Unit 1: 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.
“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:
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.
Please Note: Over the course of the 2023–24 school year, the Fishtank team will be revising the 10th Grade ELA units to refine the sequence of texts we offer and provide deeper, more aligned support for teachers and students. The complete revised 10th Grade ELA course will be available for the 2024–25 school year.
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Letter: “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Public Statement: “A Call for Unity” by Alabama Clergymen
Essay: “Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation” by John Lewis
Short Story: “A&P” by John Updike
Excerpt: SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (Chapter 3)
Excerpt: Justice by Michael J. Sandel
Excerpt: Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Klimmerer (pp. 105-117)
Poem: “The World is Too Much With Us” by William Woodsworth (Poetry Foundation)
This assessment accompanies Unit 1 and should be
given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the
Download Socratic Seminar
Download Performance Task
Download Free Response Question
The central thematic questions addressed in the unit or across units
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:
Literary terms, text-based vocabulary, idioms and word parts to be taught with the text
To see all the vocabulary for Unit 1, view our 10th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.
Notes to help teachers prepare for this specific unit
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.
Synthesize ideas from excerpts from Justice and SuperFreakonomics to formulate an argument about altruism.
Determine the audience's needs, values, and beliefs in John Lewis’s farewell essay and examine the rhetorical strategies that compel his audience to action.
Identify and analyze the rhetorical situation and key diction choices in “A Call for Unity.” Craft an argument about the extent to which the public statement is ethical.
Analyze how King’s rhetorical strategies address his audience’s needs, values, and beliefs.
Analyze how King achieves his authorial purpose by identifying and interpreting his rhetorical strategies.
Assessment: Free Response
Analyzes the rhetorical choices that Lewis or King makes to convey his message about the importance of unifying in response to injustice.
Analyze Sammy’s characterization and narrative perspective to unpack central ideas in “A&P.”
Analyze the speaker’s perspective and poetic form to convey central ideas about interconnectedness in “The World is Too Much with Us.”
Analyze how the author uses the juxtaposition between "The Pledge of Allegiance" and the Thanksgiving address to convey central ideas about gratitude and interconnectedness in the excerpt from Braiding Sweetgrass.
Assessment: Socratic Seminar
Formulate and share unique arguments about meaning across Unit 1 texts. Support arguments with strong and thorough textual evidence in a summative Socratic Seminar.
Assessment: Performance Task – 4 days
Complete the performance task to show mastery of unit content and standards.
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The content standards covered in this unit
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
— Use parallel structure.
— Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
— Write and edit work so that it conforms to the guidelines in a style manual (e.g., MLA Handbook, Turabian's Manual for Writers) appropriate for the discipline and writing type.
— Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
— Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
— Analyze in detail how an author's ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).
— Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.
— Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
— Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
— Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
— Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
— Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9—10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
— Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
— Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
— Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
— Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience's knowledge level and concerns.
— Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.
— Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.
— Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
— Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
— Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience's knowledge of the topic.
— Use appropriate and varied transitions to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.
— Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of the topic.
— Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
— Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented (e.g., articulating implications or the significance of the topic).
Standards that are practiced daily but are not priority standards of the unit
— Analyze a wide range of texts for multiple meanings.
— Analyze the development of an argument, evaluating its central claim(s), the soundness of the reasoning, and the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
— Explain how the rhetorical features of an argument contribute to its effect and meaning.
— Analyze how literary elements interact to develop the central ideas of a work of literature.
— Analyze how the
writer's use of stylistic elements contributes to a work of literature's effects and meaning.
— Explain the relationship between a text and its historical or cultural context.
— Synthesize ideas from multiple texts and explain how
the texts may convey different perspectives on a common theme or idea.
— Assert a precise central claim.
— Develop a line of sound reasoning and choose an organizing structure to convey that reasoning to the reader.
— Support a claim by selecting and incorporating evidence that is relevant, sufficient, and convincing.
— Recognize and address counterclaims effectively.
— Assert a precise central claim that establishes the relationship between a work's features and overall meaning.
— Organize ideas and evidence to effectively develop and support a thesis.
— Select and incorporate relevant and compelling evidence to support a thesis.
— Use an appropriate style and carefully selected language to strengthen an analysis.
— Compose or revise language to ensure sentences are grammatically correct and that their internal structures provide clarity.
— Extend the conversation around an idea, topic, or text
by formulating questions and recognizing the claims and perspectives of others.
— Cite relevant evidence and evaluate the evidence presented by others.
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