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Reading Units and Lesson Plans Aligned with Common Core

I received an email from a teacher working in a situation similar to mine: students who are deficient in basic skills, a lack of useful resources in the classroom, misdirection or no direction from the top. This teacher found the resources on this website to be a tremendous help in reaching her instructional goals, but inquired specifically as to how I sequenced the instruction. This motivated me to create this page. This page offers free reading and English language arts lesson and unit plans aligned with Common Core State Standards. This is the same core sequence of units and lessons that I follow with my seventh and eighth grade reading classes to prepare them to succeed on standardized tests and in high school; however, with a few tweaks I’m sure that these plans could be used in almost any classroom. The plans themselves link out to the actual materials that I use, so it should save you quite a bit of your precious and irretrievable time. I hope this helps:

Overview of Unit Plans


Rationale: Why I Sequence My Instruction in The Following Way

Fortunately for me and my students, we have access to a literature textbook. I find most of the short stories in this textbook to be well-written and useful. Having this text spares me both time and photocopies, but I find that the review questions at the end of each story are woefully insufficient. Additionally, I want my students to constantly practice all of the reading skills that I teach on every text we study, so that when we get to the high-stakes test during the third quarter, they can apply these skills instinctively.

To serve these ends, I created the following reading worksheets that can be used with just about any fiction text. Once the students have been exposed to the skills that each worksheet requires, I can merely assign a story, change the title and page numbers, add a few story specific questions and voila! I have a high-quality, demanding activity that will actually review the skills that my students need to know. This also increases my utilization of the textbooks that my principal was so nice to have purchased for us, a task with which I have struggled in the past.
Reading Skills Worksheet Example

Since my goal is to get students to the point where they can accurately complete these worksheets alongside selections from the textbook, I teach these skills in roughly the following order:

Modes of Writing and Author’s Purpose Unit Plan

Author’s purpose is a broad topic that can be discussed at a variety of levels. At the 11th and 12th grade levels, students are supposed to do the following:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.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.

I’d love for my students to perform such a complex task, but when I receive my students, they generally do not know the difference between a narrative, persuasive, and expository text. So, this is where I begin. I teach them about author’s purpose and modes of writing. My objective in this unit is to get students to the point where they can reliably identify the difference between texts written to entertain, persuade, and inform. I achieve my objective by using the following sequence:

Author’s Purpose and Modes of Writing Unit Plan | Day One

1. I teach my students about the three main purposes for writing a text with this author’s purpose PowerPoint lesson.

2. The PowerPoint includes a practice activity after the lesson, where descriptions of texts appear on the board and students read each description and determine the author’s purpose: to entertain, persuade, or inform.

3. I assign one of these author’s purpose worksheets for homework.

Author’s Purpose and Modes of Writing Unit Plan | Day Two

1. If your students have access to computers, I’d begin the day with this interactive online author’s purpose activity or this one. If you don’t have access to computers, you may want to begin class with another author’s purpose worksheet.

2. Since my students receive their high-stakes test just slightly over half-way through the year, I find that I do not have much time to waste. Because of this I spend little time on introductions and rather begin teaching my author’s purpose and modes of writing unit on the first day of school. So this is not only day two of my author’s purpose and modes of writing unit, it is day two of the school year, and students need their textbooks. While they are working on the practice activity assigned in step one, I assign textbooks. After they receive their textbook, they can begin the author’s purpose and modes of writing scavenger hunt activity. In this activity students search through their textbooks to find texts that are written to entertain, persuade, and inform. This gives them an opportunity to explore their reading books while reviewing our focus skill.

3. If they finish the scavenger hunt early, students may get started on their homework. For homework they will complete the third and final author’s purpose worksheet. Students will also be directed to study for the author’s purpose quiz tomorrow.

Author’s Purpose and Modes of Writing Unit Plan | Day Three

1. To begin the final day of my author’s purpose and modes of writing unit I grab an assortment of texts from my classroom library. I read the title and possibly a paragraph from each text. Students determine the mode of writing used in each text and explain how they know on a separate sheet of paper. I collect their responses and use them for a participation grade.

2. I may give students a few minutes to review their notes while I am distributing testing materials.

3. Students will take this author’s purpose and modes of writing quiz.

Common Core State Standards Related to Author’s Purpose

 

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.6 – Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4 – Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.4 – Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Expand to View All Common Core State Standards Related to Author's Purpose

Reading: Informational Text Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.6 – Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.6.6 – Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.6 – Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author distinguishes his or her position from that of others.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.6 – Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6 – Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.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.

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Click Here to Return to the Overview of Common Core Aligned Unit Plans

Literary Genre and Subgenre Unit and Lesson Plans

Understanding the conventions of genre and subgenre allows the readers to form expectations of a text upon first examining it. This understanding enables readers to notice when writers deviate or follow the conventions of a genre or subgenre, and this awareness can led to thoughtful discussions, critiques, and analyses of a text. But when I receive my students, they tend to have only the faintest notions of literary genre, if any, and require a great deal of scaffolding to get them to these higher levels. When I am done with my students, they can accurately identify the genre and subgenre of pretty much any text that I throw at them. Perhaps more importantly, they can explain how they know. To get my students to this point, I roughly prepare my students to identify the genre and subgenre of a text, I follow roughly this short unit plan.

Genre and Subgenre Unit Plan | Day One

1. Students first need to understand basic terms used to describe the genres and subgenres of texts. There are quite a few terms to cover in the study of literary genre. I teach the major ones using this genre and subgenre PowerPoint lesson.

2. At the end of the PowerPoint lesson, there is a ten question practice activity. In this activity I put brief descriptions of texts on the board and students write the genre and subgenre of each text in their notebooks or on a separate sheet of paper. At the end of the activity, students share their answers and discuss how we came to these answers.

3. After the practice activity, I assign students homework where they practice identifying the genres and subgenres of a variety of texts based on short descriptions. I have made quite a few genre worksheets from which you can pick.

Genre and Subgenre Unit Plan | Day Two

1. When the students return the next day, I greet them with a genre and subgenre bell-ringer or warm up activity where they practice identifying genre in a variety of texts. They do this activity individually, but once they are done we share our answers. Perhaps more importantly, we also discuss the process that they used to reach their answers and what details revealed the genre and subgenre of each text.

2. I have students review and reinforce genre and subgenre skills with the following genre review activity: – students sit in small groups with baskets of books from my classroom library. Preferably, every group has the same or similar books in their basket. The books are numbered with small stickers that correspond to the numbers on the activity sheet. Students will discuss as a group and come to a consensus of which books belong in which genre. The point of the activity is to decide as a group, not complete the activity individually. This promotes discussion skills and collaborative learning. Also, this activity gives them an opportunity to put their hands on real texts, rather than just the brief descriptions that they have been analyzing up until now.

3. After they finish with the group activity, we turn it into a classroom discussion where each group share out their answers. Other groups then have an opportunity to challenge the answers of the other groups and so forth. If you would like, you could assign points to each group for getting answers correct, and / or bonus points for correcting another team. This might promote a more energetic discussion.

4. After the classroom discussion, I assign students more genre homework. If they have been following along and completing the other activities in this sequence, they should be getting pretty good at identifying the genres and subgenres of texts and explaining their answers.

Genre and Subgenre Unit Plan | Day Three

1. As students enter the classroom, they should begin working on another genre worksheet. They will need around ten to twenty minutes to complete one of these. At this point in the instructional sequence, students will complete these worksheets at different paces. Some will have mastered this skill; they should move along to the next activity rather quickly. Others may struggle with this skill. Use this opportunity to work with them one-on-one or provide assistance to small groups.

2. Students should now begin working on a student centered project to reinforce what they have learned about genre. I suggest one of the following projects:

3. On the last day of the project, you may want to assign students more genre homework.

Genre and Subgenre Unit Plan | Day Four or Five

Depending on how long you allotted students to complete their genre project, you will either be on day four or five of the unit.

1. Tou should begin class with a genre review activity. This gives students a final opportunity to practice this skill before they are evaluated.

2. As you distribute the testing materials, you may want to allow students one more opportunity to review their notes and quiz each other before they are tested.

3. Evaluate your students’ understanding of genre using one of these genre and subgenre tests. There are two different quizzes, each with two different forms. I use Scantron test documents and and distribute the two different test forms along A rows and B rows to prevent copying. This test concludes the genre and subgenre unit.

Common Core State Standards Related to Genre and Subgenre

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.5 – Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.

Expand to View All Common Core State Standards Related to Genre and Subgenre

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.9 – Compare and contrast stories in the same genre (e.g., mysteries and adventure stories) on their approaches to similar themes and topics.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.9 – Compare and contrast texts in different forms or genres (e.g., stories and poems; historical novels and fantasy stories) in terms of their approaches to similar themes and topics.

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Additionally, standard 10 requires that students read a range of quality complex texts. In order to meet this standard, students will need to recognize the defining characteristics of each genre and subgenre to which they will be exposed. Here is the list of genres and subgenres to which students in grade k-5 are expected to be exposed, and here is the list of genres and subgenres for grades 6-12.

Click Here to Return to the Overview of Common Core Aligned Unit Plans

Point of View Unit and Lesson Plans

When analyzing point of view in literature, we are primarily concerned with the point of view of the narrator. In other words, we want to know from whose perspective the story is told and how this perspective influences the story. This understanding can lead to higher level discussions and analyses: we can question the reliability of the narrator; conduct psychoanalytical, Marxist, or feminist critiques on the narrator and what he or she chooses to reveal or not reveal; and we can re-imagine the story from the perspective of other characters. But, much like the task of Sisyphus, we teachers are constantly scaffolding students up to these higher levels. Students must first be taught to draw a distinction between the author and the narrator, to distinguish between dialogue and narration, and to recognize pronoun case. By the end of this point of view unit, students should be able to accurately determine the perspective of the narrator in any given text: first-person, second-person, third-person objective, third-person limited, or third-person omniscient.

Point of View Unit Plan | Day One

1. To begin this unt, you will need to teach your students about point of view and the relevant terms. In the past, I have taught all relevant terminology in a single point of view lesson. But in my experience, this was too much information for my students to handle in a single sitting. I now break my point of view instruction into two days. On the first day, I teach students this simple point of view lesson. This lesson covers first, second, and third-person perspectives.

2. After the PowerPoint lesson, there is a practice activity. Students read a paragraph of narration from a variety of texts. They must distinguish between dialogue and narration to determine the narrator’s view point. After the practice activity students discuss their answers and explain how they found them.

3. If there is additional time, students may begin working on their point of view homework. In this assignment students read a variety of paragraphs taken from popular novels by Roald Dahl.

Point of View Unit Plan | Day Two

1. Students will learn more about literary point of view by through this second lesson on narrator’s perspective. This lesson teaches the difference between third-person objective, limited, and omniscient narrative modes.

2. After the PowerPoint lesson, students will engage in a practice activity. They will read brief passages projected on the board and determine whether the mode of narration in each is third-person objective, limited, or omniscient. After the practice activity, students will discuss their answers and explain how they reasoned their way through each problem.

3. With the remaining class time, students should begin to complete their point of view homework. There are many point of view worksheets on that page. Some are double-sided on a single page, and some are double-sided on two pages. Choose an appropriate amount of work for your class, distribute it after the lesson and practice activity, and use any remaining

Point of View Unit Plan | Day Three

1. After two days of direct instruction, students are ready to practice their skills in an activity that is centered around them. Give them a class period to complete one of the following point of view activities:
Point of View Manual – Students create review booklets where they demonstrate narration from a variety of perspectives and define each point of view term.
Point of View Comic Strip Project – Students create comic strips showcasing different narrative view points.
Point of View Flash Cards – Students create flash cards with an example of the mode of narration on one side and the definition on the other.

2. You may wish to assign additional point of view homework.

Point of View Unit Plan | Day Four

Your students may be ready for assessment. If they are, move along to the plans for day five. If they are not, give them another day of practice following these plans:

1. Students should begin class with more practice identifying the narrator’s view point. If you have access to computers, you may want to save a tree and have them complete one of these online point of view practice activities. Here are five interactive point of view practice activities. If you do not have access to computers, you may want to assign students this point of view review activity. In this activity students pass around baskets of books in small groups. They may work collaboratively to correctly identify the point of view in each text and explain their answers. You’ll have to provide your own books of course. In choosing these books, try to select titles that have a consistent view point throughout. Have a discussion about the answers that students selected after the activity is complete.

2. Assign students additional point of view homework, and inform them that they will be tested on their ability to determine the author’s view point tomorrow.

Point of View Unit Plan | Day Five

1. Begin class with these point of view review questions. Students will examine each paragraph and determine the point of view of the narrator. This will give students one more opportunity to practice this skill and review key vocabulary before they are assessed.

2. As you distribute testing materials, you may want to provide students with a few minutes to review their notes and quiz each other before testing begins.

3. Students should complete one of these two point of view tests. There are two forms for each test, so that you may stagger forms between rows and prevent students from copying of each other. This test will conclude the point of view unit.

Common Core State Standards Related to Point of View

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.6 – Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Expand to View All Common Core State Standards Related to Point of View

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.6 – With prompting and support, name the author and illustrator of a story and define the role of each in telling the story.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.6 – Identify who is telling the story at various points in a text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2.6 – Acknowledge differences in the points of view of characters, including by speaking in a different voice for each character when reading dialogue aloud.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.6 – Distinguish their own point of view from that of the narrator or those of the characters.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.6 – Compare and contrast the point of view from which different stories are narrated, including the difference between first- and third-person narrations.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.6 – Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.6 – Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.7.6 – Analyze how an author develops and contrasts the points of view of different characters or narrators in a text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.6 – Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6 – Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6 – Analyze a case in which grasping a point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).

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Click Here to Return to the Overview of Common Core Aligned Unit Plans

Theme and Main Idea Unit Plan

Of all of the materials that I host on this website, I receive the most debate over my materials related to the teaching of theme. The definition of a theme is a constant point of contention. The Wikipedia page covering literary theme reflects these contending definitions. To summarize: one definition, which could be regarded as the “thematic concept,” is when theme refers to a single word or short phrase related to the topic, subject, or concept of a text (such as betrayal or the value of inquisitiveness). The other definition, which could be regarded as the “thematic statement,” is when theme refers to a message expressed about the world outside of the text, or the text’s thesis (such as honesty is the best policy or love requires sacrifice). I am awaiting a Common Core State Standards glossary for ELA terms, much like this lovely one that they produced for math, to resolve this debate. In the mean time, I have been functioning under our ISAT glossary (ISAT is the high-stakes test for which we have been preparing students prior to 2014), which defines theme and author’s message as follows:

Theme – Life lesson, meaning, moral, or message about life or human nature that is communicated by a literary work.

Author’s message – The main idea, theme, or lesson the author wants to communicate to the reader.

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Since I have been functioning under these definitions, my theme materials teach theme as “thematic statement.” If this suits your needs, I am pleased to hear it. If it does not, well, perhaps these materials may be better applied to a unit on inferences. Here are my unit plans on teaching theme and main idea:

Theme and Main Idea Unit Plan | Day One

Theme and main idea, though similar concepts, apply to different genres. The term theme applies to literature or works of fiction. The term main idea pertains to works of nonfiction; however, identifying each requires the reader to understand the text as a whole and make an inference as to the meaning of the text, so I chunk these units of instruction. I begin by teaching my students about theme on day one of this unit.

1. Students take notes on this PowerPoint lesson covering theme. They learn that theme refers to an idea that is larger than the text itself and learn some strategies to help them identify or think about theme.

2. Students will read very short stories at the end of the slide show. They will attempt to determine the theme or message of each story. They will discuss their responses and support them with evidence from the text.

3. Students will complete the following theme homework. They will read short stories, determine the theme or message of each story, and explain their responses.

Theme and Main Idea Unit Plan | Day Two

1. Students will take notes on this main idea lesson. The lesson is short but offers tips on how to identify the main idea of a nonfiction text.

2. Students will complete the main idea practice problems at the end of the lesson. After working on the problems individually, they will share their responses and discuss how they arrived at their conclusions.

3. Students will complete this main idea homework assignment where they read seven nonfiction passages, express the main idea of each passage, and think of an appropriate title for the passage related to the main idea. I find that lazy students often look at the first and / or last sentence of the paragraph and attempt to determine the main idea. These paragraphs were deliberately written to discourage that behavior.

Theme and Main Idea Unit Plan | Day Three

1. Students can begin class by reviewing literary theme. I use some theme worksheets if I felt that students needed a lot more practice with this skill. Otherwise, I might assign a short story from the textbook and have them write a few paragraphs explaining the theme of the story and supporting their answers with information from the text. You may also want them to review the other skills that they studied: author’s purpose, genre and subgenre, and point of view.

2. If students finish early, they should complete this main idea homework. I suggest that you choose either main idea worksheet 2 or main idea worksheet 3, since you will have already used main idea worksheet 1 if you have been following these plans, and since we haven’t covered text structure yet.

Theme and Main Idea Unit Plan | Day Four

1. You may want to give students more theme or main idea class work to get them warmed up. Alternately, you may want to review yesterday’s assignment more closely and have a class discussion about the stories and their responses.

2. Test students on their ability to read a text and determine the theme and main idea. I do not use a multiple choice test to evaluate students on this skill. Rather, I assign readings either from the text or from outside works. Students read these texts and write an extended response about the theme or main idea of the work. This concludes the theme and main idea unit; however, we are not done with this skill by any means. Now that they have learned about theme and main idea, they will be expected to determine the theme or main idea of every text that they study.

Common Core State Standards Related to Theme and Main Idea

Standards Related to Theme

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2 – Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9 – Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Expand to View All Common Core State Standards Related to Theme and Main Idea

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.2 – Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2.2 – Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.2 – Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.9 – Compare and contrast the themes, settings, and plots of stories written by the same author about the same or similar characters (e.g., in books from a series).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.2 – Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.9 – Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics (e.g., opposition of good and evil) and patterns of events (e.g., the quest) in stories, myths, and traditional literature from different cultures.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.2 – Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.9 – Compare and contrast stories in the same genre (e.g., mysteries and adventure stories) on their approaches to similar themes and topics.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.2 – Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.5 – Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.7.2 – Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.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.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2 – Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2 – Determine two or more themes or 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 produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.

Common Core State Standards Related to Main Idea

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.2 – Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.6 – Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.2 – Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.2 – Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.2 – Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.6.2 – Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.2 – Determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.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.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2 – Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

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Click Here to Return to the Overview of Common Core Aligned Unit Plans

Characterization Unit and Lesson Plans

Every story has characters, or at least a character, so no matter what story we are reading, we can always have a discussion about these characters. We can discuss characters within a single story, or extend the discussion to compare and contrast characters from multiple texts. In the course of these discussions, it is helpful if we have a shared vocabulary. When I teach characterizations (how character traits are revealed), I am mainly concerned with students understanding the difference between explicit and implicit characterizations. I want them to know that explicit or direct characterizations are those revealed directly by the narrator and that implicit or indirect characterizations are revealed by the actions of the characters. This is the easy part of the unit. The difficult part is helping students develop a descriptive vocabulary appropriate for their grade level, so that they can describe a character as malevolent, mischievous, or morose and not just bad. Though it would also be useful for students to learn about static and dynamic characters, antagonists and protagonists, and character motivations, the materials in this unit are mainly focused on implicit and explicit characterizations.

Characterizations Unit Plan | Day One

1. Students will take notes on this characterization lesson. They will learn the difference between direct and indirect characterizations.

2. After the PowerPoint lesson, there are five example paragraphs where character traits are revealed either directly or indirectly. Students read each paragraph, identify the character traits that are being revealed, and determine whether these traits are revealed directly or indirectly.

3. Students will complete this indirect character traits worksheet for homework. In this activity students define ten fairly simple character trait words (you may want to substitute character trait words that are more appropriate for your students). Then they create an example of how a character might demonstrate each trait.

Characterizations Unit Plan | Day Two

1. Begin class by reviewing the homework from last night’s homework. Some of your students may have thought of some interesting behaviors to demonstrate those character traits. Alternately, you may prefer to begin class with a short read aloud from a picture book. This read aloud should lead into a review discussion direct and indirect characterizations used in the text.

2. Seat students in groups and have them work on this characterizations group project. There are multiple roles and each should be explained before students are allow to work in their groups. Students will define challenging character trait words, create illustrations representing the meaning of each word, and explain how each illustration demonstrates the character trait. Each group will be working on a different list of words, so you may want to add the task of reporting back to the class. As with the last assignment, feel free to substitute character trait words that are more appropriate for your students.

3. Assign students an appropriate text and have them complete this characterization homework. Students will choose one character to analyze, identify one of his or her implicit character traits, and cite three specific instances from the text where this trait is revealed. They will quote the text, create an image representing the event, and explain how these events demonstrate the character trait.

Characterizations Unit Plan | Day Three

1. If you reviewed homework at the start of class yesterday, you should begin today’s class with a read aloud. Select a short picture book and read it to your students. After you finish, or perhaps during the story, review characterizations and discuss how characters are developed in the story. If you began class with a read aloud yesterday, today you should review the homework from last night. Your artistic students may have created some illustrations worthy of attention, and this would be a great opportunity for them to share their hard work while reviewing characterizations with your students.

2. Students should work on this characterization project. Students will select twenty-five words from this list of character traits. They will define each word and describe behavior that would reveal each character trait. Most students will need more than one class period to complete this activity. You may give them an additional day to complete this project or have the finish it for homework.

Characterizations Unit Plan | Day Four

1. Students will be evaluated on their understanding of characterizations. They should read an appropriate selection from the text and create an extended response.

2. You may use a variation of the following prompt: Analyze a character from the text and identify how three of his or her traits are indirectly revealed. Write a paragraph for each of these character traits and explain how these traits are revealed using text to support your argument. Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence and argue your point completely.

This test concludes the characterization unit.

Common Core State Standards Related to Characterizations

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.3 – Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

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CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.3 – With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.3 – Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2.3 – Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2.7 – Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.3 – Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.3 – Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.3 – Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.3 – Describe how a particular story’s or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.7.3 – Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.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.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3 – Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3 – Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).

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Figurative Language Unit and Lesson Plans

Evaluating students on their ability to identify and distinguish figurative language techniques is a perennial favorite of those who write standardized tests. This is due to the relatively objective nature of the study, in that a sentence either is or is not simile. Fortunately, I have created a wealth of resources to help students understand and identify figurative language techniques.

It is important to note that I draw a distinction between the figurative language techniques (simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole, and understatement) and poetic devices (alliteration, assonance, consonance, onomatopoeia, repetition, rhythm, and rhyme). These concepts are often tested side-by-side, but they are distinct enough to warrant separate units of instruction. I find that my students learn more effectively when I do not overload them and when I give them sufficient time to practice and review each skill.

Figurative Language Unit Plan | Day One

1. Students take notes on this figurative language lesson. They begin to understand the distinction between figurative and literal language and become exposed to five figurative language techniques: simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole and understatement.

2. The PowerPoint presentation contains a practice activity after the instruction portion. Students analyze ten instances of figurative language and discuss whether each is an example of simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole, or understatement. Students should discuss their answers after they have completed the activity.

3. Students should complete one of these figurative language homework assignments. There are quite a few from which to choose and I will continue updating and adding content to this page.

Figurative Language Unit Plan | Day Two

1. Begin class by having students write down this flow chart explaining how to identify figurative language. I made a video about this too, which you may show students in lieu of explaining it yourself.

Figurative Language Unit Plan | Day Two

1. Begin class by having students write down this flow chart explaining how to identify figurative language. I made a video about this too, which you may show students in lieu of explaining it yourself.

2.

Common Core State Standards Related to Figurative Language

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4 – Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

Expand to View All Common Core State Standards Related to Figurative Language

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.4 – Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.4 – Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including those that allude to significant characters found in mythology (e.g., Herculean).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.4 – Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.4 – Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.7.4 – Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.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.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4 – Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4 – Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)

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147 Comments

  1. Mia Schuk

     /  January 25, 2017

    Thank you so much for posting! I am a student teacher and have never taught junior classes. This is extremely helpful! Thank you very much!

    Reply
  2. Nancy

     /  January 18, 2017

    These resources are amazing! Thank you for sharing. My screen only shows a day and the beginning of a second day for the figurative Language Unit. Can you inform me where to find the remainder?

    Reply
  3. Jae

     /  December 3, 2016

    Thank you so much! I am a home school parent of an 8th grader – Your lesson plan has provided a nice way to navigate through LA/reading this year!

    Reply
  4. Megan Barbu

     /  October 3, 2016

    I love your units, thanks for sharing!! 🙂

    Also when I click the link for the thematic statements, I don’t see them. Any help with this would be great!!

    Reply
    • I don’t know exactly where that link was supposed to go. I haven’t looked at that page in years. I should probably finish writing it someday. In the meantime, I fixed the dead link to go here. I hope that helps. Best wishes!

      Reply
  5. Ginger

     /  September 18, 2016

    Wonderful resources! Thank you for sharing. There is so much and I found a lot to use with my resource students. Thanks again.

    Reply

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