Analyzing Author’s Purpose and Evaluating Claims in The Omnivore’s Dilemma | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M4:U1

Analyzing Author’s Purpose and Evaluating Claims in The Omnivore’s Dilemma

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In this unit, students analyze authors' and speakers' purposes and evaluate the claims they make. Students begin reading the Young Readers Edition of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (930L), a high-interest literary nonfiction text about where food comes from and how it gets to our plate. As they read the text, they are involved in a study of the author's purpose and how to determine what that is. At the same time, they analyze videos of speeches and interviews on the same topic of food and how it gets to our plate in order to analyze a speaker's purpose. In the second half of the unit, students move on to analyze authors' and speakers' claims and whether they use relevant and sufficient evidence and sound reasoning to support their claims. They also read and listen for the use of irrelevant evidence.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • What journey does food take before it gets to your plate?
  • What is the author's purpose? Why did they write that?
  • Has the author or speaker used sufficient relevant evidence and sound reasoning to support his or her claim?
  • Understanding diverse points of view helps us live in an increasingly diverse society.
  • When putting forward an argument, you need to provide relevant and sufficient evidence to support your claims.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read about the topic of food sustainability in The Omnivore's Dilemma. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies practices 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:

Unifying Themes (pages 6-7)

  • Theme 4: Geography, Humans, and the Environment: The relationship between human populations and the physical world (people, places, and environments); impact of human activities on the environment; interactions between regions, locations, places, people, and environments.
  • Theme 9: Science, Technology, and Innovation: Applications of science and innovations in transportation, communication, military technology, navigation, agriculture, and industrialization.

Social Studies Practices, Geographic Reasoning, Grades 5-8:

  • Descriptor 2: Describe the relationships between people and environments and the connections between people and places (page 58).
  • Descriptor 3: Identify, analyze, and evaluate the relationship between the environment and human activities, how the physical environment is modified by human activities, and how human activities are also influenced by Earth's physical features and processes.

Social Studies Practices, Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence, Grades 5-8:

  • Descriptor 1: Define and frame questions about events and the world in which we live and use evidence to answer these questions.
  • Descriptor 2: Identify, describe, and evaluate evidence about events from diverse sources (including written documents, works of art, photographs, charts and graphs, artifacts, oral traditions, and other primary and secondary sources).
  • Descriptor 4: Describe and analyze arguments of others.
  • Descriptor 6: Recognize an argument and identify evidence that supports the argument; examine arguments related to a specific social studies topic from multiple perspectives; deconstruct arguments, recognizing the perspective of the argument and identifying evidence used to support that perspective.


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
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat, Young Readers Edition
by Michael Pollan
One per student
ISBN: 9781101993835


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


  • Invite local farmers to discuss their farming methods and how the issues that Michael Pollan discusses affects their food production and their livelihood with the students.
  • Invite representatives from grocery stores, including organic and health food stores, to share with students how the issues that Michael Pollan discusses affect their stores and consumers.
  • Invite hunters who hunt to feed their families to share their perspective on hunting with the students.


  • Arrange for a visit to a local grocery store to look at where the produce comes from and the ingredients in different foods.
  • Arrange for a visit to a food processing plant to look at what happens to food in a factory.
  • Arrange for a visit to farms--for example, a local sustainable farm and an industrial farm--to see how food is produced and to compare the different ways things are done. 


Grow a class garden of basic vegetables and herbs and discuss the different ways to grow food--with or without fertilizers and chemicals. If you have the space and time available, students could grow two gardens--one with and one without fertilizers and chemicals--to compare how those things change how food grows.

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