Curricula & Programs
Sixth Grade Curriculum
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The Max Warburg Courage Curriculum’s “Courage in My Life” for sixth graders is a year-long language arts program based on the value of courage and is used in Boston Public Schools and in local parochial, charter, and private schools.
It empowers students to realize that their actions and decisions can be powerful agents of change. Through reading, writing, and discussion, students discover and recognize the role of courage in the lives of the characters they read about, in the lives of those around them, and in their own lives—past, present, and future.
Students begin the curriculum by reading about Max Warburg and watching a video about his life. The power of Max’s story lies not in his early death, but in how he dealt with adversity. His positive attitude and actions show students that they too are capable of acts of courage.
Novels & Discussion
The curriculum uses novels as a starting point for classroom discussions, teachers help students understand that courage can take many different forms. One of the goals of the curriculum is to help young people understand that we all face challenges in life—both large and small—and that we all have the capacity to be “everyday heroes.” Through this program, children come to realize that their actions can be powerful agents of change.
Students read the carefully selected, award-winning novels below as a framework to think about courage, and facing obstacles and challenges in their own lives.
- Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
The story of two social outsiders who find solace, identity, and self-confidence in friendship and imagination.
- Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Jeffery Lionel Magee is a homeless drifter who finds his way into a racially divided community where he amazes the townspeople with feats of strength and bravery.
- Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen becomes part of the effort to save Danish Jews from the Nazis in World War II Denmark, risking her life to help her best friend.
- Taking Sides by Gary Soto
A star basketball player from the barrio of San Francisco struggles to belong when his family moves to a prosperous white suburb.
- Facing the Lion by Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton
A young Kenyan boy shares his mischievous antics as a young Maasai cattle herder, coming-of-age initiation, boarding school escapades, soccer success, and journey to America for college.
As the culminating activity of the program, each student writes an essay on the topic of “Courage in My Life.” The process of writing and editing the essay brings all the pieces of the curriculum together—reading, writing, critical thinking, and group discussions. Though the students’ stories vary widely, the common theme of courage unites them all.
The local students’ essays are entered into a contest, where a panel of judges comprised of local authors, professors, journalists, educators, and members of the community reads each of the essays. The winning essays are published in our annual essay anthology.
Submission deadline: All entries must be postmarked by Friday, February 1, 2019.
Teach the Curriculum
Teachers will receive the curriculum guides below, which include lesson plans for all five curriculum novels and is aligned with city and state learning standards. Teachers also have access to multimedia, including a 6-minute piece about Max Warburg to show students as an introduction to the curriculums.
Frequently asked questions
How do I implement the Courage Curriculum in my classroom?
We know that no one understands the unique needs and character of your classroom better than you do. For this reason, our program is designed to be flexible and easily adapted to best fit your classroom. Each participating teacher will receive five newly-updated curriculum guides (which correspond with the five novels featured on our curriculum) as well as a guide for sharing Max’s story and facilitating discussions about courage. These guides are aligned with the Common Core State Standards and include chapter summaries, pre- and post-reading activities, writing prompts, vocabulary, and discussion questions. We hope you will feel empowered to use what works for you, knowing there is absolutely no requirement to use all materials. Some teachers will use all five novels in the classrooms, others will supplement from their own reading lists.
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National Essay Contest
Launched in 2010, our national essay contest is open to any student in grades 5 to 8 in the United States, outside of the Greater Boston area.
The contest encourages students from diverse backgrounds to share personal experiences with exceptional acts of courage in their communities and in their lives. Our goal in creating the national essay contest is to engage new communities in our work and build long-lasting relationships with schools and educators outside of Boston.
In the student’s own voice, he or she must represent his or her understanding of the nature of courage, while describing a moment when the student demonstrated or witnessed courage. While we encourage students to write about a specific time when they have demonstrated courage, some may be more comfortable writing about someone else. This is perfectly acceptable.
Eligibility & Entry Rules
- All students in grades 5 to 8 in the United States, outside of Greater Boston, are welcome to submit essays.
- Essay submissions must be the student’s original work.
- Essays can be typed or handwritten, and should not exceed 2 pages.
- Each essay must be submitted with an official entry form and a permission form.
- Only 1 entry per student.
- Submit essays and forms together to the Max Warburg Courage Curriculum:
- By email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Essay Contest” as the subject line or
- By mail to: The Max Warburg Courage Curriculum, 263 Huntington Avenue, Box 366, Boston, MA 02115
- Submission deadline: All entries must be postmarked by Friday, February 1, 2019.
Essays will be judged by an experienced volunteer panel. Our judges agree to keep the content of the essays confidential. All essays are pre-screened by the Max Courage staff and all proper procedure is followed to ensure the safety and well-being of students.
The winning submissions are printed in our annual essay anthology, The Courage of Children: Boston and Beyond.
Examples of winning essays can be found in past volumes of our annual essay anthology. This collection of essays demonstrates the rich spectrum of experience, writing style, and ability that we celebrate in our programs. We invite you to explore these examples and share them.
Since courage is universal, in 2007, we began building sustainable, long-lasting relationships with schools and communities around the world to respond to a growing need for accessible, proven literacy and character development curricula around the world.
Our goal is to engage with students, teachers, and learning communities in reading and writing, while also empowering them to discover, recognize, and celebrate the courage around them in their lives.
To date, we have partnered with schools and communities in the following countries:
- El Salvador
- The United Kingdom
But that’s not the end of the story. Thanks to our partner organizations, our list continues to grow. We can use your help too! For more information regarding international partnership opportunities, please email our office at email@example.com
Courage beyond borders.
Our annual essay anthology also includes essays submitted by international students and translated into English by their teachers.
Annual Essay Anthologies
Every year, we publish an annual essay anthology, The Courage of Children: Boston and Beyond, featuring essays submitted by students of the sixth grade curriculum.
The essays in these volumes feature astonishing and inspiring feats of courage from students around the globe.
To receive print copies of past editions, please contact us.
Click the links below to download the volume you want:
Hear the stories of courage,
read by the authors themselves.
If you are an educator and would like to participate in our program and submit your students’ essays for inclusion in the next volume of The Courage of Children: Boston and Beyond, please contact us.
Ninth Grade Curriculum
Our ninth grade language arts curriculum, “The Courage of My Convictions,” serves to reinforce the ideas presented in the sixth grade curriculum while examining the nature of courage and how it can produce social change.
This year-long program shows ninth grade students in the Boston Public Schools and beyond that with careful and thoughtful responses, they can bring about change in the world around them. “The Courage of My Convictions” is aligned with state and district learning standards as appropriate to the ninth grade.
Students will revisit Max’s story, with an emphasis on how he and his family worked to unite a community around a specific purpose. His positive attitude, as well as his actions that drew together the community, demonstrates to students how one individual can make a difference. Through discussions with classroom volunteers and teachers, these students make meaningful connections in their own lives and the world around them.
Novels & Discussion
Students will read, write about, and discuss the two anchor texts below, as well as additional texts selected by their teachers that explore a wide range of cultures and examine the nature of courage and how it may manifest in thoughtful social action to produce positive change. Students will identify specific traits in the characters they read about and what the outcomes of their examples were in bringing about change, and participate in activities and assignments designed to improve writing and reading comprehension skills.
- Fences by August Wilson
In his stark portrait of a black family struggling to get by in 1950s Pittsburgh, Wilson masterfully illuminates both the strength that lies within community and the adverse impact of a psychology of inequality that devastates the African American male and, in turn, his family and relationships.
- Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago by LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman, David Isay
Drawing from more than 100 hours of tapes unused in the original broadcasts, the young adult authors, with assistance from NPR producer David Isay, have created a frank and provocative view of America’s minorities from the inside out and bottom up.
The culmination of “The Courage of My Convictions” is a final project that expresses both a critical understanding of the curriculum materials and the student’s authentic voice in sharing his or her convictions.
Each student will combine the written word and artistic expression to demonstrate their understanding of the effective use of communication to produce thoughtful and useful social change. We welcome students to make use of compelling outlets (artistic, technological, digital media), allowing them to be critical thinkers and effective communicators. Final projects may include writing a letter to a community leader about a specific community problem, orchestrating a discussion with family members about a specific concern, or designing a brochure to educate the community about an issue that affects their community.
Teach the Curriculum
If you are interested in using this curriculum for your classroom, please register here.
Teachers will receive the curriculum guides to help in laying a framework for the development of strong reading, writing, and comprehension skills. These guides aid teachers in facilitating discussion of student experiences that draw personal connections to the subject matter of the reading materials. We recommend that teachers encourage students to engage in art activities that reinforce the language arts program, further developing critical thinking skills through artistic expression.
Frequently Asked questions
How do I implement the Courage Curriculum in my classroom?
We know that no one understands the unique needs and character of your classroom better than you do. For this reason, our program is designed to be flexible and easily adapted to best fit your classroom. Each participating teacher will receive curriculum guides as well as a guide for sharing Max’s story and facilitating discussions about courage. These guides are aligned with the Common Core State Standards and include chapter summaries, pre- and post-reading activities, writing prompts, vocabulary, and discussion questions. We hope you will feel empowered to use what works for you, knowing there is absolutely no requirement to use all materials.
- Photographs of the Ida B. Wells Housing Projects: Library of Congress (1942) and John Brooks (2003)
- Ghetto Life 101, includes audio for LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman’s original broadcast
- Out of the Ghetto, a BBC Broadcasts update with LeAlan Jones from October 2008, 15 years after the original Ghetto Life documentary
- Obituary for August Wilson, New York Times
- Troy Maxson: Heart, Heartbreak as Big as the World by Allison Keyes, All Things Considered. Originally aired on NPR on May 12, 2008.
- History and background information for the Negro League Baseball
- Photographs and information about The Hill District, Pittsburgh
- There Are No Children Here, by Alex Kotlowitz (the book that inspired Our America)
- The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells
- Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets, by Sudhir Venkatesh
- Negro League Baseball, by Ernest C. Withers