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Language Arts Level 5
In the Level 5 course, students travel across several unsolved mysteries of our time, examining both long-standing and current research, and compiling their own theories along the way. Students learn to discern credible sources, piece through artifacts and witness testimony for valuable clues, and fill in what is missing wherever logic allows.
Throughout the course, students’ findings drive their exploration as they navigate the roles of investigator, public defender, subject matter expert, and mystery writer. Each quarter, students engage with related, challenging texts to increase reading comprehension, and they address authentic scenarios that cultivate problem-solving skills and hone each student’s development of quality responsive writing.
The first unit presents each student with an intriguing choice: Which mystery will you solve? Students might explore the disappearance of Roanoke, the cause of the Great Chicago Fire, or the identity of the infamous D.B. Cooper. Students focus on conducting short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation. Students research, evaluate sources, and produce clear and coherent writing summarizing their findings from multiple sources. Students finish the unit by creating, researching, and compiling a case file on their mystery, which they present to a media studio as a proposal for a new mystery television miniseries.
In the second unit, students maneuver through conflicting evidence and points of view in their examination of the sinking of the Titanic. Students use the research skills they developed in unit one to develop grounded arguments, and they present and defend their positions in discussions and debate. Students finish the unit by drafting a sound defense supporting their chosen client’s innocence with an argumentative essay. They present this essay as opening statements, then defend their stance under cross-examination style questions during class.
The third unit tackles the mysterious disappearance of pilot Amelia Earhart. As students investigate Earhart’s fateful final flight, they focus on supporting theory with research. Students use the research skills they developed in unit one and the argument skills from unit two to create a plausible thesis grounded in fact-based support. This unit is not focused on argument—but on building a strong hypothesis with cited support that suggests a finding. Students finish the unit by conducting research and summarizing findings to create an informative essay that they use to respond in an interview for a new mystery documentary. Students are interviewed by their instructor and peers in the final class.
In the fourth unit, students examine mysteries through the imaginative lens of a writer, by crafting original fiction on history’s missing mystery. Students complete the unit by selecting a time period and topic, researching for necessary story-building information, and then using their findings to venture through the writing process, creating a short narrative using effective technique, setting, descriptive details, plotline, and clear sequences.
What happens in class?
Each unit begins with an investigative period in which students delve into a main text, around which they focus and hone critical thinking and writing skills. In class, students are introduced to an array of fiction and nonfiction texts to further explore and evaluate source material, language choice, intent, and audience. They exercise their skills in independent planning, purposeful research, and responsive writing as each unit progresses. Each unit ends with a final project that is developed through a structured process of brainstorming, drafting, and revising -- culminating in a final presentation.
Each day of class includes a blend of the following types of activities:
- Warm-Up: An engaging skill-based warm-up activity and brief skill review of the previous week.
- Homework and Comprehension Focus: A full-class activity and discussion centered on the completed readings and individual homework contributions, encouraging ongoing literary analysis of the unit text in a fun way.
- Vocabulary Extension: A small group or full-class analysis of related, text-derived vocabulary.
- Lesson Focus: A deep dive into course objectives.
- An engaging full-class activity introducing the week’s objectives, including guided practice for scaffolding and student support.
- An independent or peer/small group activity focused on practicing the week’s objectives with instructor and peer support.
- Project Connection: A challenging, independent opportunity for students to implement the week’s objectives within their ongoing projects. This allows students the time to continue developing their quarterly project with an instructor readily available.
- Recap and Homework: A celebratory recap of the day’s lesson, a check-in on objectives and projects, and a brief discussion of homework assignments for the week.
Students should expect to spend about 1-2 hours on homework every week. Homework includes:
- assigned readings with related questions to extend literary analysis;
- drafting and completing of any unfinished unit project components;
- honing skills learned in class through various online homework assignments
During class, the teacher provides students with ongoing support through direct, oral feedback on skills and projects. his in-person feedback is key in helping students revise and improve their writing in the context of unit projects. Further, during each writing project, students receive evaluative written feedback from their teacher at the completion of critical stages, such as preliminary outlines and rough draft completions.
- Lincoln’s Spymaster
- Unsinkable: Titanic Books 1 and 2
- Amelia Lost
- The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency: No. 1
For an extra challenge, students can read 2 books per unit and take quizzes on the Reading tab.
- Artemis Fowl
- The Phantom Tollbooth
- Phineas Gage
- How They Croaked
- The Girl Who Drank the Moon
- One Came Home