Grade 7: Tom Sawyer – with support for ELLs


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Reading Literature

RL.7.1 Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

RL.7.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.

RL.7.3 Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot).

RL.7.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama.

RL.7.5 Analyze how a drama’s or poem’s form or structure (e.g., soliloquy, sonnet) contributes to its meaning

RL.7.6 Analyze how an author develops and contrasts the points of view of different characters or narrators in a text.


L.7.4 (a) Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word’s position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.

L.7.4 (c) Consult general and specialized reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation of a word or determine or clarify its precise meaning or its part of speech.


W.7.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.


This Grade 7 unit titled “Tom Sawyer” created by American Institutes for Research for the NYC Department of Education Office of English Language Learners has an estimated ELA/Literacy instructional time of three to five 60–75 minute long sessions. The unit plan contains five lessons scripted for ELLs at the intermediate and advanced levels of English language proficiency. The reading component of the instructional plan includes short writing exercises where students answer supplementary and guiding questions, annotate the text, develop language skills, and explore craft and structure and integration of knowledge and ideas. The first three lessons guide students through close reading of excerpts from a literary text, the fourth lesson provides opportunities for students to develop language using the text, and the fifth lesson guides students through a summative writing activity requiring students to write an explanatory essay independently which uses examples from the text.


Connecticut teachers should be cautioned that teacher notes and preparation materials are extensive and will require familiarity to be used effectively. Lessons provide the scaffolding required for skill acquisition and student growth. The use of CCSS-aligned rubrics that elicit direct, observable evidence of the degree to which a student can independently demonstrate the major targeted grade-level standards is suggested. The unit plan does not list any speaking and listening standards, although the standards are addressed and could be added. On pages 38 and 52 of the unit plan, teachers are asked is to develop question(s) that address the integration of knowledge and ideas; these standards are not included and should be added (RI.7.7 and RI.7.9)


This unit is an exemplary example of how to integrate appropriate supports in reading and writing for students who are ELL, have disabilities, or read well below the grade level text band. The unit includes a clear and explicit purpose for daily, rigorous instruction. It focuses on complex text that engages students in a productive struggle through discussion questions and other supports that build toward independence. Lessons focus on building students’ academic vocabulary in context. Unit materials include several resources to help scaffold instruction to support struggling students. The Appendix includes a supplementary lesson, the full excerpt of the text, and the excerpt with line numbers labeled. A Student Glossary and a Student Version of Lessons is also included in unit materials.