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Curricula for Global Sustainability Education

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Making Connections: Engaging Students in Language, Literacy, and Global Issues - Teacher's Guide
Making Connections: Engaging Students in Language, Literacy, and Global Issues - Teacher's Guide

Teacher's Guide
This research-based teacher's guide helps students develop English language skills through highly engaging real-world investigations of current global issues. Designed for intermediate-level English language learners and striving readers, Making Connections combines language learning with opportunities for students to think critically about sustainable solutions for community development, environmental issues, quality of life, peace and conflict, and more. Aligned with education standards, this text includes nine chapters with lessons that have been reviewed and field tested by content experts, teachers, and students.

  • Grades: 6-12 and Intermediate ESL/ELL
  • Subjects: ELL and Literacy, Science, Social Studies
  • Teacher's Guide: 352 pages - Don't forget to order your student texts.
ISBN 9780981557748
Price $24.95
Starting from: 50 items $21.21



Free Previews & Table of Contents

Introduction and Table of Contents

The introductory pages and table of contents of Making Connections.

Student textbook download Teacher's guide download


Chapter 1. Envisioning Our Future


Through brainstorm, dialogue, and writing activities, students reflect on issues affecting the world today and what can be done to create a sustainable future. After learning vocabulary relevant to sustainability, students read about three young people who are working to improve their lives and communities. Students work to identify the main idea of the reading passage and answer a variety of comprehension questions. After the reading activity they will write a poem about their vision of the world. The chapter culminates with a kinesthetic activity that illustrates how global issues are connected.

Reading Skill: Main Idea  |  Writing Genre: Poetry

Student textbook download

Teacher's guide download


Chapter 2. The Natural World


This chapter guides students in exploring how we use natural resources and the ability of the environment to provide these resources. Students begin by creating a caption for an environmental cartoon. Then, a writing warmup prompts students to contemplate their daily use of natural resources. Students move on to a dialogue activity in which they use the iceberg model to discuss root causes of species extinction. After learning vocabulary relevant to natural resources, students read about different ecosystems and identify textual details that emphasize key pieces of information. Students then write a five-sentence paragraph about the food web of a forest-stream ecosystem. A culminating kinesthetic activity asks students to model consecutive seasons of harvesting fish, an important natural resource.

Reading Skill: Textual Details  |  Writing Genre: Five-sentence Paragraph

Chapter 3. Environmental Issues and Solutions

Brainstorm and writing activities introduce students to thinking about environmental resources and possible problems. After learning vocabulary related to current environmental issues, students engage in a dialogue about freshwater scarcity. Students learn to identify cause and effect statements, and then use this skill during a jigsaw activity in which they read about three environmental issues: climate change, deforestation, and freshwater scarcity. Students are asked to consider their perspectives on climate change solutions by writing a persuasive essay. The chapter culminates with a hands-on collaborative activity in which they consider the impacts of everyday items on the environment.

Reading Skill: Cause and Effect  |  Writing Genre: Persuasive Essay

Student textbook download

Teacher's guide download


Chapter 4. Thinking about Consumption


Students use Venn diagrams to brainstorm similarities and differences in consumption around the world. In a writing activity, they contemplate the relationship between buying things and happiness. Students analyze an advertisement during a dialogue activity. After learning consumption-related vocabulary and derivatives, students learn more about consumer issues by reading about the life cycle of an everyday product: running shoes. Throughout the chapter, students practice sequencing. A writing activity focuses on creating a how-to guide for consumers. The chapter culminates with a hands-on activity in which students work in groups to create and present mock television commercials for products from two different points of view.

Reading Skill: Sequencing  |  Writing Genre: How-to Guide

Chapter 5. Population around the World

During speaking and listening activities, students think critically about the potential impacts of population growth. After learning vocabulary relevant to population, students read about trends and effects of population growth and resource consumption around the world. Students predict the main idea of various reading passages, and then complete a writing exercise in which they write a five-paragraph essay detailing a community plan for growth. A culminating kinesthetic activity models the impact of changes in population growth rates and consumption patterns over time.

Reading Skill: Making Predictions  |  Writing Genre: Community Plan

Chapter 6. Improving Our Quality of Life

Students consider factors that contribute to a good quality of life and how these factors might differ between adults and young people. They contemplate their own ideas about quality of life during a dialogue. After learning vocabulary related to quality of life, they read a fictional story of three children struggling to improve their quality of life. Students are asked to draw conclusions to comprehend the reading. A writing activity asks students to write a conclusion to a realistic fictional story. The chapter culminates with students creating, administering, and analyzing a survey to measure quality of life based on peer responses.

Reading Skill: Drawing Conclusions  |  Writing Genre: Realistic Fiction

Chapter 7. Peace and Conflict

Students think critically about the meaning of conflict during introductory speaking and writing activities. After learning vocabulary relevant to a study of peace and conflict, students work to understand the meaning of a poem. In a jigsaw activity, students read about four different examples of real-world conflicts, identifying the theme of each reading section. Students take on the role of an advice columnist in a final writing activity. The chapter culminates with an activity in which students role-play different scenarios and resolve conflicts.

Reading Skill: Theme  |  Writing Genre: Advice Column

Chapter 8. Community Development

Students reflect on what makes a community and what communities they belong to. In a dialogue activity, students learn about each others’ personal identities. After learning vocabulary related to community, students read about different individuals and groups who worked together to improve an urban community. Students use context clues to assist them in understanding the reading passage. After reading, students write a speech to be delivered to a community leader. The chapter culminates with an activity in which students map their school neighborhood in order to evaluate its sustainability. Students then brainstorm possible improvements.

Reading Skill: Context Clues  |  Writing Genre: Speech

Chapter 9. Creating Our Future

Students consider what they want the world to be like in the future, and how they can help to make their vision of the future a reality. They begin by learning vocabulary related to personal and structural solutions to sustainability challenges. Students then practice identifying character traits as they read about people and organizations who are working toward making our world more sustainable. They will write a letter to themselves about their personal visions of the future and how they can make those visions become reality. The chapter culminates with a collaborative activity in which students set specific goals for alleviating a problem and then develop a plan to take action.

Reading Skill: Character Traits  |  Writing Genre: Letter




Preview Video




In this archived webinar you will learn more about Making Connections and learn how to use this research-based teacher's guide and student textbook to support the development English language skills through highly engaging real-world investigations of current global issues.

Resource Details

Making Connections can be used as a central teaching component for a semester or year-long course, as a short unit on global issues, or as an engaging contextual framework within which core subjects are taught. Making Connections is often compatible with existing curriculum requirements and topics and extends students’ learning through an interdisciplinary approach to issues.

Why Use Making Connections?

According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, 8 million of the 32.5 million students in grades 4 through 12 read below grade level. By the time students reach middle and high school, they need sophisticated vocabulary and reading skills in order to read complex texts. If a student is a newcomer to the United States or has had significant gaps in his or her education, these skills may not be fully developed. A lack of vocabulary, reading strategies, and prior knowledge can significantly impact a student’s education and leave him or her ill-prepared for the literacy demands of the 21st century.1

Research has shown that a variety of teaching methods help students acquire higher level language skills. Several best practices critical to academic literacy development in different content areas can support student success in the classroom.

 Making Connections was developed with the following best practices in mind:

  • Engaging language and literacy activities
  • Explicit reading comprehension instruction
  • Explicit vocabulary instruction
  • Differentiated instruction
  • Real-world content and themes
  • Multiple reading, writing, speaking, and listening opportunities2

Making Connections targets students in middle school, high school, and beyond. Through nine chapters, students gain the skills and knowledge necessary to excel academically while becoming informed about important issues and ways they can contribute positively to their communities. Language learning is purposeful as students learn language skills and directly apply these skills to current, relevant topics. Students learn about a wide range of interconnected topics, including building community, current environmental issues, population growth, and quality of life. This type of content-based learning can be a great motivating factor in and out of the classroom.3

Each chapter has a specific structure that allows students to build knowledge through a series of lessons and activities. The Teacher’s Guide includes explicit instructions on how to guide students in learning the content. 

Service learning-based action projects and additional resource ideas are included to allow for learning beyond the classroom.


How to Use Making Connections

Making Connections can be used in a number of ways with students to support:

  • Language acquisition for intermediate English language learners
  • Language acquisition for striving readers
  • Reading comprehension of nonfiction materials in an English language arts class
  • Increased knowledge of global issues in a social studies or science class
  • Student engagement in the classroom around current, relevant issues


Components of Making Connections

Each chapter in Making Connections includes the following components:

1. Activating Knowledge
ELL readers and striving readers should have exposure to multiple experiences with topics before, during, and after reading.4 Making Connections begins by activating students’ prior knowledge. Students brainstorm and write to initiate comprehension of the chapter topic. The first part of each chapter also gives students a chance to make connections between the chapter topic and the knowledge they already have.

2. Vocabulary Development
By the time students reach middle school, there is a large amount of vocabulary they need in order to comprehend what they read. Making Connections introduces students to key vocabulary that is both rigorous and relevant to each chapter topic. Through explicit instruction by the teacher and multiple vocabulary activities, students have the opportunity to continuously practice using these words in context. When students reach the chapter reading, they have become familiar with the meaning of these words. These words are also incorporated into chapter writing activities.

3. Dialogue
Listening and speaking opportunities are an important part of improving language. Dialogue activities are included in each chapter. Students can first listen to the dialogue and then practice the dialogue with a peer. Many additional activities require students to speak and collaborate with each other. Consistent practice with speaking and listening can help to expand ideas and build upon background knowledge.5

4. Reading
In order for students to truly engage in a chapter or lesson, they need to be active learners. Since expository and informational texts have specific features, providing students with the tools to understand these types of texts makes the readings accessible. When students are given explicit strategies to use while reading, they can actively work to improve their reading abilities.6 Making Connections takes this into consideration, as students are given opportunities to see their teacher model the use of comprehension strategies while reading and to practice these strategies with the support of graphic organizers.

5. Writing
Throughout the text, students have opportunities to write in multiple genres. Each chapter includes both writing warm-ups and structured writing activities. Before writing in a particular genre, students analyze a writing sample. With the additional support of rubrics, graphic organizers, and peer editing checklists, students are equipped with the tools necessary to create their own pieces of writing. Each writing assignment is directly connected with a chapter topic. Grammar suggestions are included in the Teacher’s Guide to support each writing genre.

6. Culminating Activity
The culminating activity is an opportunity for students to show what they have learned through communication and collaboration. These hands-on activities at the end of each chapter give students the opportunity to talk with each other and grapple with critical questions around global issues and sustainable solutions in fun, engaging ways. Culminating activities require students to use both communication skills and content knowledge authentically.7

7. Assessments
Making Connections includes both formative and summative assessments. The various types of assessments provide a clear picture of where teachers can meet students’ needs. Ongoing formative assessments throughout the chapter can give teachers insight into their students’ literacy skills and content knowledge.8 At the end of each chapter in the Teacher’s Guide, there is a writing rubric, a summative assessment, and a personal beliefs assessment. The summative assessment can be used as both a pre- and post-test to measure student improvement of vocabulary, content, and reading comprehension. The personal beliefs assessment can be used to gauge changes in students’ beliefs about their ability to make an impact on global issues.

8. Engaging Content-Based Themes
The themes included throughout Making Connections give students multiple opportunities to engage in real-world investigations of current issues and to think critically about solutions. Skills developed through these activities, such as collaboration and taking a global perspective, will help prepare students for the future and engage them in problem solving activities similar to ones they will encounter as active, engaged citizens in the 21st century. Students can build on knowledge as they move from one chapter to the next, make relevant connections between learning and their own lives, and learn how to take part in sustainable solutions to current challenges.


Making Connections has been designed to support students by giving them the knowledge and skills they need to learn both content and language. Best practices inform each chapter, providing students a meaningful and fun context for learning. This text engages students in the classroom, helps them to excel academically, and provides the tools to become empowered global citizens who can make a real difference in both their local and global communities.


1 Alliance for Excellent Education, “Adolescent Literacy Fact Sheet,” February 2009.

2 Deborah J. Short and Shannon Fitzsimmons, “Double the Work: Challenges and Solutions to Acquiring Language and Academic Literacy for Adolescent English Language Learners,” Alliance for Excellent Education.

3 A. U. Chamot and J. M. O’Malley, The CALLA Handbook: Implementing the cognitive academic language learning approach (New York: Longman, 1994).

4 Julie Meltzer and Edmund T. Hamann, “Meeting the Literacy Development Needs of Adolescent English Language Learners through Content-Area Learning, Part Two: Focus on Classroom Teaching and Learning Strategies,” The Education Alliance at Brown University.



7Lorrie Verplaetse, “How content area teachers allocate turns to limited English proficient students.” Journal of Education 182, no. 3, (2000): 19-36.

8Julie Meltzer and Edmund T. Hamann.

State Standards

Curriculum Funding Toolkit

Use this toolkit to help find funds to purchase Making Connections for your classroom. The funding opportunities listed below have been screened by Facing the Future staff to ensure that they are easy to apply to and that funds from these sources can be used to purchase Making Connections texts.

Learn more about:

Do you know of other funding opportunities that would enable educators to purchase Making Connections? Contact us to help spread the word.



Current Funding Opportunities


Eligibility: Teachers, Schools, Districts

Amount: Varies   |   Deadline: Open    FAQs: click here

Adopt-A-Classroom partners donors with teachers so you can have funds to purchase critical resources and materials for your classroom. By registering, your classroom will be posted on the Adopt-A-Classroom website available for donors to select. When adopted, you will have full discretion to purchase items that meet your unique classroom needs.


Eligibility: K–12 public schools

Amount: Varies Deadline: Open

Teachers can post a project or curriculum they would like to fund. Donors can make an online donation for any amount toward the cost of the project, curriculum or project. When the item is fully funded, DonorsChoose purchases the item and sends it and a thank you kit to the teacher.

Ezra Jack Keats Minigrant Program

Eligibility: Public schools and libraries in the U.S.

Amount: $500  |  Deadline: September 15

Supports educators, parents, and children at public schools and libraries in their efforts to spread literacy and love of learning.

The Lawrence Foundation

Eligibility: U.S.-based IRS 501(c)(3) qualified charitable or public schools and libraries

Amount: Varies  Deadline: April 30 and October 31

The foundation is focused on making grants to support education, health, human services, and other causes, with the opportunity to support other diverse areas on an occasional basis.

Learn and Serve America

Eligibility: Local Educational Agencies, public or private schools, nonprofits, and higher education institutions

Amount: Varies by state  |  Deadline: Varies by state

Do you have an idea for a service-learning project that will impact your community? Learn and Serve America provides grant support annually (primarily through intermediaries) to diverse partnerships to develop and sustain service-learning projects. Generally, grants are for a period of three years, renewable annually contingent upon performance and the availability of funds.

Note: Funds are allocated to each State by a formula that considers each State’s school-age population and Title I allotment. Grants are awarded on a non-competitive basis to States through State Education Agencies (SEAs) that then provide sub-grants to Local Educational Agencies, public or private schools, nonprofits, and higher education institutions that implement programs.

Examples of State Learn and Serve Programs: FL, NY, TX, IL,CA, WA

Parent Teacher Association (PTA)

As the largest volunteer child advocacy association in the nation, Parent Teacher Association (PTA) reminds our country of its obligations to children and provides parents and families with a powerful voice to speak on behalf of every child while providing the best tools for parents to help their children be successful students.

Verizon Foundation

Eligibility: Schools and 501(c)(3) organizations

Amount: $5,000 - $10,000  Deadline: January 1 - October 31

The Verizon Foundation seeks to improve literacy, knowledge, and readiness for the twenty-first century. Its four core areas are education, literacy, Internet safety, and domestic violence.  Eligible organizations seeking grants from the Verizon Foundation must be prepared to track and report program outcomes and specific results that demonstrate measurable human impact. In the grant application, organizations must indicate what outcomes are targeted through programming and what results, as specified on the grant application, the organization will measure.

About Federal Funding

Federal funds tend to be large grant awards and most often are open to schools, districts, or state governments. Individual teachers are not typically awarded small grants through Federal Grant Programs. You can search all federal funding opportunities at or Department of Education funding opportunities at their Discretionary Grant Application Packages page.

Information About Programs

Use the Guide to Education Programs to learn about federally funded programs. Below are direct links to specific programs for which funding opportunities may arise or may be available through your state:


Grants Forecasting
The ED grants forecast can help you identify grant competitions within some of these programs that may open soon.


Tips and Resources

Classroom Examples

The classroom examples below show how Making Connections can be used to address a variety of classroom challenges and increase student involvement.

Jill Berge
  • School: Rose Hill Junior High, Redmond, WA
  • Grade: 9     Classroom Size: 26-30
  • Subject: Literacy and World History

Annie Daly
  • School: KIPP Aspire Academy, San Antonio, TX
  • Grades: 5-8     Classroom Size: 25-30
  • Subject: Non-Fiction Studies

David White-Espin
  • School: Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center, Seattle, WA
  • Grade: Level 2 - ages 11 to 21, based on students' speaking ability
  • Classroom Size: ~20
  • Subject: Literacy and Reading

Educator Quotes

 This unit was an ENGAGING, EXPLICIT, AND WELL INTEGRATED unit that especially met the needs of [striving] readers and writers. It had enough content in it, and was provocative enough to engage more skilled learners as well. 

- Shannon Lowrie, Middle School Language Arts/History Teacher, Washington


 Facing the Future is an excellent resource for teaching secondary low level reading students and ELLs.  The unit I worked with had a wide variety of comprehension strategies that emphasized phonemic awareness, fluency, background knowledge and vocabulary, and were all supported with high interest discussion and writing activities.  The topics and activities are ENGAGING AND RELEVANT TO TEENS – many intervention/remediation lack this. 

 - Jacquelyn Walz, High School ELL and Reading Teacher, Colorado

 Making Connections is a wonderful literacy curriculum that has done a phenomenal job of integrating reading, social studies, science, language arts and even a little math, all while engaging students in global issues. It has truly lived up to its descriptions. 

-  Susan Smith, High School Special Education Teacher, Edward H. White High School, Jacksonville, FL

 These chapters were on target with teaching key concepts while ENGAGING THE STUDENTS WITH THE NECESSARY LITERACY SKILLS that we are trying to teach.  It’s very hard for us to find materials to work with the students on various important literacy topics such as finding main ideas and details, inferencing, and working with statistics. I was able to incorporate all three of these topics because of these chapters. 

 - Alison Cochrane, Community College ELL Teacher, New York


 Here, finally, is a resource that deals with real world problems of today in an accessible manner for the ESOL population! 

 - Noel Jost-Coq, ESOL teacher, New Hampshire

 I would highly recommend this resource to my teaching colleagues because it can supplement many different content areas – it is interdisciplinary in nature.  It also explores a theme with activities that are suitable for native and non native speakers of English.   In addition, it is a unit that OFFERS FULFILLMENT FOR BOTH TEACHERS AND STUDENTS.  It is great for a teacher to feel that s/he has taught students not only how to read or write, but also to become aware of the life they are living and strive to improve it. 

 - Leila Boodhoo, Community College ELL Teacher, New York

 These are great lessons for university teacher preparation courses or in site-based professional development programs. 

 - Margarita Calderón, PhD, author of Teaching Reading to English Language Learners Grades 6-12:
A Framework for Improving Achievement in the Content Areas

 This resource provides multiple ways for students to access information about important subjects. Students learn vocabulary through images and a variety of effective reading strategies.  They have opportunities to demonstrate their learning through poetry, drama, graphic organizers, fiction-writing and more. 

 - Jill Berge, Middle School ELL Teacher, Washington


 The concepts are terrific, the visuals are very useful for all levels of students; the main idea activities are well organized and useful. 

 - Mary Leming, ELL High School Teacher, New York


 It is a great resource to use, especially to GET STUDENTS ENGAGED IN VERY RELEVANT AND IMPORTANT TOPICS they will deal with their entire lives. 

 - Jodi Ritter, High School ELL Teacher, Washington


 This is a great resource that allows students to actively think about the world, their role in the world, and what they can do make the world a better place. 

 - Suzanne Bardasz, English professor, Korea

 It guides students to consider important and complex issues of sustainability that will help them take personal action to solve global problems. 

 - Dr. Katherine L. Schlick Noe, Seattle University

Professional Development

Facing the Future offers the following professional development to help you learn more about Making Connections: Engaging Students in Language, Literacy, and Global Issues:

Making Connections Webinar

In this webinar you will learn more about Making Connections and learn how to use this research-based teacher's guide and student textbook to support the development English language skills through highly engaging real-world investigations of current global issues.




  • David White-Espin, MEd and MA
    Teacher, Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center and Pilot Tester, Making Connections
  • Sheeba Jacob, MEd
    Co-author, Making Connections and Assistant Program Director, Facing the Future

             To learn more about our webinars, please visit our Webinar page. If you are interested in scheduling a webinar, please contact us.


Making Connections Workshop

We offer the following workshop to help you learn more about Making Connections.

Engaging English Language Learners and Striving Readers with Global Issues Using 21st Century Skills

Prepare students for the literacy demands of the 21st century. Using global issues as a framework, language learning becomes purposeful as students develop skills and apply them to current events.  They gain the skills and knowledge to excel academically, become informed about important issues, and contribute positively to their communities.  Participate in differentiated lessons that provide engaging practice in reading, speaking, and listening using diverse texts with multiple comprehension strategies supported by graphic organizers and instructor modeling.

Additional Professional Development Opportunities


To learn more about our upcoming workshops, webinars, and conferences, please visit our Workshop Calendar. If you are interested in having Facing the Future present at your next event, please contact us.

Supplementary Materials

To complement Making Connections, this section contains background information and additional resources to help educators and students learn more about global issues and sustainability.

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About Us

We equip and motivate students to develop critical thinking skills, build global awareness, and engage in positive solutions for a sustainable future through hands-on curricula and professional learning.

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