Reviewed OER Library

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Unit 1: Under the Sea Academy

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This resource was reviewed by OSPI in Spring 2015. Learn more about the review process and the data analysis approach.

Background from OER Project Review Team
Saylor is a non-profit foundation that hires teachers and professors to create course blueprints, locate, vet, and organize OER into a structured course format. This resource is one unit from a 5-unit course of study for Grade 6 English Language Arts and is reflective of the design of the entire online course. This resource is intended as a self-directed online course or to be used by teachers as a supplement. It is also useful for the homeschool community and alternative classroom programs. This should factor into the viewer

EQuIP (Learn more)

Revision needed (4.5)
Chart with scale of 'meets criteria' from 0 (None) to 3 (All). Alignment: 1.75, Key Shifts in the CCSS: 1.0, Instructional Supports: 0.75, Assessment: 1.0.

Achieve OER (Learn more)

Chart with scale from 0 (Weak) to 3 (Superior). Explanation: 1.5, Interactivity: , Exercises: 1.25, Deeper Learning: 0.5.

See standard error chart for the review scoring

Reviewer Comments (Learn more)

Minor (2.0)

Strengths/Ideal Use:

This resource could be utilized for students when they are absent or when they need a review. Most concepts have a video for students to watch which provide opportunities for students to review material covered in class. Activities like the prefix rap teaches prefixes in a way that students would enjoy.


  • CCSS listed, but not addressed throughout the unit - W.6, R.L. 5, & R.L.10 are included in the list of standards covered. However, students will not have an opportunity to develop or master this skill based on the lessons provided.
  • Students are given non-fiction articles and a novel to read, but they are not asked to connect the two throughout the unit.
  • Students are instructed to annotate. However, they are not even an example on how to do this.


  • Remove standards not covered from the objective section or create opportunities for students to master these skills.
  • Connect the reading materials to the novel.
  • Provide annotation examples.

Strengths/Ideal Use:

This resource could be used in a classroom with modifications and adding materials to target close reading strategies and writing argumentative essays.

The unit used a variety of videos and instructional materials that discuss the need to annotate text, analyze text through character development, plot structure, point of view and theme, and read a balance of informational as well as literary texts with the sea as the overarching subject. Texts selected for this unit were appropriate to the grade band and of sufficient quality - literary text was Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, the original, with a lexile of 1030L. Informational texts included textbooks, articles and videos centered on the topic of water pollution.


  • Lack of explict instruction related to the Key Shifts in the CCSS. Students are asked to take notes while reading the text, but only given one video lesson on annotating and then left to do much of it on their own. No guided learning with the text, analyzing difficult aspects of the text with peers or assistance of the teacher.
  • Vocabulary is taught as a separate sub-unit of the whole unit and then not referenced throughout the text studies at all.
  • Limited opportunities for writing full length argumentative essay.


  • Create opportunities for students to practice annotation and then allow for guided discussion in partners or small groups. Teachers would need to develop note- taking structures to assist students with understanding the text.
  • Provide opportunities to use the skills learned in understanding words through the use of context clues and affixes throughout the multiple text studies instead of in isolation.
  • Have them take what they learned about argumentative essays and analyzed in the texts they read and develop their own argumentative essay related to the topic of water pollution.

Strengths/Ideal Use:

This resource is best used as a supplemental unit and possible tool for reinforcing an existing science unit.


  • Lack of differentiation / scaffolding for struggling learners and ELL students, as well as a lack of enrichment.
  • Writing instruction is limited to a four minute video that tells students what needs to be included in an argumentative essay, but does not provide graphic organizers, exemplars, or any other specific instruction that a sixth grade writer would need.
  • The reading literature assessment focuses only on characterization information and neglects the other reading literature standards and skills addressed. In addition, the ability to assess comprehension in the provided assessment is minimal.


  • Provide graphic organizers and exemplars for students.
  • Revise assessment for greater breadth and depth.

Strengths/Ideal Use:

My scores reflect that this is an on-line unit that would not adapt easily to a classroom setting.

Strengths include:

  • The mini-lessons for teaching reading and writing skills were really helpful and would work as a supplement for additional teaching/practice for individual students.
  • CCSS are clearly addressed, students are able to state clearly that if they do this lesson activity, they are practicing this skill.
  • Great student friendly instructions, with specifically stated lesson goals.
  • Good balance between language acquisition, reading and writing about literature, and reading and writing about informational texts. Three sub-unit parts build upon each on other: first language, then practice skills in a literature piece, then practice skills in information pieces.


  • This unit would be a lot stronger if there were more instructional supports for students to practice the specific mini-lesson skill with the mentor texts. In the classroom setting this would be an opportunity for a teacher to model how to take the skill to the text, on-line this is a little harder. Perhaps graphic organizers with examples or sentence starters would help bridge the gap.
  • The mini-lessons teach about abstract ideas that are meant to align to the mentor texts, but are not always obvious for students.
  • There are no instructional supports included for struggling students.


  • Perhaps chunk up the text to be more manageable to a student. Also, add in the mini-lessons earlier in the story to support comprehension.
  • Provide examples or sentence starters for students to practice new skills with the mentor texts. Perhaps graphic organizers would help, too.
  • Provide alternate web-lessons for additional support. Provide additional practice of the new skills. Graphic organizers could help here, too.

Creative Commons License
This work by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.