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Culminating Project: Expert Groups Research and Writing an Opinion Letter

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The Foundational Reading and Language Standards Resources Package for Grades 3–5

Use this guide to build additional literacy blocks alongside the module lessons.


In this unit, students choose to research about either Roberto Clemente or Althea Gibson: two respected American sports figures. Students will develop their understanding of the cultural context in which these athletes competed and the barriers these athletes broke during the times in which they lived. Students will build their research skills by reading biographical articles and other informational texts. They will read, reread, and synthesize, taking notes and choosing one of two different organizational structures (chronological or order of importance) with which to organize their ideas. For their mid-unit assessment, they will synthesize their notes in a graphic organizer, which they will return to later in the unit when writing their letter to a publisher (the Performance Task).

During the second half of the unit, students will step back from their own research to participate in some “shared writing.” With teacher support, the class will write and revise a model letter to a publishing company as if they were Sharon Robinson, explaining the need for a biography to be written for elementary students about her father, Jackie Robinson, and his legacy. (They will draw from their opinion essays from their End of Unit 2 Assessment.)  This shared writing experience will help students continue to build their skills to write arguments based on multiple sources, focusing on crafting clear opinions and providing sufficient reasons and evidence. After this guided practice experience, students will return to writing about the athlete they researched. For their end of unit assessment, students will write their best independent draft of their letter to a publishing company, explaining the need for a biography about their chosen athlete, in which they discuss the athlete, evaluate the barriers that he/she broke during the era in which he/she lived, and his or her impact on American society through her or his legacy. They must support their opinion with evidence from their research. They then participate in critique and feedback from peers and the teacher in order to improve on their draft. Students then read their letters out loud to the class. This written performance task centers on NYSP12 ELA Standards RI.5.9, W.5.1, W.5.4, W.5.5, W.5.7, W.5.8, L.5.1, L.5.2, and L.5.6.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How have athletes broken barriers during the historical era in which they lived?
  • What do biographical texts teach us?
  • Athletes are leaders: strong physically and mentally, with unique opportunities to lead.
  • Individuals are shaped by and can shape society.
  • Biographical texts about individuals also tell a bigger story from which we can learn.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies and Science content that many teachers may be teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.

NYS Social Studies Core Curriculum

Theme 1
Individual development and cultural identity: “Personal identity is a function of an individual’s culture, time, place, geography, interaction with groups, influences from institutions, and lived experiences.”


Texts to buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please refer to Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Cover Text Quantity ISBNs
Promises To Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America
by Sharon Robinson
One Per Student
ISBN: 978- 0439678759, 0439678757

Texts included in the unit

Texts that are included in the lesson materials.

Cover Text Quantity Publisher
H.R. 4130: The Althea Gibson Excellence Act
by 112th Congress
Notable Southerners: Althea Gibson
by Website
The Great Roberto Clemente—Latino Legends in Sports
by Website
Roberto Clemente
by Lynn C. Kronzek
Salem Press, 2001
Roberto Clemente’s Gifts From the Heart
by Scholastic News



ELA G5:M3A:U3:L8

ELA G5:M3A:U3:L12

End-of-Unit Assessment

Optional Activities

Arrange for an athletic director, coach, sportscaster, or local well-known athlete to speak with students about the history or cultural significance of sports in America.

Take the class to a local Sports Hall of Fame, sporting venue, exhibits related to the history of sports or athletes that broke barriers, or a professional sporting event.

Invite students to actually submit their letters to publishers to convince them that a new biography for fifth-grade students should be written about either Roberto Clemente or Althea Gibson.

 Optional: Extensions

  • With an art instructor, examine the work of Jacob Lawrence in the “Great Migration” panel series. Invite students to create a panel series, in the style of Jacob Lawrence, about the athlete they research in this unit, Roberto Clemente or Althea Gibson.
  • Invite students to view the documentary The Clemente Effect (ESPN Films official trailer):

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