Building Background Knowledge: Taking a Stand | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M2A:U1

Building Background Knowledge: Taking a Stand

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In Unit 1, students will be introduced to the module's theme of taking a stand by reading several speeches given by real people who stand up for a cause to better others. These speeches include Shirley Chisholm's "Equal Rights for Women" and Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?" For both speeches, students will analyze the central idea and supporting details, how the structure contributes to the meaning and style, the speaker's claims and supporting evidence, and how the speaker addresses counterclaims. The mid-unit assessment centers on excerpts from Lyndon Johnson's "The Great Society" speech, and addresses NYS CCLS RI.8.2, RI.8.5, and RI.8.6.

Following the mid-unit assessment, students will begin reading the module's central text, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. The novel is launched with a highly scaffolded reading of the first chapter and building several strong reading routines (including taking structured notes and an explicit focus on vocabulary work) that will support students in successfully reading this rich text across both Units 1 and 2. As students read Part 1 of the novel, they will gather text evidence related to the theme of taking a stand. They also will consider how the author draws upon the Golden Rule and renders it new. They will analyze several poems related to the Golden Rule, comparing and contrasting the structure of each poem and the narrative arc of chapters of the novel, analyzing how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style. Finally, students will examine allusions to other texts within the novel. In the end of unit assessment, students will demonstrate their understanding of the Golden Rule theme, allusions to other texts, and how text structure develops meaning.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How does taking a stand in small ways show integrity?
  • Is it worth taking a stand for one's self? For others?
  • Authors use the structure of texts to create style and convey meaning.
  • Authors use allusions to layer deeper meaning in the text.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies and Science content that many teachers may be teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.

Theme 1: Individual Development and Cultural Identity

  • The role of social, political, and cultural interactions supports the development of identity.
  • Personal identity is a function of an individual's culture, time, place, geography, interaction with groups, influences from institutions, and lived experiences.

Theme 5: Development and Transformation of Social Structures

  • Role of social class, systems of stratification, social groups, and institutions
  • Role of gender, race, ethnicity, education, class, age, and religion in defining social structures within a culture
  • Social and political inequalities
  • Expansion and access of rights through concepts of justice and human rights


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
To Kill a Mockingbird (Film Adaptation)
by Based on the novel by Harper Lee
To Kill A Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
One per student
ISBN: 978-0446314862, 0446314862


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


Invite local people with firsthand experiences with civil rights causes to speak about their experiences.


Take the class to a local museum or monument dedicated to a person who took a stand. Conduct research about that person and the impact of taking a stand on the person's life or the community.


Lead students to research a need in their community for which they can meet a need and live the message of the Golden Rule. Students write a reflection on the research, preparation, and implementation of the project.

Optional Extension

  • With the media specialist, research the Jim Crow era to examine the context in which the novel was written.
  • With the media specialist, research the Harlem Renaissance to compare and contrast the lives of African Americans in the North and South around the time the novel takes place.
  • With parental permission, students could "take a stand" by attending a rally for a cause they believe in and write a reflection to share with the class.
  • Read the Langston Hughes's short story "Thank You, Ma'am" to analyze how the Golden Rule is rendered new in a short story.
  • Listen to "Bridge over Troubled Water" by Simon & Garfunkel and analyze how the Golden Rule is rendered new in a song.
  • Revisit the Gallery Walk photos from the first lesson to conduct short research projects on one of the groups taking a stand (e.g., the women's suffrage movement, the Little Rock Nine and the integration of schools, the eight-hour workday, or anti-war movements).

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