Launching the Performance Task: Thematic Statement and Narrative Prompt | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M3A:U3:L2

Launching the Performance Task: Thematic Statement and Narrative Prompt

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can explain the function of verbals (gerunds, participles, infinitives) in general and their function in particular sentences. (L.8.1a)
  • I can recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb voice and mood. (L.8.1d)
  • I can analyze the development of a theme or central idea throughout the text (including its relationship to supporting ideas). (RI.8.2)

Supporting Targets

  • I can explain the use of verbals in sentences in Unbroken.
  • I can determine thematic statements in Unbroken.
  • I can explain the criteria for this module's performance task.

Ongoing Assessment

  • Unbroken structured notes, pages 381-389 (from homework)
  • Unbroken Thematic Statements handout


AgendaTeaching Notes

1. Opening

A. Engaging the Writer: Language Techniques (10 minutes)

B. Reviewing Learning Targets (1 minute)

2. WorkTime

A. Introducing Thematic Statements (23 minutes)

B. Launching the Performance Task (10 minutes)

3. Closing and Assessment

A. Previewing Homework (1 minute)

4. Homework

A. Read pages 389-398 in Unbroken and complete the structured notes. 

  • As this module comes to a close, students are simultaneously wrapping up their study of Unbroken and launching their final performance task (Narrative Writing: Becoming Visible Again after Internment).
  • First, students build toward the performance task by learning about verb voice and mood; their ability to apply these language skills will be assessed in their final narrative.
  • Students work toward closure with Unbroken by analyzing its overall messages in the form of thematic statements.
  • In advance: Review the model narrative (see supporting materials). As preparation for this lesson, consider scoring this model using the Narrative Writing: Becoming Visible Again after Internment rubric (see supporting materials). Reading and scoring the model will help you become more deeply familiar with the assessment criteria and what may be challenging for your students. This will prepare you to more effectively answer students' questions about the project and the rubric. Students are given this model narrative in Lesson 4, but it will benefit you greatly to analyze it in advance.
  • Post: Learning targets.


thematic concepts, thematic statements, redemption


  • Verbals II handout (one per student and one to display)
  • Document camera
  • Verbals II reference sheet (for teacher reference)
  • Unbroken Thematic Statements handout (one per student)
  • Dictionaries (one per pair of students)
  • Narrative Writing: Becoming Visible Again after Internment handout (one per student)
  • Narrative Writing: Becoming Visible after Again Internment rubric (one per student)
  • Narrative Writing: Becoming Visible Again after Internment Model (one for teacher reference)
  • Unbroken structured notes, pages 389-398 (one per student)
  • Unbroken supported structured notes, pages 389-398 (optional, for students who need more support)
  • Unbroken Structured Notes Teacher Guide, pages 389-398 (for teacher reference)



A. Engaging the Writer: Language Techniques (10 minutes)

  • Ask students to sit with their Marshall Islands partner.
  • Distribute the Verbals II handout and display it using a document camera. Remind students that they learned about verbals in the previous lesson. Read the definition of verbals.
  • Invite students to think about the three types of verbals and jot their answers down on the chart.
  • Then ask them to share their answers with their partner.
  • Cold call pairs to share the three types of verbals and their functions: Gerunds act as nouns; participles act as adjectives; and infinitives can act as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.
  • Ask pairs to work together to identify the verbals in the examples from Unbroken. Circulate to listen in and support as needed; note which students may be struggling with this new language skill.
  • When students finish, display and discuss the correct answers on the Verbals II reference sheet (for teacher reference).

B. Reviewing Learning Targets (1 minute)

  • Read the learning targets aloud as students read along:

*     "I can explain the use of verbals in sentences in Unbroken."

*     "I can determine thematic statements in Unbroken."

*     "I can explain the criteria for this module's performance task."

  • Tell students that in this lesson, they will wrap up their work with Unbroken and begin their work on the performance task. 

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Introducing Thematic Statements (23 minutes)

  • Write the phrase "Thematic Concepts" on the board. Explain that thematic concepts are important topics that come up again and again in a text, like "the invisibility of captives" in Unbroken, and are usually just one word or a short phrase. Write "invisibility" on the board underneath "Thematic Concepts."
  • Ask students to turn and talk about other thematic concepts in the book:

*     "What other important topics come up over and over again in Unbroken?"

  • After a few moments, cold call pairs to share out their ideas. As they share, write their ideas on the board underneath "Thematic Concepts." Listen for: "the violence of war," "overcoming challenges," etc.
  • Invite students to turn and talk:

*     "What messages do you think Laura Hillenbrand wants readers to remember after they read Unbroken, and what makes you think this?"

  • After a few moments, cold call pairs to share out their ideas. Write the ideas on the board as they share. Listen for: "People can overcome challenges if they have faith," "War changes people," etc.
  • On the board, write the title "Thematic Statements" above the list of students' ideas. Explain that messages like these in a text can also be called thematic statements. Say something like:

* "Thematic statements sum up what the author is trying to say about an important concept or idea in a text, and they are usually written as complete sentences."

  • Explain that, although thematic statements are based on the messages in a specific text, they are, ultimately, "bigger" than that text. Thematic statements can apply to many texts and to people's lives. They are not "morals" telling people what to do; they are big ideas about human behavior and values. For example, if students participated in Module 2A and read To Kill a Mockingbird, a thematic statement might be: "Even when one is sure to lose, life sometimes requires taking action for the right."  
  • Choose one student example from the board and explain that, often, students can turn a thematic concept into a thematic statement by writing a sentence that describes the author's message about that concept. Ask:

*     "What is Hillenbrand's message about this thematic concept in Unbroken?"

  • Call on a volunteer to explain, and write his or her example on the board for students to use as a reference during the next activity. (For example, from the ideas listed above, you might choose "the violence of war." A student might say that the thematic statement about "the violence of war" in Unbroken is: "The violence of war is often overlooked or condoned by governments" or "The violence of war continues to affect people long after the war ends.") Point out that determining thematic statements like these requires making inferences. Hillenbrand never explicitly says this sentence about the violence of war, but readers understand her message through the details she includes in her book.
  • Explain that Hillenbrand gave readers a hint about some of the book's thematic concepts in its subtitle. Cold call a student to read the full title of Unbroken aloud: "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption."
  • Ask:

*     "What words in the title could also be considered thematic concepts of Unbroken?"

  • Listen for students to say that "survival," "resilience," and "redemption" could also be thematic concepts of Unbroken, and each has different nuances of meaning. (If they say that "World War II" is a thematic concept, explain that World War II is part of this specific book's setting. Thematic concepts, on the other hand, are big ideas, usually about human behavior or human understanding, that can be applied to different texts, regardless of their settings or subject matter.)
  • Tell students that they now will work together to determine thematic statements (the book's overall messages) about the three thematic concepts listed in Unbroken's subtitle.
  • Distribute the Unbroken Thematic Statements handout. Have students work with their partners to think through the questions on the handout. Circulate while pairs work, reminding them to use the example written on the board for help, providing them with dictionaries if necessary to define redemption, and helping them turn their ideas into full thematic statements.
  • After several minutes, draw students' attention back together and cold call several pairs to share their thematic statements.
  • With three minutes remaining, invite students to turn and talk:

*     "Why do you think Hillenbrand titled this book Unbroken?"

  • Call on volunteers to explain their thinking. Listen for: "Even though Louie went through incredibly difficult obstacles in his life, he remained strong (or resilient). The violence that he endured did not kill or destroy him."
  • If there is time, push the class to consider why Hillenbrand might have chosen the word "unbroken," specifically, rather than a word like "resilient" or "whole." Listen for: "'Unbroken' makes the reader think about what was done to Louie; his captors tried to 'break' him, but it did not work in the long term."
  • Explain that another way to think about Louie's "survival, resilience, and redemption" is to return to the thematic concept of "visibility" students have recently analyzed. Although his captors tried to "break" him and make him "invisible," Louie ended up being unbroken and visible.
  • Invite students to move back to their own seats for the next activity.
  • Consider providing more support to some students by giving them a list of "universal" thematic concepts or thematic statements to consider. (Find examples by doing an Internet search for "thematic concept" or "thematic statement.") Ask them to mark the thematic concepts or statements that apply to Unbroken.
  • These three thematic concepts ("survival," "resilience," and "redemption") offer a simple way to differentiate this activity; struggling readers might focus only on "survival," but more advanced readers could tackle "redemption." Alternatively, consider assigning different thematic concepts to each pair, then giving them additional concepts to work on if they finish faster than other pairs.

B. Launching the Performance Task (10 minutes)

  • Explain that, now that students have considered Louie's journey through the lens of how war affects individuals and societies, they will focus on the other perspective of World War II they have studied: that of Mine Okubo and other Japanese-American internees. Although they do not know as much about Mine as they do about Louie, their final performance task asks them to learn more about the war's effects on her and write creatively about her journey to become visible again after the war.
  • Distribute the Narrative Writing: Becoming Visible Again after Internment handout and the Narrative Writing: Becoming Visible Again after Internment rubric. Tell students to read these documents silently and write down the gist of the task and their questions about it in the margins.
  • After several minutes, cold call students to share their ideas about the gist of the task. Listen for them to say that they have to write the story of how Mine Okubo became visible after being interned during World War II.
  • Then, ask students to explain the standards they will be assessed on. Listen for: "narrative writing skills (a well-organized story with a beginning, middle, and end)," "grammar," "spelling," and "capitalization."
  • Call on students to share their questions about the performance task. Answer as many questions as you can, then tell students that if they still have questions, they can write them on a piece of scrap paper and hand them in to you before the end of class. (See the Narrative Writing: Becoming Visible Again after Internment model for an example of a finished narrative. Note that students will be given a copy of this model in Lesson 4.)
  • Tell students that they will begin working on the performance task in the next lesson. If they have additional questions about the performance task, tell them that you will have time to address those questions during Lesson 3
  • Consider creating a simplified version of the rubric (containing only the "4" column, for example) if you are worried that some students may be overwhelmed by the amount of text on the page. As an alternative, give students the full rubric but tell them to concentrate only on that column.

Closing & Assessments


A. Previewing Homework (1 minute)

  • Distribute the Unbroken structured notes, pages 389-398. Tell students that their homework is to finish reading Unbroken. Remind them that the book's epilogue is crucial to understanding the thematic concept of "becoming visible again," which they will need to understand well so they can write Mine's "becoming visible again" narrative.


  • Read pages 389-398 in Unbroken and complete the structured notes. Focus question: "What statement is Hillenbrand trying to make about resilience? What in the text makes you think this?"

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