People Who Changed the World

In this unit, students improve reading and writing standards and skills as they explore biographies of famous leaders and change agents.



Alternate Unit 4

2nd Grade

Unit Summary

In this biography-based unit, students explore biographies of changemakers around the world. The unit has three main sections. In the first section, students research and learn about people who have changed the world by inventing or discovering something new. In this section, students will explore how inventions or discoveries can change the world and what it takes to turn an idea into action. 

In the second section, students research and learn about people who have changed the world by making the world and environment a better place for everyone. In the third section, students research and learn about people who have changed the world by standing up for what they believe in and fighting for what others think is impossible. In this section, students will explore the ways some leaders have persevered in the face of obstacles and stood up for themselves or their ideas when many had stopped believing in them. Additionally in this section, students are asked to compare and contrast two biographies about the same person. Compare and contrast in this unit should go deeper than text features and structures. Although students can note differences in text features, the main focus should be on comparing and contrasting the different points and the reasons the authors use to support the points in two texts about the same person.

In each of the sections, students read biographies that expose them to a wide variety of themes, content, and history. Because of this, it is incredibly important that the necessary framing is done before reading a text so that students can deeply engage with the biographies and fully understand the challenges and successes of the different people being studied. Without framing or context, students may miss why each person’s actions are inspirational. It is our hope that this unit will open students’ eyes to the multitude of ways in which a person, regardless of race or gender, can influence and inspire change. 

This unit is a combination of Read Aloud and shared/independent reading. While engaging with the text, students continue to notice the connection between events and how noticing connections helps the reader better understand a person’s actions and influence. Students also build on the work they did in previous units by continuing to explore the author’s purpose for writing a text, and how the author’s purpose influences the types of details they include in the text.

Finally, this unit helps students recognize how reading multiple texts about the same topic helps them learn more about a topic, especially because authors include different facts and details depending on their purpose for writing. When discussing the text, students use all of the strategies they have learned in previous units to participate in partner, small group, or whole class discussions. When building on others’ talk in conversations, students continue to work on linking their comments to the remarks of others and asking questions for clarification or further explanation if needed. Students may also begin to critique and analyze the reasoning of others as they build on and respond to their classmates’ comments. 

Students continue to build their writing fluency by writing daily in response to the Target Task question using subordinating conjunctions to write more complex sentences. Students also have multiple opportunities to continue to build their informational writing skills, with an emphasis on crafting strong paragraphs. Students will learn how to brainstorm and write a paragraph using a single-paragraph outline, crafting strong topic sentences, supporting details, and concluding statements. The unit culminates with students having a chance to continue to refine their research and writing skills by participating in a research project about a local changemaker.

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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 does it take to change the world?
  • Why is it important to speak up for those without a voice?
  • Why is it important to ask questions about the world around you?

Reading Focus Areas

  • Noticing the connection between events helps a reader understand a person's actions.

  • Authors always have a purpose for writing a book. They use the details in the book to convey their purpose.

  • Reading multiple texts about the same topic helps readers learn lots of different details. Authors include different details depending on their purpose.

Writing Focus Areas

Informational Writing

  • Participate in shared research and writing projects.

  • Brainstorm and outline using a Single Paragraph Outline.

  • Introduce the topic with a strong topic sentence

  • Provide a strong concluding statement.

  • Use facts and definitions to support a point.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

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

  • Ask for clarification and further explanation as needed about topics and texts under discussion.



"dark times" "her roots" Indigenous aghast ambition archeologist atom autism catastrophe cautious champion courageous compost dedicated disobey discouraged diabetes empower encourage federal flinched grueling heritage honor hope indefatigable irrigation judge mechanic nagging nominate ozone layer physics poverty prove prejudice precise resourceful reputation right scholarship scarce textiles thrive unsuspecting


-ful dis-


compare contrast

To see all the vocabulary for Unit 4, 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

  • A biography is a text about a person's life that is written by someone else. An autobiography is a text about a person's life written by the person.

Bend 1: You can change the world by inventing or discovering something new.

  • Soichiro Honda worked relentlessly to build motorcycles and cars that were safe and better for the environment.
  • Temple Grandin, who has autism, built a “huge machine” that allows people to control the force and length of a hug.
  • Julio Torres, or Sharuko, was a Peruvian archaeologist who made revolutionary discoveries at archaeological sites around Peru, proving that the country’s Indigenous cultures had been established thousands of years ago and celebrating their brilliant accomplishments.
  • Wu Chien-Shiung was a Chinese physicist who made important discoveries in the field, despite never being recognized because of her gender and race.
  • Charles Henry Turner was the first Black entomologist, teaching us that insects and small animals were thinking beings. 

Bend 2: You can change the world by making the world and environment better for everyone.

  • Wangari Maathai empowered the people of Kenya to take care of themselves and their environment by encouraging them to plant trees.
  • Jane Goodall studied chimps in Tanzania, discovering they were more like humans than we realized. She spoke out against the destruction of their habitats and continues to do so.
  • Mario Molina was a chemist who discovered that CFCs were destroying the earth’s protective ozone layer. He was adamant about warning the public and putting a stop to it.
  • Farmer Will Allen turned an abandoned city lot into an urban farm that would feed people across the city.

Bend 3: You can change the world by standing up for what you believe in and fighting for what others think is impossible.

  • Sonia Sotomayor was the first Latinx Supreme Court justice.
  • Barack Obama was the first Black President of the United States.
  • Malala Yousafzai spoke up for girls and women who were being denied an education.

Lesson Map

Common Core Standards

Core Standards


Supporting Standards

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Unit 3

Belonging and Friendship: Pinky and Rex


Unit 5

Finding Your Power: Freddie Ramos

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