Sixth grade ELA-Literacy vignette

California’s ELA/ELD Framework
ELA/Literacy and ELD in Action in Grade Six
Both the CA CCSS for ELA/Literacy and the CA ELD Standards acknowledge the
importance of reading complex texts closely and thoughtfully to derive meaning.
Accordingly, teachers should prepare reading lessons carefully and purposefully before
teaching. This includes selecting challenging texts that are worth reading and rereading;
reading the texts ahead of time to determine why the text might be challenging and
where language may be complicated or unfamiliar; and planning a sequence of tasks
and a series of lessons that build students’ abilities to read complex texts with
increasing independence. This process requires teachers to analyze the cognitive and
linguistic demands of the texts, including the sophistication of the ideas or content of the
text, students’ prior knowledge of the content, and the complexity of the vocabulary,
sentences, and organization of the text.
As discussed earlier in meaning making, teachers should model during
instruction how to read text closely by thinking aloud for students, highlighting the literal
and inferential questions they ask themselves and pointing out language and ideas they
notice while reading. Teachers should guide students to read complex texts frequently
and analytically using concrete methods with appropriate levels of scaffolding. Sixth
graders need many opportunities to read a wide variety of complex texts and to discuss
the texts they are reading, asking and answering literal (on the surface) and inferential
(below the surface) text-dependent questions to determine the explicit and implicit
meanings in the text and to identify how and evaluate how well authors present their
Importantly, for English learners, teachers should explicitly draw attention to text
structure and organization and to particular elements of language (e.g., text structure
and organization, complex sentences, vocabulary) that serve as resources that help the
author convey particular meanings. Examples of specific elements of language
resources text connectives to create cohesion (e.g., for example, suddenly, in the end);
long noun phrases to expand and enrich the meaning of sentences (e.g., “the whole
strange-familial world, glistening white” [NGA/CCSSO 2010a: Appendix B, 80]); and
complex sentences which combine ideas and convey meaning in specific ways (e.g.,
“Now that we no longer belonged to the Company, we somehow had to acquire a
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Framework has not been edited for publication. © 2014 by the California Department of Education. 1 California’s ELA/ELD Framework
thousand dollars worth of property, a faraway figure when you can only save nickels
and dimes.” [NGA/CCSSO 2010a: Appendix B, 80]). Providing English learners with
opportunities to discuss the language of the complex texts they are reading enhances
their comprehension of the texts while also developing their awareness of how language
is used to make meaning.
Lesson planning should look forward to year-end and unit goals and incorporate
the framing questions in Figure 6.14.
Figure 6.14. Framing Questions for Lesson Planning
Framing Questions for Lesson Planning
Framing Questions for All Students
What are the big ideas and culminating performance tasks
Add for English Learners •
What are the English language
of the larger unit of study, and how does this lesson build
proficiency levels of my
toward them?
What are the learning targets for this lesson, and what
Which CA ELD Standards
should students be able to do at the end of the lesson?
amplify the CA CCSS for
Which clusters of CA CCSS for ELA/Literacy does this
ELA/Literacy at students’ English
lesson address?
language proficiency levels?
What background knowledge, skills, and experiences do
What language might be new for
my students have related to this lesson?
students and/or present
How complex are the texts and tasks that I will use?
How will students make meaning, express themselves
How will students interact in
effectively, develop language, and learn content? How will
meaningful ways and learn
they apply or learn foundational skills?
about how English works in
What types of scaffolding, accommodations, or
collaborative, interpretive, and/or
modifications will individual students need to effectively
productive modes?
engage in the lesson tasks?
How will my students and I monitor learning during and
after the lesson, and how will that inform instruction?
ELA/Literacy and ELD Vignettes
The ELA/literacy and ELD vignettes below are intended to provide concrete
illustrations of how to implement the CA CCSS for ELA/Literacy and the CA ELD
Standards in tandem. The vignettes are useful resources for teachers to discuss and
use as they collaboratively plan lessons, extend their learning, and refine their practice.
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Framework has not been edited for publication. © 2014 by the California Department of Education. 2 California’s ELA/ELD Framework
The examples in the vignettes are not intended to be prescriptive, nor are the
instructional approaches limited to the identified content areas. Rather, they are
provided here as tangible ideas that can be used and adapted as needed in flexible
ways in a variety of instructional contexts.
ELA/Literacy Vignette
Vignette 6.1 illustrates how a teacher might implement the CA CCSS for
ELA/Literacy and the CA ELD Standards during ELA instruction where close reading is
the focus of instruction. Vignette 6.2 provides an example of how designated ELD can
build from and into the types of lessons outlined in the ELA vignette.
Vignette 6.1 ELA Instruction in a Grade Six Interdisciplinary Unit
Close Reading of a Memoir (Literary Nonfiction)
Ms. Valenti’s sixth grade English language arts (ELA) class is learning how to read texts more
analytically. Currently, the class is reading memoirs to determine how people depict their formative years,
including seminal events that shaped their profession or outlook on the world. Ms. Valenti’s class of 35
students includes two students with mild learning disabilities and five English learners at the Expanding
level of English language proficiency, four who have been in U.S. schools for at least four years and one
who arrived to the U.S. a little over a year ago. Ms. Valenti collaborates with the other sixth grade teachers
at her school. Two teachers teach the students mathematics and science, and Ms. Valenti and another
sixth grade teacher teach ELA and History/Social Studies. There are a small number (three to five) of EL
students in each sixth grade class, and each of the sixth grade teachers teach their own students
designated ELD in small groups. Specialists teach the visual and performing arts, as well as physical
The interdisciplinary team works together to determine the cross-curricular themes they will teach.
Some of the reading of informational and literary texts is done in ELA, but much of it is done in the other
content areas. For example, during science and history/social studies time, the class reads informational
texts related to the topics they are learning about. During ELA time, the class reads literature or literary
non-fiction related to the science or history topics—or both.
Lesson Context
The current interdisciplinary theme is Careers in Action, and Ms. Valenti has selected a text that
she thinks will appeal to students at this age as it focuses on parents’ expectations for their children and
how they teach them important life lessons that shape their outlook on the world. The text, “The Making of
a Scientist,” is a memoir by Richard Feynman, a famous American scientist who won the Nobel Prize in
Physics and who is often noted as the best mind since Einstein. In science that day, Ms. Valenti’s
colleague will engage the students in a science demonstration that illustrates the law of inertia similar to
the wagon and ball demonstration, which Feynman includes in his memoir. (*This demonstration is in
support of what is happening in the ELA classroom. The law of inertia is not a sixth grade science
standard. However, it is in the grades six through eight band of science standards.)
Lesson Excerpts
In today’s lesson, Ms. Valenti is going to engage her students in the first of a series of close
reading lessons on Feynman’s memoir and discuss with them how his early experiences sparked a career
in science. During this lesson—the first of three on the same text—students analyze the ideas in one
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Framework has not been edited for publication. © 2014 by the California Department of Education. 3 California’s ELA/ELD Framework
portion of the text, while focusing on how the author uses language resources (vocabulary, syntax, and
rhetorical devices) to construct the narrative and convey his meaning. In addition, students gain practice in
note-taking and summarizing text. The learning target and focus standards for the lesson are provided
Learning Target: The students will analyze a short memoir, discuss their interpretations, and
identify the central idea and how it is conveyed through details in the text.
CA CCSS for ELA/Literacy: RI.6.2 – Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed
through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or
judgments; W.6.9 – Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis,
reflection, and research; SL.6.1 – Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions
(one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts, and
issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
CA ELD Standards Addressed (Expanding): ELD.PI.6.1 – Contribute to class, group, and
partner discussions by following turn-taking rules, asking relevant questions, affirming others,
adding relevant information, and paraphrasing key ideas; ELD.PI.6.6b – Express inferences and
conclusions drawn based on close reading of grade-level texts and viewing of multimedia using
a variety of verbs (e.g., suggests that, leads to).
Ms. Valenti starts by connecting the new learning to what students already know and by giving a
brief background of the text and author.
Ms. Valenti: Today we’re going to read a memoir by a famous scientist named Richard Feynman.
In the memoir, which is a story of your life that you write yourself, Feynman explains
how his father taught him some important life lessons that ultimately shaped his
career. This is something that your parents or grandparents or whoever it is who is
responsible for raising you does all the time. For example, they may try to teach you
to responsibility by having you do chores around the house, like washing the dishes.
Does anyone do that? Or, they may try to teach you compassion by having you take
care of your little brother or sister or your grandparents when they’re sick. Sometimes
you’re not aware that they’re trying to teach you these life lessons until much later.
Very briefly, turn and talk about some of the life lessons you think your parents or
grandparents or whoever takes care of you are trying to teach you.
The students briefly share with one another. Before they read the text about the principles his
father taught him, Ms. Valenti shows them a short video so they can get a sense of who Feynman was
during his career as a scientist. The animated video “Ode to a Flower” was created by Fraser Davidson to
accompany Feynman talking about the nature of beauty (
Ms. Valenti asks the students to briefly discuss at their table groups (they are seated four to a
table) how the video depicts the kind of person Feynman was, and after a couple of minutes, and asks two
students to share their ideas. She briefly explains some terms in the reading that students would not be
likely to determine from the context (such as Encyclopedia Britannica, magnitude, translate) but that are
critical for understanding the text. She also briefly reviews what the literary term theme means by drawing
students’ attention to the chart in the room that defines literary terms and then gives a few examples from
previously read texts as an additional reminder. She tells them that they’re going to be looking for themes
in the text.
Next, she reads the first part of the text aloud as students read along silently with her in their own
copies. Ms. Valenti has found that reading aloud complex texts gives her students a feeling for the
various voices in the narrative and models for them the intonation she uses as a proficient reader. This
also provides an oral introduction to the language in the text and gives her an opportunity to stop at
strategic points to explain particular vocabulary and untangle syntactic structures (i.e., paraphrase
particularly complex sentences) that may be unfamiliar to students.
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After, she asks the students to share with a partner, in their own words, what they think the main
theme or lesson of the section is as she listens in while circulating around the room. Her on-going intent is
to support students to interpret texts deliberately, and she needs to know how they are currently
interpreting texts so that she can stretch them to develop increasingly sophisticated levels of proficiency
and develop greater autonomy as readers. She notes that there are multiple interpretations of what the
main theme or lesson is, and she uses this observational information to shape how she’ll support
students to read the text analytically so that they can refine or revise their initial ideas about what the
author is expressing both explicitly and implicitly.
Ms. Valenti then asks the students to read the same text silently while they use a reading guide
that contains focus questions. She explains that they will read the text multiple times and that for this first
reading, they will just read for general understanding and do not need to worry about knowing the
meaning of every word. (The students will have opportunities to analyze the vocabulary, grammatical
structures, and nuanced meanings in the text as the lesson progresses.) The focus questions are
displayed on the board, and she reviews each question to ensure her students understand them. She
also provides them with a half-page handout with the focus questions on them:
Focus Questions for Today’s Reading
Write notes under each question as you read.
What is happening in the text?
Who is in the text and how are they interacting?
What was Feynman’s father trying to teach his son with the tiles?
What was Feynman’s father trying to teach his son with the dinosaurs?
Which sentence best captures the central idea in this part of the text?
Excerpt from the text:
“The Making of a Scientist” by Richard Feynman
Before I was born, my father told my mother, “If it’s a boy, he’s going to be a
scientist.” When I was just a little kid, very small in a highchair, my father brought home a
lot of little bathroom tiles—seconds—of different colors. We played with them, my father
setting them up vertically on my highchair like dominoes, and I would push one end so
they would all go down.
Then after a while, I’d help set them up. Pretty soon, we’re setting them up in a
more complicated way: two white tiles and a blue tile, two white tiles and a blue tile, and
so on. When my mother saw that she said, “Leave the poor child alone. If he wants to put
a blue tile, let him put a blue tile.”
But my father said, “No, I want to show him what patterns are like and how
interesting they are. It’s a kind of elementary mathematics.” So he started very early to
tell me about the world and how interesting it is.
We had the Encyclopaedia Britannica at home. When I was a small boy he
used to sit me on his lap and read to me from the Britannica. We would be reading, say,
about dinosaurs. It would be talking about the Tyrannosaurus rex, and it would say
something like, “This dinosaur is twenty-five feet high and its head is six feet across.”
My father would stop reading and say, “Now, let’s see what that means. That
would mean that if he stood in our front yard, he would be tall enough to put his head
through our window up here.” (We were on the second floor.) “But his head would be too
wide to fit in the window.” Everything he read to me he would translate as best he could
into some reality.
It was very exciting and very, very interesting to think there were animals of such
magnitude—and that they all died out, and that nobody knew why. I wasn’t frightened
that there would be one coming in my window as a consequence of this. But I learned
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Framework has not been edited for publication. © 2014 by the California Department of Education. 5 California’s ELA/ELD Framework
from my father to translate: everything I read I try to figure out what it really means, what
it’s really saying.
Ms. Valenti also encourages students to underline words or phrases they don’t understand and to
write any questions or comments they have about the text in the margin. After they read independently,
the students work in pairs to discuss their notes and questions while Ms. Valenti circulates around the
classroom to listen in, clarify, and assist students with any unsolved questions, providing explanations
and probing their thinking as relevant. For example, some students do not understand what the word
seconds means in reference to bathroom tiles. Other students focus on particular phrases and sentences
and work together to disentangle the meanings. Ms. Valenti stops at a table where Jamal and Tatiana, an
EL student at the late Expanding level of English language proficiency, are discussing their notes. The pair
has already determined that the text mostly involves Feynman, as a child, and his father, and that
Feynman’s father is showing his son patterns using the tiles and reading to him about dinosaurs from the
Okay, so what do we think that his dad, Feynman’s dad, was trying to teach him with
the tiles?
(Referring to her notes.) I think he was trying to teach him about math, about math
patterns, and he was showing him how you can make patterns with tiles.
But he was just a baby, so he couldn’t teach him with numbers, right? So he used
the tiles.
What about the dinosaurs? What do you have?
(Referring to his notes.) I think it’s the same thing. His dad was trying to show him
how big a dinosaur would be if it was standing outside the house, but he was also
trying to get him excited about dinosaurs.
Ms. Valenti: Is there something in the text that gave you that idea?
(Looking at the text for a moment.) Here it says “Everything he read to me he would
translate as best he could into some reality.” I think he means that his father was
trying to teach him some things, some real things about math patterns and
dinosaurs, but he had to make it real for a kid, even for a baby.
And he was also trying to teach him something about the world.
Ms. Valenti: Can you say more about that, and can you find some examples in the text?
Tatiana: Here, it says that his father said, “No, I want to show him what patterns are like and how
interesting they are.”
Ms. Valenti: So, what does that mean to you? How can you interpret that, using the focus
I think his dad was really trying to show him how the world has all this … stuff …
how it’s interesting. His father was trying to teach him some real things, like math
patterns and dinosaurs, and he had to make that real for him as a kid. But I think he
was also trying to teach him about how to see the world. That he should see it as
interesting and that it has a lot of things to observe.
Yeah, like he was trying to help him think differently about the toys he has or things
he’s doing. Like he was trying to help him think like a scientist.
After the students have had a chance to delve deeply in to the text, Ms. Valenti pulls the whole
class together to discuss their notes. Picking up on the themes and questions the students have raised,
she leads a loosely structured discussion to support them to articulate and elaborate on their ideas, all the
while prompting them to go back into the text to support their claims. Lately, Ms. Valenti has noticed that
some of the girls in the class have seemed reluctant to share their ideas, so she makes a conscious effort
to let them know she wants to hear from them and cares about what they have to say, using the following
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Framework has not been edited for publication. © 2014 by the California Department of Education. 6 California’s ELA/ELD Framework
Meeting with individuals before the conversation to make sure they know she knows they care
about their participation in class discussions and to inquire as to why they are not comfortable
Pausing before asking a probing question to allow everyone to gather their thoughts and prepare
their responses.
Deliberately calling on individuals during the conversation, those who she heard sharing
enthusiastically in their pair conversations, and then validating their ideas.
Encouraging the whole class to listen respectfully.
Next, she structures the conversation a bit more by helping them to funnel their ideas into a
concise statement that captures the theme of the section in students’ own words. She facilitates a joint
construction of the statement by first writing “His father wanted to teach his son” in a chart she’s
prepared, which is displayed on the document reader. She then asks the students to help her expand and
enrich the sentence to add precision and nuances. She then guides the students to identify details from
the text that support the statement. The jointly constructed central idea and details are shown in the chart
Central Idea
(in our words)
Details from the Text
(paraphrasing and quotes)
Feynman’s father wanted to
teach his son about the
interesting things in the world
and how to think like a
scientist, so he would
translate things in ways that
his son would understand.
The father …
• made playing with tiles into a way to learn
about patterns and mathematics.
• said, “No, I want to show him what
patterns are like and how interesting they
are. It’s a kind of elementary
• read to him from the encyclopedia
• helped him visualize the dinosaur outside
his house
Ms. Valenti repeats the process the students just engaged in with the next section of the text, in
which Feynman tells about how his father taught him about the difference between knowing the name of
something and knowing something through observing birds. After the collaborative conversations in pairs
and whole class discussion, Ms. Valenti invites the students to revise their central idea statement and add
other thoughts to the chart. The students decide to add a section to the chart that highlights the life
lessons, or principles, that Feynman’s father taught him. Two of the principles the students jointly construct
with Ms. Valenti are the following:
When you read, try to figure out what it really means, what it’s really saying. You have to read
between the lines.
There’s a difference between knowing the name of something and really knowing something. You
have to look at how something behaves or works, and not just know what it’s called.
The class finishes the final section of the excerpt, in which Feynman’s father teaches him to
notice some important principles in physics, using every day experiences and understandings as a
springboard to understanding science concepts. Again, the class revises and adds to the chart.
Ms. Valenti concludes the lesson by showing the students the short video “Ode to a Flower” once
more. This time, she asks the students to think about how what Feynman’s father taught him may have
influenced the way he sees the flower. After watching the video, the students share their thoughts in their
table groups, and Ms. Valenti then wraps up the lesson by calling on several students to share with the
whole class an idea or two from their table conversations.
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Framework has not been edited for publication. © 2014 by the California Department of Education. 7 California’s ELA/ELD Framework
Next Steps
The next day, Ms. Valenti guides students to read the same text again, but she changes the focus
questions so that students can analyze the craft and structure of the passage and become aware of the
author’s deliberate language choices in writing the passage the way he did. She designs her questions so
the students can focus on literary devices, word choices, structural elements, and author’s purpose. For
example, she asks the students to consider how the author lets us know what his father was trying to
accomplish (e.g., which words or literary devices were used). On the third day (the third read, which
focuses on integrating knowledge and ideas), Ms. Valenti guides students to think about what the text
means to them and how it connects to other texts or experiences. For example, one of her focus
questions for students to consider as they read the text analytically is “How does the way Feynman’s
father teaches him principles compare to ways that other real or fictional individuals we’ve read about
have learned them?”
At the end of the week, Ms. Valenti has the students work together in their table groups to
collaboratively complete and edit the following in-class writing assignment:
Pick one of the examples that Feynman uses (the dinosaur, the birds, or the wagon). In
one concise paragraph, explain the lesson Feynman’s father was trying to teach him with
the real example and then explain why that example was useful. Be sure to include
evidence from the text in your explanation.
Ms. Valenti provides the groups with a handout focusing on a select set of elements they need to
include in their explanations (e.g., the lesson or principle, evidence from the text, vivid vocabulary, wellconstructed sentences). She reminds them about prior lessons and suggests that they first write all of
their ideas down and then work together to combine the ideas, select the words and phrases that are the
most precise, condense them into sentences, and link the sentences together to make a cohesive
paragraph. Each student in the group must have the same paragraph in their notebook, which she will
check at the end of the day.
Later in the unit, Ms. Valenti and the students will read another memoir of an important and
interesting individual using the same sequence (focusing on key ideas and details on day one, craft and
structure on day two, and integration of knowledge and ideas on day three).
This lesson was adapted from one found on the Achieve the Core Web site (Student Achievement
Partners 2013).
*”The Making of a Scientist,” by Richard Feynman was originally published in Cricket Magazine, October
1995, Vol. 23 (2).
To learn more about Richard Feynman, see the BBC (Horizon) documentary, “Richard
Feynman—No Ordinary Genius” ( at
• For more ideas on supporting girls to be classroom leaders, see the Ban Bossy Web site
• To see a video demonstrating the law of inertia, visit the WonderHowTo Web site
To see more ideas for using this text and for many other resources, visit
For an example of how to guide students to annotate and question the texts they read, see:
Schoenbach, Ruth, Cynthia Greenleaf, and Lynn Murphy. 2012. Reading for Understanding: How
Reading Apprenticeship Improves Disciplinary Learning in Secondary and College
Classrooms (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
The ELA/ELD Framework was adopted by the California State Board of Education on July 9, 2014. The ELA/ELD
Framework has not been edited for publication. © 2014 by the California Department of Education. 8