7th Grade ELA Curriculum from EL Education

Each of the four modules in the Grade 7 curriculum is built around a fiction or nonfiction book that guides the learning and helps students connect to the module topic. These books act as portals, giving students access to the perspectives of diverse characters and to the academic challenges required for grade-level success.

The books selected for Grade 7 take students on a journey through southern Sudan from a child’s point of view during and after civil war, across the globe and through history chasing epidemics, through Harlem in the 1920s and ’30s, and back around the globe in pursuit of plastic pollution and its solutions. Despite the variety of their content, the central texts have this in common: rich, complex language; important and compelling themes; exciting plots with meaningful conflicts; and thoughtful characters or historical figures who, in their own ways, aim to be ethical people who contribute to a better world. By the end of the school year, through work with these books and related texts, students will be more effective, more strategic, and more joyful readers.

Module 1

Module 2

Module 3

Module 4


The Lost Children of Sudan


The Harlem Renaissance

Plastic Pollution


Reading, Writing, and Speaking Grounded in Evidence

Researching to Build and Present Knowledge

Analyzing, Interpreting, and Evaluating Text

Researching to Write and Present Arguments


Students launch the year developing their ability to analyze narratives about the Lost Children of Sudan. Students conduct research and develop first their informative writing skills by comparing a fictional to a historical account.

Students read to develop background knowledge about epidemics in many forms: historical and current, medical and social. While students learn about the scientific investigation and medical intervention in these outbreaks, they also focus on the social and cultural responses to develop a model of how best to respond to challenging circumstances

Students explore drama, poetry, song, art, stories, and dance to understand and appreciate this cultural renewal of the Harlem Renaissance. Students read articles and short biographies to build knowledge about the collaboration among writers, musicians, and artists; the social and political context of the 1900s for black Americans; and the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance.

Students close the year by reading about and researching plastic pollution in informational film, text, articles, and online resources. Through these texts, students explore solutions for plastic pollution at different points in the life cycle of plastic. Students write an argument essay about which point in the plastic life cycle is most effective for solving plastic pollution.

Anchor Texts

A Long Walk to Water

Linda Sue Park

Literature 720L

one per student


Patient Zero

Marilee Peters

Informational 1010L; one per student

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance

Nikki Grimes

Literature NP; one per student

Trash Vortex

Danielle Smith-Llera

Informational 1120L; one per student

Supporting Texts

“The Lost Boys of the Sudan,” The State of the World’s Children 1996. (Informational)

God Grew Tired of Us, Dir. Christopher Quinn (Informational film)

Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story of Afghanistan, Jeanette Winter (Informational ebook AD630L)

Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan, Mary Williams (Literature 610L)

“The ‘Lost Girls’ of Sudan,” Ishbel Matheson. BBC News. (Informational)

“One Day I Had to Run,” John Deng Langbany (Informational)

“The Need,” Water for South Sudan (Informational)

“Kindness Contagion,” Jamil Zaki. Scientific American. (Informational)

“Social Contagion: Conflicting Ideas,” The Economist Magazine (Informational) 

“Are Social Epidemics Real?” EL Education (Informational 960L)

“Disease Detective,” Marylou Tousignant. National Geographic Extreme Explorer. (Informational)


“Harlem Renaissance Packet,” EL Education (Informational 940L–1070L)

Shuffle Along, Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles (Literature drama)

Shuffle Along, Eubie Blake (Literature CD)

"National Hymn (Lift Every Voice and Sing),” James Johnson Weldon (Literature poetry)

“I Shall Return,” Claude McKay (Literature poetry)

“His Motto,” Lottie Burrell Dixon. The Upward Path. (Literature 970L)

“The Boy and the Bayonet,” Paul Laurence Dunbar. The Upward Path. (Literature 1110L)

A Plastic Ocean, Craig Leeson (Informational film)

“Five Weird Materials That Could Replace Plastic,” Jessica Hullinger. The Week. (Informational 1010L)

“Five Things You Can Do to End Plastic Pollution,” Anjali Acharya. World Bank. (Informational 1240L)

“Boyan Slat: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Kid,” Pat Betteley. Faces Magazine. (Informational 1070L)

Module Guiding Questions

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas for Module 1: The Lost Children of Sudan

Who are the Lost Children of Sudan, and what is their story?

  • The second Sudanese civil war displaced millions of people, including hundreds of thousands of Lost Boys and thousands of Lost Girls who walked through Southern Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya in search of a safe haven.

  • Some of the Lost Boys were sent to the United States to begin new lives in safety.

  • Most of the Lost Girls remained in the refugee camps, many of them working as unpaid servants for refugee families and/or being married off against their will.

What are the habits of character the Lost Children used to survive?

  • The Lost Children persevered to overcome the hardships of war, starvation, thirst, displacement, and threats by wild animals. Many of them show respect, empathy, and integrity as they help each other survive these same hardships. Some of them have also become leaders in the United States or in their home country (like Salva and his organization Water for South Sudan), using their strengths to help others grow, helping care for their environment and shared spaces, and using their learning to do so.

  • In Sudan there are water scarcity issues, which means many people do not have easy access to clean water. As a result, most girls and women persevere to walk all day to get water. They also show empathy and respect as they care for others as many people get sick from dirty water, which is the only water readily available.

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas for Module 2: Epidemics

What are epidemics? How do they develop? 

  • Epidemics can be medical or social. There are similarities and differences to epidemics, depending on whether they are social or medical in nature.

  • Social epidemics can be positive or negative. 

  • Epidemics spread through contagion as well as social networks.

How do people respond to an epidemic?

  • People's response to epidemics affects their overall impact. When people respond with positive character traits and logic, epidemics can be contained. When people respond with fear and selfishness, epidemics often spread.

What is the role of character and mindset in solving epidemic crises?

  • Epidemiologists can respond to epidemics with integrity, initiative, responsibility, and perseverance. Doctors or caregivers can respond to patients with compassion, respect, and empathy.

What methods and tools help people to solve epidemics?

  • People use logic, the scientific method, and innovation to solve mysterious epidemics.

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas for Module 3: The Harlem Renaissance

How does collaboration influence an artistic renaissance?

  • Innovation occurs through collaboration and community.

  • The academic mindset of belonging is a critical aspect to creating a common identity and strong community during the Harlem Renaissance.

  • There are common themes, practices, and structures across the art, music, and literature of the Harlem Renaissance.

What are some of the historical factors surrounding and contributing to the Harlem Renaissance? 

  • Some societal factors that contributed to the movement and its art are the Great Migration, Jim Crow laws, and the racial violence of post-Civil War America. This migration, struggle, and oppression create urgency and frustration, out of which comes an expression of culture and identity. Out of the migration came a new freedom to create.

What are some of the lasting legacies of the Harlem Renaissance?

  • The Harlem Renaissance has contributed to contemporary art, music, literature, and politics.

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas for Module 4: Plastic Pollution

Where and how does plastic pollute?

  • Plastic that is not properly disposed of ends up in the environment, with much of it polluting oceans and even ending up in the food chain via animals who consume it.

What can be done about plastic pollution? 

  • From banning single-use plastic to organizing cleanup efforts of existing pollution, there are many ways to reduce plastic pollution.

What is being done about plastic pollution? 

  • Various groups and individuals are making efforts to reduce plastic pollution, from creating alternative materials to inventing novel ways to clean up plastic from the environment.

What can I do about plastic pollution?

  • Individuals can take various actions to reduce plastic pollution, from using less plastic to contacting elected officials to ask for changes to policy.