific strategies to meet the needs of all learners are included. Scaffolds exist as part of the many standard features in the StudySync digital platform and can be strategically utilized to support students’ comprehension and engagement. Students who have been identified as English Learners, Approaching-Grade-Level students, or Beyond-Grade-Level students automatically receive scaffolded support or enrichment in their digital accounts. Vocabulary scaffolds are also available, including Spanish translations, in a slide-in screen for Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and Advanced-High English learners, as well as Approaching-Grade-Level students. Each lesson is concise and follows a Teach/Model and Practice/Apply routine with suggestions for differentiated practice. StudySync also offers a variety of accessibility options, presentation customization options, content accommodation and modification, and instructional strategies to address the needs of students with disabilities. Some of these options are as follows: shortened or modified assignments, the Scaffolds tab, and Screen Reader.

For example, an example is included in the following:

  • In Unit 2, “Past and Present,” students read “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost. The Instruction—Activate Prior Knowledge part of the Close Read lesson outlines the following guidance for Beyond-Grade-Level students: “Lead the Discussion: Have your Beyond-Grade-Level students lead the discussion about how to make important life choices with their peers. Remind them to provide all students equal opportunities to share and discuss, and to generate a list (on the board or on paper) of their peers’ responses.”

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.
4/4
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Indicator Rating Details

The materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for 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.


Materials provide support for EL students and students who work below grade level. The Instruction and Differentiation tab of each Lesson Plan includes various scaffolding suggestions for teachers to use with learners at varying ability levels. Examples of these lesson scaffolds are as follows: visual glossaries, speaking frames, text synopses, sentence frames, word banks, etc. Scaffolds support EL students with varying ability levels such as Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and Advanced-High. The student-facing digital materials provide options for enabling the various scaffolds detailed in the Lesson Plan. Tech scaffolds include audio with variable speed, audio text highlight, and supplemental language. The Program Guide contains a substantial section that provides explanations of the scaffolds and how they might be used. Scaffolds may be printed for each lesson using the Actions drop down. The Newcomer EL Support guide provides teachers with detailed lessons, materials, and strategies for supporting EL learners of many different languages. The progress monitoring feature allows teachers to monitor student progress after each lesson.


For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” students read Monster, by Walter Dean Myers. The Skills Lesson: Character provides teachers with guidance on student groupings. Teachers place ELs in collaborative mixed-level pairs for peer support as they follow along. Teachers allow students to work together to highlight and annotate the text in English or in their native language. An annotation guide is available for additional scaffolds during the Model—Read and Annotate portion of the lesson.
  • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” students read The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells. The Skill: Language, Style, and Audience lesson includes suggestions for helping ELs of all levels using scaffolds, such as speaking frames, a visual glossary, and annotation guide.

Indicator 3q

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

The materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for materials regularly include extensions and/or more advanced opportunities for students who read, write, speak, or listen above grade level.


Materials provide multiple opportunities for advanced students to investigate the grade-level content at a greater depth. The Program Guide contains information for teachers about how to support and push their beyond-grade-level students and includes a description of how differentiation is built into different types of lessons for these students. The Scaffolding & Differentiation section of the Lesson Plan includes additional opportunities for working with smaller groups of beyond-grade-level students, such as having them analyze the text with greater scrutiny or with a different analytical skill. These activities often introduce students to a new literary device or consider the effect of an author’s choices. These opportunities give students further enrichment in their study of literature as they practice the type of close scrutiny and analysis that will prepare them for the rigors of more advanced courses. Technology may also be leveraged to support these students.


For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • In Unit 3, “No Risk, No Reward,” students read “Cocoon,” by Mahvash Sabet. Advanced learners complete the following activity from the Scaffolding & Differentiation section of the Lesson Plan: “Leading the Discussion: Have your Beyond-Grade-Level students lead the discussion about feeling conflicted over a decision or life choice they have made. Remind them to provide all students equal opportunities to share and discuss, and to generate a list (on the board or on paper) of their peers’ responses.”
  • In Unit 5, “Trying Times,” students read “Parallel Journeys,” by Eleanor Ayer. The Lesson Plan for the First Read includes the following suggested activity for beyond-grade-level students: “Ask students to analyze the following quote: ‘The beast in man had lifted its mask and the time of euphemistic niceties and rationalizations was over.’ (Annette Dumbach) Encourage them to consider questions like: What do you think this quote means? Do you agree with this quote? Why or why not?”

Indicator 3r

Materials provide opportunities for teachers to use a variety of grouping strategies.
2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for materials provide opportunities for teachers to use a variety of grouping strategies.

Each Lesson Plan in the materials includes a variety of grouping strategies. The beginning of the Lesson Plan for all Blast, First Read, Close Read, Skills, and Writing lessons includes a chart noting the grouping strategy suggestion for each part of the lesson—whole group, pairs or small group, and one-to-one. Lesson Plans also provide grouping strategies for activities such as Text Talk, Turn and Talk, and Collaborative Discussions.

For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • In Unit 5, “Trying Times,” students read an excerpt of Farewell to Manzanar, by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. In the First Read, students participate in a Text Talk during whole group instruction, answering questions, such as “Do you think Jeanne’s father was right or wrong when he did not resist arrest and decided to cooperate with the FBI? Explain why or why not.”
  • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality, during the Blast lesson, students participate in a Turn and Talk to discuss the Driving Question(s), “What do you think this Blast will be about? Make a prediction. Do you have a favorite fantasy or science fiction story, movie, or television series? Tell what you really like about it.”

Criterion 3s - 3v

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

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for effective technology use. Digital materials are web-based, compatible with multiple internet browsers, and allow the use of tablets and mobile devices. Embedded technology, such as polls, options to post ideas, and videos, enhance student learning. Teachers can customize learning opportunities and experiences to meet individual needs. Teachers can also customize assignments according to student interests and abilities. The materials include a number of digital collaborative opportunities. Students provide feedback to and receive feedback from their peers as they complete writing prompts online. The program also includes several features that mimic a social media style of communication.

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
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Indicator Rating Details

The materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for 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., Windows and Apple and are not proprietary to any single platform), follow universal programming style, and allow the use of tablets and mobile devices.

Digital materials are available and compatible with multiple internet browsers (i.e., Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari). Digital materials are accessible within Windows and Apple platforms. Digital materials follow a universal programming style in all platforms and internet browsers which makes accessibility and interaction with the materials user friendly. Digital materials are accessible through tablets and mobile devices. Mobile devices include iPads, iPhones, Android phones, Chromebooks, and other tablets.

Indicator 3t

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

The materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for materials support effective use of technology to enhance student learning, drawing attention to evidence and texts as appropriate.


Because the StudySync curriculum is available through their online platform, students have the opportunity to engage with many technology tools to enhance and deepen their learning. The tools are easy to use and are embedded within the lessons so that students can easily access them. Blast lessons include options for students to participate in polls and post ideas. Many lessons have StudySync TV or SkillsTV which provide videos on the skills, topics, or themes presented in the materials and serve as a basis for group discussions. The technology features enhance student learning by allowing students and teachers to customize the proficiency level within the system based on student need. As students read the texts, they may utilize digital annotation tools to highlight and make notes in the text.


For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” the First Read lesson for the story “The Tell Tale Heart,” by Edgar Allan Poe includes technology-based activities. Students watch a video that provides a purpose for reading the text. When using the split-screen mode, students can see the questions on one side and the text on the other side. Students can annotate digitally, choose a “numbers” option to number the paragraphs, take a quiz, and respond to a prompt in the “Think” section of the lesson.
  • In Unit 6, “Beyond Reality,” students read Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi and “How Hare Drank Boiling Water and Married the Beautiful Princess,” by Raouf Mama. As they read, students make digital annotations and collect text evidence using the StudySyncTV model as a guide. Then, students write and deliver an elevator speech—a brief speech that outlines or pitches an idea in the time it takes to travel in an elevator—about the legacy they want to create. Technology enhances student learning by providing a model and supporting students in reading and making notes in the text.

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.
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Indicator Rating Details

The materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for digital materials include opportunities for teachers to personalize learning for all students, using adaptive or other technological innovations.


The materials reviewed for Grade 8 include opportunities for teachers to personalize learning for all students, using adaptive or other technological innovations. Teachers can adapt learning experiences for students based on individual needs.


For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • Teachers use technology to scaffold and personalize assignments based on students’ interests and instructional needs. They may assign one of four digital Access Handouts depending on a student’s needs. Teachers can also customize the directions, expectations, and due dates for a whole class, a small group, or an individual student.
  • Teachers have access to a library of content, texts, and excerpts. This allows teachers to target specific skills and choose texts based on Lexile levels.
  • The materials include audio, closed captioning, and vocabulary support for students.
  • Teachers use digital materials to personalize assignments based on student’s needs by changing the proficiency levels within the lesson to provide instruction for EL students and struggling readers.
  • Teachers use digital materials to personalize assignments based on student’s needs by changing the language within the lesson to the student’s native language to support EL students.


Indicator 3u.ii

Materials can be easily customized for local use.
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Indicator Rating Details

The materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for can be easily customized for local use.


Materials can be easily customized for local use. Teachers can customize digital materials for local use according to student interests and abilities. The Core Program Guide states that every lesson contains resources and guidance for teachers to both scaffold instruction for three levels of English learners and Approaching-Grade-Level learners, and enrich and extend activities for Beyond-Grade-Level learners. Every lesson plan is divided into two parts: the Core Path, used for core instruction, and the Access Path, used for scaffolded instruction. Materials and assignments within the Extended Writing Project can be customized to meet learner’s needs.


Assignments can be customized. Teachers can choose which Access Handout to include, add teacher notes or directions, decide whether or not to include audio, limit the number of Think questions, and select a suggested writing prompt or include their own. Teachers may customize assignments for the whole class, small groups, and/or individuals.


For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” the Pacing Guide states, “The Pacing Guide presents a suggested plan of attack that will help you cover the content in this unit, while making the connections between the anchor text and the StudySync selections clear for your students. Although this is a suggested outline of lessons, you can adapt, alter, eliminate, or re-organize the lessons to best meet the needs of your students. You may do all of this in class or you may decide to divide the assignments between in-class work and homework. Ultimately, you are in the best position to decide what is manageable for your classes given the time constraints you are working within.”
  • In Unit 1, “Everyone Loves a Mystery,” the Extended Writing Project can be customized for students based on their proficiency and native language for the Introduction, Read, and Write portions of the “Plan” part of the lesson. This is available for the Draft, Revise, Edit and Publish parts of the writing task as well.

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
+
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Indicator Rating Details

The materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for 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.).


StudySync digitally delivers instruction in reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language. Teachers also have the option to print the materials. To ensure students are engaged in learning, “several features of the program were designed to mimic the style of communication on social media.” Students complete Blasts, Think questions, Skills Focus questions, and writing prompts online. This allows students to provide to and receive feedback from their peers.


For example, some examples are included in the following:

  • In Unit 3, “Chasing the Impossible,” during the Blast: Risky Business, students explore background information and research links about a topic and respond to a question with a 140-character response.
  • In Unit 5, “Test of Time,” during the Blast: Freedom Fighters, students explore background information and research links about a topic and respond to a question with a 140-character response.
  • In Unit 4, “Hear Me Out,” during the Independent Read lesson for “Denee Benton: Broadway Princess” (author not cited), students discuss Denee Benton’s creation of the hashtag #blackprincessproject on social media and develop a hashtag to represent themselves. Next, students research other Broadway stars, such as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sutton Foster, Audra McDonald, Bernadette Peters, or Patti LuPone. They discuss how the actors and actresses achieved Broadway stardom, handled setbacks in their careers, and continued to pursue their goals. After researching a minimum of two people who have launched performing arts careers and achieved stardom on Broadway, students write a “how to” motivational piece about what it takes to be a successful performer on Broadway today.
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Additional Publication Details

Report Published Date: 09/03/2020

Report Edition: 2021

Title ISBN Edition Publisher Year
StudySync ELA Grades 6-12, Teacher Subscription, 1-year 978-0-07-906966-5 McGraw-Hill Education 2021
StudySync ELA Grades 6-12, Teacher Subscription, 1-year 978-0-07-906967-2 McGraw-Hill Education 2021
StudySync ELA Grades 6-12, Teacher Subscription, 1-year 978-0-07-906968-9 McGraw-Hill Education 2021
StudySync ELA Grades 6-12, Teacher Subscription, 1-year 978-0-07-907046-3 McGraw-Hill Education 2021
StudySync ELA Grades 6-12, Teacher Subscription, 1-year 978-0-07-907047-0 McGraw-Hill Education 2021
StudySync ELA Grades 6-12, Teacher Subscription, 1-year 978-0-07-907049-4 McGraw-Hill Education 2021
StudySync ELA Grades 6-12, Teacher Subscription, 1-year 978-0-07-907051-7 McGraw-Hill Education 2021

About Publishers Responses

All publishers are invited to provide an orientation to the educator-led team that will be reviewing their materials. The review teams also can ask publishers clarifying questions about their programs throughout the review process.

Once a review is complete, publishers have the opportunity to post a 1,500-word response to the educator report and a 1,500-word document that includes any background information or research on the instructional materials.

The publisher has not submitted a response.

Please note: Beginning in spring 2020, reports developed by EdReports.org will be using an updated version of our review tools. View draft versions of our revised review criteria here.

Educator-Led Review Teams

Each report found on EdReports.org represents hundreds of hours of work by educator reviewers. Working in teams of 4-5, reviewers use educator-developed review tools, evidence guides, and key documents to thoroughly examine their sets of materials.

After receiving over 25 hours of training on the EdReports.org review tool and process, teams meet weekly over the course of several months to share evidence, come to consensus on scoring, and write the evidence that ultimately is shared on the website.

All team members look at every grade and indicator, ensuring that the entire team considers the program in full. The team lead and calibrator also meet in cross-team PLCs to ensure that the tool is being applied consistently among review teams. Final reports are the result of multiple educators analyzing every page, calibrating all findings, and reaching a unified conclusion.

Rubric Design

The EdReports.org’s rubric supports a sequential review process through three gateways. These gateways reflect the importance of standards alignment to the fundamental design elements of the materials and considers other attributes of high-quality curriculum as recommended by educators.

Advancing Through Gateways

  • Materials must meet or partially meet expectations for the first set of indicators to move along the process. Gateways 1 and 2 focus on questions of alignment. Are the instructional materials aligned to the standards? Are all standards present and treated with appropriate depth and quality required to support student learning?
  • Gateway 3 focuses on the question of usability. Are the instructional materials user-friendly for students and educators? Materials must be well designed to facilitate student learning and enhance a teacher’s ability to differentiate and build knowledge within the classroom. In order to be reviewed and attain a rating for usability (Gateway 3), the instructional materials must first meet expectations for alignment (Gateways 1 and 2).

Key Terms Used throughout Review Rubric and Reports

  • Indicator Specific item that reviewers look for in materials.
  • Criterion Combination of all of the individual indicators for a single focus area.
  • Gateway Organizing feature of the evaluation rubric that combines criteria and prioritizes order for sequential review.
  • Alignment Rating Degree to which materials meet expectations for alignment, including that all standards are present and treated with the appropriate depth to support students in learning the skills and knowledge that they need to be ready for college and career.
  • Usability Degree to which materials are consistent with effective practices for use and design, teacher planning and learning, assessment, and differentiated instruction.

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.

The EdReports rubric supports a sequential review process through three gateways. These gateways reflect the importance of alignment to college and career ready standards and considers other attributes of high-quality curriculum, such as usability and design, as recommended by educators.

Materials must meet or partially meet expectations for the first set of indicators (gateway 1) to move to the other gateways. 

Gateways 1 and 2 focus on questions of alignment to the standards. Are the instructional materials aligned to the standards? Are all standards present and treated with appropriate depth and quality required to support student learning?

Gateway 3 focuses on the question of usability. Are the instructional materials user-friendly for students and educators? Materials must be well designed to facilitate student learning and enhance a teacher’s ability to differentiate and build knowledge within the classroom. 

In order to be reviewed and attain a rating for usability (Gateway 3), the instructional materials must first meet expectations for alignment (Gateways 1 and 2).

Alignment and usability ratings are assigned based on how materials score on a series of criteria and indicators with reviewers providing supporting evidence to determine and substantiate each point awarded.

For ELA and math, alignment ratings represent the degree to which materials meet expectations, partially meet expectations, or do not meet expectations for alignment to college- and career-ready standards, including that all standards are present and treated with the appropriate depth to support students in learning the skills and knowledge that they need to be ready for college and career.

For science, alignment ratings represent the degree to which materials meet expectations, partially meet expectations, or do not meet expectations for alignment to the Next Generation Science Standards, including that all standards are present and treated with the appropriate depth to support students in learning the skills and knowledge that they need to be ready for college and career.

For all content areas, usability ratings represent the degree to which materials meet expectations, partially meet expectations, or do not meet expectations for effective practices (as outlined in the evaluation tool) for use and design, teacher planning and learning, assessment, differentiated instruction, and effective technology use.

Math K-8

Math High School

ELA K-2

ELA 3-5

ELA 6-8


ELA High School

Science Middle School

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