Altruism and Interconnectedness in Short Texts

Students explore the individual’s responsibility to society and the ways in which all humans are interconnected through excerpts from several texts, letters, poems, short stories and articles. 



Unit 1

10th Grade

Unit Summary

“All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. 
Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until 
you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what
 I ought to be...This is the inter-related structure of reality.” - Martin Luther King, Jr. (A Letter from Birmingham Jail)

In Unit 1, students will explore the ways in which humans are interconnected. Throughout the unit, students will engage in Close Reading of nonfiction including essays, letters, and book excerpts to explain how the rhetorical features of an argument contribute to its effect and meaning. More specifically students will: 

  • Identify the rhetorical situation in a text and explain how a writer’s choices reflect the rhetorical situation 
  • Explain an audience’s beliefs, values, or needs
  • Identify and explain the overarching thesis of an argument 
  • Identify and explain the claims and evidence within an argument

In addition, students will read one short story and one poem in this unit with a focus on analyzing how the narrative perspective or speaker’s perspective reveals central ideas in a work of literature. Additionally, students will synthesize ideas from across multiple texts and explain how the texts collectively convey different perspectives on interconnectedness. Students will also write analytical paragraphs in this unit in which they unpack how an author’s rhetorical choices and style reflect the components of the rhetorical situation.

This unit starts with an introduction to the course Essential Questions around interconnectedness, where students begin to explore what the individual’s responsibility to society is and the ways in which all humans are interconnected despite their differences. To introduce this concept, the unit begins with an excerpt from SuperFreakonomics and Justice setting a foundation from which students should analyze the various prose, poetry, and nonfiction that follow: John Updike’s “A&P,” William Wordsworth’s “The World is Too Much with Us,” an excerpt from Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” John Lewis’s “Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation,” and “A Call for Unity by Eight White Clergymen.” Please note that most of students’ work will be in the nonfiction genre, working with excerpts from books and letters. As students move from 9th to 10th grade, students will gain more exposure to nonfiction in preparation for 11th grade whose curriculum and units are 50 percent nonfiction. 

By reading the plethora of texts selected, students in 10th grade English will establish their thematic foundation for the year: Interconnectedness and Social Responsibility: Literature of Society. These texts will help students to define interconnectedness, identify the key characteristics of someone who is selfless and altruistic, and establish the lens through which they study and analyze most texts throughout the year.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials


This assessment accompanies Unit 1 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Key Knowledge

Essential Questions


  • What is the individual’s responsibility to society? 
  • In what ways are all humans interconnected? 
  • What motivates people to act in the best interest of others? Is it altruism or self-interest? 


  • How do authors develop complex arguments? 


In order to successfully teach this unit, you must be intellectually prepared at the highest level, which means reading and analyzing all unit texts before launching the unit and understanding the major themes the authors communicate through their texts. By the time your students finish reading this text, they should be able to articulate and explain the major themes the authors communicate through their texts related to the following thematic topics as they uncover them organically through reading, writing, and discourse. While there is no one correct thematic statement for each major topic discussed in the unit texts, there are accurate (evidence-based) and inaccurate (non–evidence-based) interpretations of what the authors are arguing. Below are some exemplar thematic statements:

  • Interconnectedness and power: When individuals unify, they collectively have more power to achieve goals than they otherwise would if they were working to achieve them individually.     
  • Justice, resistance, and rebellion: Rebelling against the norm and resisting what is unethical often are the results of standing up for what is right, even if one is alone in the fight. 
  • Altruism and selflessness: To be truly altruistic, one must think beyond themselves and outside of themselves, responding to what is in the best interest of others. 



Proteus Triton admonish beget catapult contentious constructive cognizant delinquency elegy exploitation existential forlorn forbearance galosh haggling incorrigible incite latent languish nubble paradoxical racy rabid reciprocity repudiate saunter sanction sanctimonious scintillating sovereignty sordid substantive unfettered

Literary Terms

allusion analogy couplet deductive reasoning juxtaposition parallelism quatrain rhetorical situation sonnet

To see all the vocabulary for Unit 1, view our 10th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Notes for Teachers

Unit 1 features some historical texts such as “A Call to Unity” and “Letter from Birmingham Jail” that highlight the segregation and racism that was pervasive in the United States of America during the 1950s and 1960s. Subsequent texts integrate ideas of interconnectedness, altruism, apathy. We strongly believe that these texts, despite the maturity of the content, are meaningful and appropriate for high school students, so long as proper guidance and support are provided around how to discuss and handle these topics. No matter the racial, gender, sexual, and ethnic identities of your students, this unit will undoubtedly spark difficult—and important—conversations. Students may have strong emotional reactions to the content. As always, it is important to consider the knowledge and diverse experiences your students bring with them to your classroom.  

Lesson Map

Common Core Standards

Core Standards


Supporting Standards


Pre-AP English Standards

Core Standards

LO 1.1A
LO 1.2A
LO 1.2B
LO 1.3A
LO 1.3A
LO 1.3B
LO 1.3B
LO 1.4A
LO 1.4A
LO 1.4B
LO 1.4B
LO 2.2A
LO 2.2B
LO 2.2C
LO 2.2D
LO 2.3A
LO 2.3B
LO 2.3C
LO 2.3D
LO 3.3A
LO 5.1A
LO 5.1B

Unit 2

Censorship, Truth & Happiness in Fahrenheit 451

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