Unit 2: 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.
In this unit, second graders 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.
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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)
This assessment accompanies this unit and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.
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Download Cold Read Assessment
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Suggestions for how to prepare to teach this unit
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The central thematic questions addressed in the unit or across units
A priority of this unit is modeling how to read a text with the right expression, volume, and intonation to match the interpretation of the passage. All of the stories should be read aloud with an emphasis on using strategies of fluent reading to bring the characters and events to life. When reenacting and retelling a story, students should also use the same expression and intonation to bring the story to life.
Specific skills to focus on when giving feedback on writing assignments
Over the course of the unit, students focus on the power of a single sentence. While students continue to get feedback on using complete sentences, they also use the prompts of when, where, and why to add more details to simple sentences. For students who are still struggling to write complete sentences, we recommend using our guide Sentence-Level Feedback and Support to provide individual and small-group feedback throughout the unit.
In Unit 1, students began writing narrative stories with a strong beginning, middle, and end. In this unit, students continue to work on brainstorming and writing stories, specifically trickster tales, that have a strong beginning, middle, and end. Students also are challenged to think about the different ways they can describe a character’s actions, thoughts, and feelings.
Literary terms, text-based vocabulary, idioms and word parts to be taught with the text
To see all the vocabulary for Unit 2, 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.
— 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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