COMMON CORE STANDARDS
RL.8.1 Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
RL.8.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.
RL.8.3 Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.
RL.8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
Reading Informational Text
RI.8.1 Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
RI.8.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.
RI.8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
W.8.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Speaking & Listening
SL.8.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
L.8.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words or phrases based on grade 8 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
L.8.4(a) Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word’s position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
DESCRIPTION OF UNIT
This Grade 8 unit titled “Building Background Knowledge: War Coming Close to Home” developed by Expeditionary Learning for engageny.org is intended to be completed in approximately 14 one-hour sessions of language arts instruction. This unit incorporates social studies key ideas and themes to support potential interdisciplinary connections. It provides multiple opportunities for students to build knowledge about a historical topic through analysis of a coherent selection of strategically sequenced, discipline-specific texts. For the summative assessment, students write an analysis of the word choice, tone, and meaning of two texts (an informational audio text and a poem).
Connecticut teachers should be aware that due to the nature of the content required for successful instructional implementation, Language arts and social studies teachers should consider partnering for the instruction of this unit. Before this unit is used in a history/social studies course, some modifications will be necessary including: the replacement of the ELA CCSS listed above with the English Language Arts Standards in History/Social Studies that are targeted, additional history/social studies content to meet grade-specific content standards, and possible assessment and/or rubric revision.
RATIONALE FOR SELECTION
This unit is an exemplary example of how to integrate social studies content with literacy to cultivate student interest and engagement, as well as a deeper understanding of a topic. The unit integrates reading, writing, speaking and listening so that students apply and synthesize advancing literacy skills (i.e. how text structure, figurative language, specific word choice, and tone contribute to a text’s meaning). It routinely expects that students draw evidence from texts to produce clear and coherent writing that informs, explains, or makes an argument. Formative and summative assessments that are clearly aligned to the CCSS provide students with the scaffolding needed for success. The following link demonstrates a progression of learning where concepts and skills advance and deepen prior to independent student writing.
Getting Ready to Write: Evaluating the Quality of Evidence from Worthy Texts (from Expeditionary Learning) Eighth-grade students in Jeanne Boland’s Humanities class at the Odyssey School in Denver, CO, spend a week building background knowledge, reading closely, gathering evidence, testing ideas, and debating their claims in preparation for writing a summative essay about the stand Atticus takes in To Kill a Mockingbird.