The Power of Friendship: Charlotte's Web

Students explore the meaning of true friendship by reading E.B. White's classic novel Charlotte's Web, examining its themes, setting, character and language, and learning to develop empathy for others.



Alternate Unit 5

3rd Grade

Unit Summary

In this unit, students will explore the meaning of true friendship by reading Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. Charlotte's Web, a classic novel written in 1952, clearly illustrates how difficult and scary it can be to make a friend, yet how rewarding a true friendship really is. Over the course of the novel, students will consider what it means to be a good friend, whether or not friendship is always easy, and whether or not conflicts and struggle are an important part of strengthening friendships. By deeply connecting with the characters, students will learn about the power of helping others, how creativity and determination can help solve problems, and people can and do change. Students will also begin to understand the cycle of life and beauty, and the emotional responses that come with death through the eyes of Wilbur. It is our hope that this unit, in connection with other units, will provide the foundation for developing empathy and understanding about true friendship and life.

Charlotte's Web was chosen not only because of the strong theme of friendship and life but because it is a classic in children's literature. Charlotte's Web was written in the early 1950s and contains messages and language that are more archaic than other texts in the sequence. Therefore, students will use what they learned in previous units about describing characters, determining messages, and character change to analyze messages, settings, characters, and language that are less familiar and relatable. The text also uses a lot of precise words and phrases to describe characters and settings, allowing students to analyze the author's use of language while practicing how to determine the meaning of literal and nonliteral language in context. 

When discussing the text, students will focus on critiquing and analyzing the reasoning of others. They will use what they learned from previous units on how to clarify and share their thoughts and how to engage with the thinking of others to push the discussion to a deeper level. In this unit, students will also have multiple opportunities to write literary analysis/opinion paragraphs, using what they learned from previous units about topic sentences, supporting details, and elaboration.

Please Note: In February 2024, we released updated enhanced lesson plans for this unit, which now include answers to key questions and related student supports. You may notice discrepancies in previously downloaded/printed unit or lesson plans.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

  • Book: Charlotte's Web by E.B. White (HarperCollins Publishers, 2012)   —  680L


These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills.

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 are the characteristics of a strong friendship?
  • What can death teach us about how to live? 

Reading Focus Areas

  • To describe a character, readers must notice a character's thoughts, actions, relationships, perspectives, and conflicts.

  • Characters change based on their relationships with others.

  • Authors use precise words and phrases to help readers understand the characters and setting.

Writing Focus Areas

Opinion Writing

  • State an opinion. 

  • Provide reasons that support an opinion.

  • Use linking words and phrases to connect reasons with evidence.

  • Include a concluding statement.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

  • Question and clarify. Seek to clarify a particular point a student makes by asking follow-up questions.

  • Build on and challenge a partner's ideas.

  • Synthesize to build deeper meaning. Synthesize everything from the discussion into a coherent statement at the end of the discussion.



admiration amused anxiety appalled boasting brutal cautiously clever commotion complimentary conspiracy dazed decency disgust dreary envy endure enchanted fibs frantic gloomily gullible humble hysterics injustice listless loathed lure modest neglected objectionable praise radiant relieved runt salutations sedentary shamelessly shrieked slogan sorrow sociable terrific triumphantly unbearable vanish vaguely versatile wearily wondrous


-able -less -ly -ous -tion in- un-

To see all the vocabulary for Unit 5, view our 3rd Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Content Knowledge and Connections

Previous Fishtank ELA Connections

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.

Lesson Map

Common Core Standards

Core Standards


Supporting Standards

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Unit 4

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Unit 6

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