Grade 11: “Living Like Weasels” by Annie Dillard (Close Reading Lesson)


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Reading Informational Text

RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

RI.11-12.2 Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.

RI.11-12.3 Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.

RI.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).

RI.11-12.5 Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or her exposition or argument, including whether the structure makes points clear, convincing, and engaging.

RI.11-12.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty of the text.


W.11-12.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

W.11-12.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

W.11-12.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.

Speaking and Listening

SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

SL.11-12.4 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


L.11-12.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

L.11-12.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

L.11-12.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 11-12 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

L.11-12.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

L.11-12.6 Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.


This Grade 11 lesson set titled “Living Like Weasels by Annie Dillard” from is intended to be completed in 4-5 days of ELA/Literacy instruction.  The lesson activities give students opportunities to closely read and examine a complex text for deeper understanding; discuss text-dependent questions, write text-dependent journal entries that back up their claims; build academic vocabulary; practice paraphrasing the author’s thoughts. As the culminating activity, students independently write an informative essay regarding the meaning of the excerpt’s title, using evidence from the text. There is an additional mini-assessment that is optional that consists of 6 text-dependent, selected-response questions.


Connecticut teachers should be cautioned the teacher notes/preparation materials will require familiarity to be used effectively. Additional supports and accommodations may be needed for students who are ELL, have disabilities, or read well below the grade level text band. Teachers are encouraged to allow students to take the time that they need within a class period to read closely. If students do not finish when class ends, teachers are encouraged to give them the opportunity to have additional time later. While there are assessment guidelines for the writing, an aligned-rubric that elicits direct, observable evidence of the degree to which a student can independently demonstrate the major grade-level CCSS standards will need to be developed. The “Living Like Weasels” essay is not included with the assessment. Teachers can find the essay by using the following citation: “Living Like Weasels” from Teaching a Stone to Talk, published by HarperCollins (1998, 2008, or 2013 editions), pages 65-71. Editions published earlier than 1998 contain the text, “Living Like Weasels,” but on different pages than listed here.


This lesson is a good example of how to make reading text closely, examining textual evidence, and discerning deep meaning a central focus of instruction. The instructional activities focus on challenging sections of the text and engage students in a productive struggle through discussion questions and other supports that build toward independence. Materials include text-dependent questions with suggested evidence-based answers for teachers, vocabulary and syntax tasks, a writing-based assessment and a CCSS-aligned mini-assessment with an annotated teacher rationale for each answer.