Analyzing Characters and How Their Actions Contribute to Theme: Reading and Analyzing The Hope Chest | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA G4:M4:U2

Analyzing Characters and How Their Actions Contribute to Theme: Reading and Analyzing The Hope Chest

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In Unit 2, students continue to read The Hope Chest by Karen Schwabach. As they read chapters of the text in triads, they analyze the meaning of similes, metaphors, idioms, adages, and proverbs, and use relative pronouns and relative adverbs. They also analyze how character actions show evidence of themes and summarize the events in each chapter that show evidence of a theme. For the mid-unit assessment, students read a new chapter of The Hope Chest with their triad and summarize the events in the chapter that show evidence of a theme.

In the second half of the unit, students continue to read chapters of The Hope Chest until they finish it at the end of the unit. Building on their summary writing work from the first half of the unit, they also write a literary essay about a theme in The Hope Chest. For the End of Unit 2 Assessment, students write an on-demand essay about another theme in The Hope Chest, following the same structure used throughout the unit.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • What can we learn from the process of ratifying the 19th Amendment?
  • In 1920, the U.S. Constitution was amended to give women the right to vote; however, this did not allow African American women to vote.
  • When people take action against inequality, they can cause social change.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Analyzing Characters and How Their Actions Contribute to Theme: Reading and Analyzing The Hope Chest
  • Task: For the mid-unit assessment, students read a new excerpt of The Hope Chest and summarize events in the text that show evidence of a theme. For the end of unit assessment, students write an on-demand literary essay about a theme in The Hope Chest.
  • Targets (standards explicitly taught and assessed): RL.4.1, RL.4.2, W.4.2, W.4.4, W.4.6, L.4.1a, L.4.5a and L.4.5b
  • Texts: The Hope Chest


Each unit in the 3-5 Language Arts Curriculum has two standards-based assessments built in, one mid-unit assessment and one end of unit assessment. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize their understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards and to be taught during the literacy block. But the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies content that may align to additional teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.

College, Career, and Civic Life C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards:

  • D2.Civ.2.3-5
  • D2.Civ.12.3-5
  • D2.Civ.14.3-5
  • D2.His.5.3-5
  • D2.His.10.3-5

Habits of Character/Social-Emotional Learning Focus

Central to EL Education's curriculum is a focus on "habits of character" and social-emotional learning. Students work to become effective learners, developing mindsets and skills for success in college, career, and life (e.g., initiative, responsibility, perseverance, collaboration); work to become ethical people by treating others well and standing up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, compassion); and work to contribute to a better world, putting their learning to use to improve communities (e.g., citizenship, service).

In this unit, students continue to work to become ethical people by showing respect, empathy, and compassion for one another as they read about sensitive topics in The Hope Chest.

This unit is approximately 2.5 weeks or 14 sessions of instruction.


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.

Accountable Independent Reading

The ability to read and comprehend text is the heart of literacy instruction. Comprehension is taught, reinforced, and assessed across both components of this curriculum: module lessons and the Additional Language and Literacy Block.

In this unit, students read research texts independently for homework, and engage in frequent research reading shares during the module lesson for accountability.

Supporting English Language Learners

The Meeting Students' Needs column in each lesson contains support for both ELLs and Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and some supports can serve a wide range of student needs. However, ELLs have unique needs that cannot always be met with UDL support. According to federal guidelines, ELLs must be given access to the curriculum with appropriate supports, such as those that are specifically identified as "For ELLs" in the Meeting Students' Needs column.

  • Prioritizing lessons for classrooms with many ELLs: To prepare for the Unit 2 assessments, consider prioritizing and expanding instruction in Lessons 1-3, which establish routines for reading, discussing theme, summarizing, and analyzing similes and metaphors; Lessons 5-6, which include Language Dives; and Lessons 9-13, which establish routines for analyzing and writing a literary essay. If necessary, consider placing less focus and condensing instruction in Lessons 4 and 7, which provide helpful background, practice, and repetition but don't introduce as many new concepts.
  • Language Dives: All students participate in Language Dives in Lessons 5-6. Many lessons also include optional Mini Language Dives for ELLs. These Language Dives support ELLs and all students in deconstructing, reconstructing, and practicing the meaning and structures of sentences from The Hope Chest and the Model Literary Essay: "Do Something Meaningful." Refer to the Tools page for additional information on Language Dives.
  • Conversation Cues: Encourage productive and equitable conversation with Goals 1-4 Conversation Cues (adapted from Michaels, Sarah and O'Connor, Cathy. Talk Science Primer. Cambridge, MA: TERC, 2012. Based on Chapin, S., O'Connor, C., and Anderson, N. [2009]. Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn, Grades K-6. Second Edition. Sausalito, CA: Math Solutions Publications). Refer to the Tools page for additional information on Conversation Cues.
  • Diversity and inclusion: Investigate the routines, practices, rituals, beliefs, norms, and experiences that are important to ELLs and their families. Integrate this background into the classroom as students explore the topics of inequality presented in The Hope Chest, specifically related to racial and gender inequality. Be sensitive to students' experiences and perspectives on these topics, and foster inclusive action by creating space for students to express their feelings about issues embedded in the text, while being aware that these discussions may unearth trauma or social stigma. Consult with a guidance counselor, school social worker, or ESL teacher for further investigation of diversity and inclusion.
  • Similes and metaphors: During the first half of the unit, students build on their understanding of figurative language from Unit 1 as they are introduced to similes and metaphors. Students discuss similes and metaphors present in The Hope Chest, and these class discussions support students' comprehension of the text and prepare them for the Mid-Unit 2 Assessment. Invite ELLs to visualize, sketch, and act out the meaning of similes and metaphors as they encounter them in the text, and encourage students to notice similes and metaphors--and describe their meaning--as they read other texts as well.
  • Relative pronouns and relative adverbs: The Language Dives in the unit support students' understanding of the parts of speech by focusing on relative pronouns and relative adverbs. Students review the Parts of Speech anchor chart, introduced in Module 1, and add to it during the Language Dives in Lessons 5-6. Encourage students to notice relative pronouns and relative adverbs in various sentences discussed throughout the unit, and to use them in their own writing and speaking.
  • Writing literary essays: Students receive explicit instruction in how to craft a literary essay: introductory paragraph including a focus statement with points 1 and 2, two proof paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. Students use the Painted Essay(r) format. Students who are still trying to comprehend the language itself may also need additional support to grasp this organizational structure. Consider enlarging the Model Literary Essay: "Do Something Meaningful" and annotating it as students share the function of each sentence in each paragraph, and keeping it posted throughout the unit for students to reference as they write their own literary essays. Additionally, this essay structure may be different from the text structure students are familiar with in their home languages. Compare and contrast home language text structure whenever possible.
  • Celebration: Celebrate the courage, enthusiasm, diversity, and bilingual assets that ELLs bring to the classroom.

Texts to Buy

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

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
The Hope Chest
by Karen Schwabach
One per student
ISBN: 9780375840968

Preparation and Materials

  • Continue to consider if any students may be sensitive to the issues that this topic raises based on cultural background and family history. Consider explaining to families that students will be reading about and discussing equality, including segregation and women's rights, so that the families can appropriately prepare them.
  • Prepare the technology required for students to word-process their essays in Lessons 10-14, one device per student.
  • Consider working with a technology teacher to help students use word-processing tools to write their essays.
  • The following is an outline of the work students complete in each component of Additional Language and Literacy (ALL) Block in this unit:
  • Additional Work with Complex Text: Students work with an excerpt from Chapter 10 of The Hope Chest where Violet realizes she does really care about the suffrage movement. All students participate in a Language Dive on Day 4, using the relative adverb why to provide additional information about a reason, which helps to address L.4.1a.
  • Reading and Speaking Fluency/GUM: Students are allocated a fluency passage for the week from The Hope Chest. They self-assess their fluency, set goals, and practice reading it. They each read individually with the teacher.
  • Writing Practice: Students write personal reflection paragraphs on themes from The Hope Chest and practice writing conclusions.
  • Word Study and Vocabulary: Students practice using a variety of affixes to make different word forms. They also analyze two academic vocabulary words and their suffixes -ly and -ar (using Vocabulary Trees).
  • Independent Reading: Students build independent reading stamina of both research reading and free choice texts.

Technology and Multimedia

Additional Language and Literacy Block

The Additional Language and Literacy (ALL) Block is 1 hour of instruction per day. It is designed to work in concert with and in addition to the 1-hour Grades 3-5 ELA "module lessons." Taken together, these 2 hours of instruction comprehensively address all the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.

The ALL Block has five components: Additional Work with Complex Text; Reading and Speaking Fluency/GUM (Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics); Writing Practice; Word Study and Vocabulary; and Independent Reading.

The ALL Block has three 2-week units which parallel to the three units of the module.

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


Invite members of the community, family members, or teachers into the classroom to share their personal family histories pertaining to segregation and/or voting rights.


Invite a historian with expertise on voting rights and/or segregation, particularly local history, to come talk with the students about it.


Visit a voting rights and/or segregation exhibition at a local museum.


  • Share PSAs with other classes in the school.
  • Share PSAs with local radio/TV stations.


  • Students research local history about voting rights and/or segregation.
  • Students perform additional service projects in the community and write about what they have done.

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