Alternate Unit 3: 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
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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Book: The Adventures of Spider: West African Folktales by Joyce Cooper Arkhurst (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 1992)
Play: Anansi's Feast: A West African Trickster Tale
Assessment Text: “Anansi's Party Time” by Eric Kimmel and illustrated by Janet Stevens ( Holiday House)
These assessments accompany this unit and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.
Download Content Assessment
Download Content Assessment Answer Key
Download Cold Read Assessment
Download Cold Read Assessment Answer Key
Suggestions for how to prepare to teach this unit
Prepare to teach this unit by immersing yourself in the texts, themes, and core standards. Unit Launches include a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning.
The central thematic questions addressed in the unit or across units
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.
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.
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.
Literary terms, text-based vocabulary, idioms and word parts to be taught with the text
To see all the vocabulary for Unit 8, view our 2nd Grade Vocabulary Glossary.
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.
Fishtank ELA units related to the content in this unit.
Explain why people in West Africa tell folktales about Spider by making inferences about key details that support the central message of a story.
Describe Spider by describing how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
Discussion & Writing
Recount “How Spider Got a Thin Waist” and determine the central message or lesson.
Retell “Why Spider Lives in Ceilings” and determine the central message or lesson.
Construct better and more informative sentences by using question words to add more details.
Explain if Spider had been helpful or not by explaining how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
Retell “How Spider Got a Bald Head” and determine the central message or lesson.
Retell “How Spider Helped a Fisherman” and determine the central message or lesson.
Explain what lesson Spider learned and how he learned it by recounting stories and determining their central lesson.
Retell “Why Spiders Live in Dark Corners” including the central message or lesson.
Explain why Spider decided to throw the pot on the ground by describing how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
Retell “How the World Got Wisdom” and determine the central message or lesson.
Argue if Spider has more positive or negative traits by defending claims or opinions to content-related questions.
Perform a reader’s theater version of Anansi by reading with sufficient accuracy and fluency.
Brainstorm a trickster tale featuring Spider by planning to write a narrative that includes details about a beginning, middle, and end.
Use details to describe a character’s actions, thoughts, and feelings in a narrative.
Revise writing using adjectives to make sentences more interesting.
Edit narrative writing to use an apostrophe to form contractions and frequently occurring possessives.
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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 adjectives and adverbs, and choose between them depending on what is to be modified.
— Produce, expand, and rearrange complete simple and compound sentences (e.g., The boy watched the movie; The little boy watched the movie; The action movie was watched by the little boy).
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
— Use an apostrophe to form contractions and frequently occurring possessives.
— Use words and phrases acquired through conversations, reading and being read to, and responding to texts, including using adjectives and adverbs to describe (e.g., When other kids are happy that makes me happy).
— Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
— Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
— Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
— Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.
— Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
— Describe how words and phrases (e.g., regular beats, alliteration, rhymes, repeated lines) supply rhythm and meaning in a story, poem, or song.
— Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action.
— Compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story (e.g., Cinderella stories) by different authors or from different cultures.
— Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 2 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
— Recount or describe key ideas or details from a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.
— Tell a story or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking audibly in coherent sentences.
— Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply reasons that support the opinion, use linking words (e.g., because, and, also) to connect opinion and reasons, and provide a concluding statement or section.
— Write narratives in which they recount a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure.
— With guidance and support from adults and peers, focus on a topic and strengthen writing as needed by revising and editing.
Standards that are practiced daily but are not priority standards of the unit
— Compare formal and informal uses of English.
— Use sentence-level context as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
— By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories and poetry, in the grades 2—3 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
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