Analyzing Figurative Language, Word Choice, Structure and Meaning: Bud, Not Buddy and Steve Jobs’ Commencement Address | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G6:M2A:U1

Analyzing Figurative Language, Word Choice, Structure and Meaning: Bud, Not Buddy and Steve Jobs’ Commencement Address

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Unit 1 begins with a launch of the novel Bud, Not Buddy, with a focus on character development and the author's use of language. Students will get to know Bud by looking at the challenges he faces and his response to those challenges. They will read excerpts of the novel closely to interpret figurative language and explain how Bud's use of figurative language and his word choice affect tone and meaning.

Another view into Bud's character is his "Rules to Live By," which students will analyze: They will consider what various rules mean, determine whether specific rules are meant to help him survive or thrive, and make an inference about where the rule might have originated (in terms of Bud's experiences). In the mid-unit assessment, students will read a new excerpt from the novel: They will determine the meaning of a simile used by the author, examples of word choices the author makes, and analyze a new a "rule" of Bud's.

In the second half of the unit, students continue their exploration of the idea of "rules to live by" through close reading of real-world examples: speeches. Through a series of reading cycles, students identify Steve Jobs' "rules to live by" that he articulates in his commencement address at Stanford University. They analyze how structure and word choice add to the meaning of Jobs' ideas. Finally, students use a focusing question and important details to form an evidence-based claim about the speech. (The lessons related to the Steve Jobs speech are adapted from Odell Education.) Students will then apply these same skills of analyzing text structure and word choice to the end of unit assessment, in which they read Barack Obama's Back-to-School Speech.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • What are rules to live by?
  • How do people communicate these "rules"?
  • How does figurative language and word choice affect the tone and meaning of a text?
  • People develop "rules to live by" through their own life experience.
  • These "rules to live by" are communicated through a variety of literary modes.
  • An author's word choice affects the tone and meaning of a text.

Content Connections

  • This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read literature and informational text about rules to live by and also touches on the era of the Great Depression. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies key ideas and themes to support potential interdisciplinary connections to this compelling content. These intentional connections are described below.
  • Big Ideas and Guiding Questions are informed by the New York State Common Core K-8 Social Studies Framework.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
Bud, Not Buddy
by Christopher Paul Curtis
One per student
ISBN: 978-0440413288, 043940200X


Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • As students consider the idea of "rules to live by," a number of options for experts are possible. Consider bringing in guests from a variety of walks of life to share their own life "rules" based on the experiences they have had. (It will be important to discuss the nature of the rules and experiences with each expert before he or she shares them with students.) Examples include: the school guidance counselor, family members of students, high school or college students who previously attended your school and have succeeded, local business owners, other teachers, etc.


  • Consider taking students to a local event in which they can see a speech being delivered. Discuss the impact (or lack of impact) of oratory in place of written text. (This also connects to Module 2A, Unit 3 and Module 4.)


  • Students can develop plans for service relating to their own "rules to live by." For example, if a student's rule relates to the environment, he or she can volunteer for a local litter pickup. If there is a common theme across the class, students may want to participate as a group.
  • Students can share their "life lessons" with younger students.


  • A study of notable individuals, both current and historical, for whom students develop a list of "rules to live by" ("Nelson Mandela's Rules to Live By ..." for example).

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