8th Grade ELA Curriculum from EL Education

At the heart of the EL Education Language Arts Curriculum is a commitment to literacy instruction through engaging, authentic books. Each of the four modules in the Grade 8 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 8 lead students through an exploration of Latin American folklore, food choices, the Holocaust, and Japanese American internment. 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


Folklore of Latin America

Food Choices

Voices of the Holocaust

Lessons from Japanese American Internment


Reading, Writing, and Speaking Grounded in Evidence

Researching to Build and Present Knowledge (Science)

Analyzing, Interpreting, and Evaluating Text

Researching to Write and Present Arguments


Students read Summer of the Mariposas and analyze theme, point of view, and characterization. Students write their own narrative scene in which they modernize a character from Latin American folklore. Finally, students write expository essays about the modernization of Latin American folklore and create a website to house their narratives and essays.

Students read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and watch related video clips from NourishLife. Students then evaluate the authors’ motives, purposes, and points of view, including whether and how conflicting viewpoints are addressed. Additionally, students evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums to convey information.

Students research different topics that impact access to healthy food and write an expository essay. Students then write an argumentative essay about the food choices they think would most benefit their community and present their claim to an audience.

Students read Maus I and analyze dialogue, tone, characterization, and theme. They write literary analysis essays to compare the structure and meaning of two texts. Students read accounts of victims and survivors of the Holocaust, analyze language, and write summaries. Students read accounts of upstanders during the Holocaust and write reflections on what qualities and actions made them upstanders. Students write a narrative interview about a fictional upstander, create a graphic panel based on this narrative, and present it to an audience.

Students read Farewell to Manzanar and analyze connections and distinctions among individuals, ideas, and events in the text. Students watch the film adaptation of Farewell to Manzanar and analyze how the film stays faithful to or departs from the text. Students write a literary argument essay to evaluate the filmmakers’ choices and analyze how faithful the film is in developing a significant idea in the text. Additionally, students generate lessons from Japanese American internment from their reading of Farewell to Manzanar and other informational texts. Finally, they research how community organizations are applying these lessons from Japanese American internment today and present their findings to an audience.

Anchor Texts

Summer of the Mariposas

Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Literature 840L; one per student


The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Young Readers Edition)

Michael Pollan

Informational 930L; one per student

Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History

Art Spiegelman

Literature NP; one per student

Farewell to Manzanar

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston

Informational 1040L; one per student

Supporting Texts

“The Peuchen,” EL Education (Literature 840L)

“La Llorona—A Hispanic Legend” from La Llorona, Joe Hayes (Literature)

Excerpt from The Latin American Story Finder, S. B. Elswit (Informational)

Model Essay: “The Peuchen,” EL Education (Informational)

Nourish: Short Films: 54 Bite-Sized Videos about the Story of Your Food, NourishLife (Informational film)

Excerpts from Chew on This: What You Don’t Want to Know about Fast Food, Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson (Informational)

“Is Eating Healthy Really More Expensive?” Margaret Marshall. Huffington Post. (Informational 1050L)

“To GMO or NOT to GMO?,” George Erdosh and Marcia Amidon Lusted. Odyssey Magazine. (Informational)

“Sticking Up for Coke, Sort Of,” Froma Harrop. The Seattle Times. (Informational)

“The Advantages and Disadvantages of Pesticides,” ChefsBest, (Informational 1190L)

“Food Desert,” Kara Rogers. Encyclopædia Britannica. (Informational)

“Organic Food,” Leslie A. Duram. Encyclopædia Britannica. (Informational)

"The Holocaust: An Introductory History,” Jewish Virtual Library (Informational)

“The Blind Men and the Elephant,” John Godfrey Saxe (Literature)

“Often a Minute,” Magdalena Klein, translated by Susan Geroe (Literature)

“In Flanders Fields,” John McCrae (Literature)

“The Owl,” Edward Thomas (Literature)

“We Wear the Mask,” Paul Laurence Dunbar (Literature)

“The Creed of a Holocaust Survivor,” Alexander Kimel (Literature)

“The Action in the Ghetto of Rohatyn, March 1942” Alexander Kimel (Literature)

Excerpts from Abe’s Story: A Holocaust Memoir, Abram Korn and Joseph Korn (Literature)

Excerpts from Night, Elie Wiesel, translated by Marion Wiesel (Literature 570L)

Excerpts from The Other Victims: First-Person Stories of Non-Jews Persecuted by the Nazis, Ina R. Friedman (Informational)

“Johtje Vos, 97; Sheltered Jews in Her Home in WWII Holland, Saving 36,” Jocelyn Y. Stewart. The Los Angeles Times. (Informational)

“The Forgotten Swiss Diplomat Who Rescued Thousands from Holocaust,” BBC News (Informational)

“Marek Edelman Obituary,” Lawrence Joffe. The Guardian. (Informational)

“1994, Miep Gies,” Wallenberg Committee (Informational)

Farewell to Manzanar, Japanese American National Museum (Informational film)

“Japanese Relocation during World War II,” National Archives (Informational 1220L)

“Life in the Camp,” Norman Mineta. Scholastic.com (Informational)

“Clara Breed,” Japanese American National Museum (Informational)

“Letter from Louise Ogawa, January 6, 1942,” Japanese American National Museum (Informational)

“Letter from Louise Ogawa, November 30, 1942,” Japanese American National Museum (Informational)

“In Response to Executive Order 9066,” Dwight Okita (Informational 570L)

“Seeking Redress,” APM Reports (Informational)

“The Simplest Lesson of Internment,” Los Angeles Times (Informational)

“Psychological Effects of Camp,” Donna K. Nagata. Densho Encyclopedia. (Informational 1390L)

“Japanese Internment Camp Survivors Protest Ft. Sill Migrant Detention Center,” Molly Hennessy- Fiske. The Los Angeles Times. (Informational)

Module Guiding Questions

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas for Module 1: Folklore of Latin America

Why do we see evidence of myths and traditional stories in modern narratives?

  • Elements of myths and traditional stories often form the basis of modern narratives.

  • We can learn about other cultures through engaging modern renderings of myths and traditional stories from other places.

  • Myths and traditional stories have stood the test of time because they contain important cultural and moral messages that are still relevant today.

  • Modern authors use myths and traditional stories as a basis for stories because the cultural and moral messages have stood the test of time. 

How and why can we modernize myths and traditional stories to be meaningful to today's audiences?

  • We can use the themes, patterns of events, and character types from myths and traditional stories as a basis for modern narratives set in the present day.

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas for Module 2: Food Choices

Where does our food come from?

  • Consumers have many choices when it comes to eating healthy food. These choices relate to how the food is grown and raised, processed, or transported. The choices are complicated and varied—from processed or industrially produced food; to industrial organic food; to local, sustainable food.

  • Deepening understanding about the variety of processes and practices can help consumers understand more about where their food comes from and make more informed choices about the food they eat.

  • The choices consumers make around food impact their own health and the sustainability of the environment.

  • Choices about eating healthy food, and conflicting information about the impact of processes and practices, can present a dilemma to consumers. 

  • It’s important to consider diverse perspectives and points of view to fully understand the factors that influence access to healthy food.

How do we analyze arguments about how food should be grown and processed?

  • Delineating an author’s arguments helps readers more deeply understand the purpose, point of view, evidence, and        reasoning presented on a topic.

  • When evaluating arguments, considering an author’s point of view and purpose help readers understand the motive behind the information presented.

  • Understanding motive can help consumers interpret information to make informed decisions about healthy food.

  • Analyzing sufficiency and relevancy of evidence helps readers determine if the reasoning presented on an argument is sound.

  • Authors may acknowledge and respond to conflicting viewpoints. They may include conflicting viewpoints in order to show readers that there are different views or understandings of a topic, or in order to argue against them.

What factors influence our access to healthy food? How do we research this?

  • It’s important to build more awareness about the variety of food choices consumers need to make and the impact each has on health and sustainability.

  • When researching access to healthy food, the credibility of a source is important.

  • Some of the evidence provided to support arguments about access to healthy food may be irrelevant or insufficient.

  • Information is available through different mediums, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each one. How we access information influences how we interpret it.

What factors should we prioritize when making choices about our food? How do we share these recommendations with others?

  • Consumers weigh many factors when prioritizing food choices. These include but are not limited to: whether or not to consume GMO foods, how processed the food is, whether or not it is organic, if pesticides were used in its production, if food deserts played a role in access, and whether or not high-fructose corn syrup is an ingredient.

  • When making an argument, it’s critical to provide relevant evidence and reasoning that support the claim made.

  • When making an argument, it’s necessary to acknowledge alternate, related arguments in order to show that we have considered all perspectives.

  • In sharing recommendations with others about food choices, we can contribute to building a better world. The choices individual consumers make about food has an effect on society as a whole.

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas for Module 3: Voices of the Holocaust

What was the Holocaust, and how did it occur? Why do we remember it?

  • The Holocaust was the systematic persecution of 6 million Jewish people by the Nazi regime during World War II.

  • We remember the Holocaust because painful experiences shape us and teach us so that history does not repeat itself.

How did victims and survivors respond, and how can we honor their voices?

  • Victims and survivors maintained hope and a will to live and faced unspeakable challenges in order to try to survive and to protect those they loved.

  • Victims and survivors maintained their dignity, respect, and humanity throughout unimaginable pain and hardship.

  • Victims and survivors shared their voices through poetry, memoirs, and other tellings of their stories that help us remember and learn from this terrible chapter of history.

How did upstanders respond, and what can we learn from their voices?

  • Even in the midst of unimaginable pain and hardship, people during the Holocaust made choices to stand up for others and themselves.

  • There were risks involved in resisting the Nazis, hiding Jewish people and other victims, or supporting the transit of victims, but many were willing to risk the severe consequences in order to stand up for others.

  • Through the choices they made in the Holocaust, upstanders continue to inspire people to make the world a better place.

  • There are big and small ways to stand up for your beliefs.

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas for Module 4: Lessons from Japanese American Internment

What were the causes and impacts of Japanese American internment camps?

  • Japanese American internment camps were ordered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II to incarcerate hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans in the western United States. These camps were established out of fear and prejudice toward Japanese American people after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

  • Internment camps uprooted people from their homes and communities, stripped them of their rights, confiscated their personal property, and forced them to live and work as prisoners.

What are the main lessons that can be learned from Japanese American internment?

  • It is wrong to view entire populations as homogeneous.

  • Upholding the rights of other human beings is critical work.

  • In times of terrible struggle, people can draw strength from their identities and communities.

How can people effectively apply the lessons of internment to their own communities?

  • The Redress Movement, which began in the 1970s, has aimed to restore the rights of, issue an apology to, and/or monetarily compensate the survivors of internment.

  • Local organizations can uphold human rights, celebrate diversity, and support community.