Lessons from Anansi the Spider

Students read, discuss, and write about spider — or Anansi — folktales from West Africa, which have been used for generations to teach lessons about human nature and the consequences of good and bad behavior. 



Alternate Unit 3

2nd Grade

Unit Summary

In this unit, students explore Spider, or Anansi, folktales from West Africa. Folktales have been used for generations to teach important lessons about human nature and the consequences of good and bad behavior in a way that is clear, convincing, and easily relatable. Through reading and learning about Spider, students will be able to debate and analyze what it means to be a good person and the importance of hard work and cooperation. Studying the actions of Spider, a character with whom it is easy to connect and empathize, allows students to begin to develop a sense of moral behavior and understanding of the world around them by learning from the actions of others. It is our hope that this unit, in connection with others in the sequence, will help students begin to develop a strong moral compass and a nuanced understanding of what constitutes right and wrong.

Students continue to study characters in depth in this unit. Students explore how a character’s full personality is made up of a combination of traits, and that understanding a character’s traits helps the reader understand the decisions the character makes. Students also learn how to recount a story, focusing on retelling all the important parts of the story in the right order. Students explore how recounting the story helps them understand what they are reading while also helping them determine the central message of the story. 

When discussing the text, students transition from focusing on clarifying and sharing their own thoughts to engaging with the thinking of others. Students learn how to build on others’ talk in conversations by linking their comments to the remarks of their classmates. They also learn how to ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to clarify their understanding or build a deeper understanding.

Students continue to build their writing fluency by writing daily in response to the text using simple, complete sentences. Students learn additional strategies for elaborating on their sentences, allowing them to show more nuance in their thinking and writing. Students continue to work on writing narrative stories, particularly trickster tales that have a strong beginning, middle, and end, and include specific details and precise words to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings. 

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials


These assessments accompany this unit and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

Unit Launch

Before you teach this unit, unpack the texts, themes, and core standards through our guided intellectual preparation process. Each Unit Launch includes a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning to ensure you're prepared to support every student.

Essential Questions

  • What can folktales teach us about being a good person?

Reading Focus Areas

  • Traits describe a key aspect of a character’s personality; a character’s full personality is made up of a combination of traits; understanding a character’s traits helps the reader understand the decisions they make.

  • Recounting a story means to tell the story again including all the important parts in the right order; recounting stories help us to better understand what we are reading and determine the central message in a story.

Writing Focus Areas

Narrative Writing

  • Brainstorm and develop focused narrative with a beginning, middle, and end.

  • Use details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings.

  • Use adjectives and adverbs to describe characters in more detail.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

  • Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions.

  • Build on others' talk in conversations by linking their comments to the remarks of others.

  • Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to clarify comprehension, gather additional information or deepen understanding of a topic or issue.



appetite ashamed brilliant clever commotion deserve disgrace foolish fool greedy gullible mischievous mourn puny satisfied stalk wisdom wise



To see all the vocabulary for Unit 3, view our 2nd Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Supporting All Students

In order to ensure that all students are able to access the texts and tasks in this unit, it is incredibly important to intellectually prepare to teach the unit prior to launching the unit. Use the intellectual preparation protocol and the Unit Launch to determine which support students will need. To learn more, visit the Supporting all Students teacher tool.

Content Knowledge and Connections

  • Folktales are stories that are passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. Folktales typically teach a lesson about right and wrong.
  • Trickster tales are a type of folktale. Trickster tales have one character who is clever and devious and who often creates problems for the other characters. The trickster character often goes unpunished.
  • Anansi, or Spider, stories originated in West Africa, where they were told by a storyteller. Enslaved people brought Anansi stories to the Caribbean and the U.S., where they evolved and became a symbol of resistance.
  • Anansi, or Spider, is a complicated character: He can be greedy, selfish, naughty, and gullible, but also clever, helpful, and humble.

Lesson Map

Common Core Standards

Core Standards


Supporting Standards

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Unit 2

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Unit 4

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