How Is Alexandria Plan Structured?

Alexandria Plan organizes United States and world history into 36 eras (18 each for US and world), providing historical summaries, grade-span-based learning expectations, suggested anchor texts, text studies (comprised of TDQs, student responses, and assessments based on a featured anchor text), and more select resources for each era.  The Plan currently provides instructional materials customized for the “lower elementary” (Kindergarten – 2nd grade) and “upper elementary” (3rd-5th grades) grade spans.  In the future, we expect to add materials for middle and high school. 

ERA SUMMARIES: Each of the 36 eras contains a concise and compelling summary of the history of that time period—highlighting the people, events, places, and ideas that are essential knowledge for students. Drawn from exemplary state social studies standards, the summaries were written by a historian with expert knowledge of those standards.  They were also vetted by other historians who checked and rechecked this work for accuracy. These concise, easy-to-read narratives contain what college and career-ready high school graduates should know about each era.  The summaries also make it convenient for teachers to review the history of the era in preparation for lesson-planning and deeper research. 

LEARNING EXPECTATIONS: This is the portion of the era summary that our teachers have identified as being appropriate and necessary for students in each grade band.  So, for each era, we have indicated what knowledge is essential for students in “lower elementary” (most likely Kindergarten through 2nd grade) and “upper elementary” (3rd grade through 5th grade).  It is this knowledge that students would need to master in order to be prepared for later learning expectations. 

SUGGESTED ANCHOR TEXTS: For each grade span of each era, we provide a list of up to 10 anchor texts that can be used to teach essential knowledge found in the era summaries and learning expectations. We provide teachers with text recommendations on an array of topics in the era, so that educators can select what is best suited to their individual classroom.  These carefully curated selections include exceptional works of narrative nonfiction, informational texts, and historical fiction. Each text is rich in historical content, well-written, fair in its presentation of history, and often beautifully illustrated, allowing for the development of text dependent questions that illuminate both the historical content as well as the author and illustrator’s craft. These texts may also serve as very good mentor texts for students’ own writing. 

TEXT STUDIES: The “text study” is the portion of these materials that provides teachers detailed guidance about how to lead students through a close, patient reading of a featured anchor text.  The text studies contain The Alexandria Plan’s central feature: sets of text-dependent questions, sample student responses, and performance assessments. The text studies provide support for an instructional process that is promoted by the writers of the CCSS as an effective means of teaching close reading of complex texts through a carefully crafted sequence of text-dependent questions.  These TDQs are followed by at least one comprehensive performance assessment for each study.  Both the TDQs and the performance assessments require students to support conclusions or opinions about aspects of the text with specific evidence from the text. 

FEATURED ANCHOR TEXT: One of the suggested anchor texts has been selected as the “featured anchor text” for each grade span in an era. It is for this text that we have created a “text study,” comprising a rationale for the selection of the particular text, TDQs, performance assessments, and extensions.  Each text study also includes CCSS citations for nearly every one of the TDQs, performance assessments, and extensions, along with explanations of how they help address CCSS standards for literacy. 

TEXT-DEPENDENT QUESTIONS: Each text study includes a set of TDQs that guide students to a comprehensive understanding of a particular component of the history outlined in the learning expectations.  The questions lead students through a close read of the text; they require students to use evidence directly from the text to explain/support their answers. Such close reading leads students to absorb key historical knowledge while honing essential CCSS literacy skills.  Sample student answers are provided for each question.  Connections to the CCSS also are provided for nearly every text-dependent question.  Please note that our citations for the standards follow the format established by the CCSS; when a question or assessment could apply to multiple grade levels—or just to a particular grade level within a band—the standards are listed in “K-2” or “3-5” chunks in the following way:  strand.gradeband.number. 

PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENTS: Each text study culminates in performance assessments that allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the key ideas, historical events, and figures discussed in the featured anchor text.  These performance assessments flow naturally from the progression of TDQs about the featured anchor text. 

MORE RESOURCES: Finally, we also include a list of related resources, including works of historical fiction, art and music, primary sources, and multimedia resources that can be incorporated into lessons or used to extend or enrich instruction.  They may also use them simply to build their own content knowledge.  Teachers often ask for quality primary sources that they can use in elementary grades, so Great Minds sought out engaging, relevant, accessible primary sources for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.  Sources of essential geographic knowledge are incorporated where appropriate.  Like our suggested anchor text selections, these resources have been carefully selected—curated—in order to save teachers countless hours searching for resources to extend students’ knowledge of history.