Discovering Self: Bud, Not Buddy

Students learn about the Great Depression through the eyes of a ten-year-old African-American boy, analyzing themes of compassion, maturity and the idea of home, through the novel Bud Not Buddy.



Unit 6

4th Grade

Unit Summary

In this historical fiction unit, students learn about the Great Depression through the eyes of a ten-year-old African-American boy by reading the core text Bud, Not Buddy. In Bud, Not Buddy, students join Bud on his quest to find his father. In doing so, students are exposed to what life was like during the Great Depression, especially for African-Americans. Over the course of the novel, students will grapple with lying, and if lying is always bad or if it can sometimes be a good thing, as they witness Bud lying as a way to survive. Students will also analyze and explore the idea of maturity and what it means to act one’s age versus acting more mature as Bud finds himself in situations most ten-year-olds will never experience. The theme of compassion and kindness also arises throughout the novel. Students will analyze how the compassionate actions of others help Bud on his journey while deepening their understanding of why it’s always important to help others, even when times are tough. It is our hope that this unit, in conjunction with the rest of the fourth-grade sequence, will help students develop empathy and understanding of the experiences of others.

As readers, this unit serves as the culminating unit for the year. Therefore, the majority of the unit focuses on spiraling strategies. Students continue to explore how the setting of a story influences the way characters to behave, foreshadows events, and provides a window into the society where the character lives. Building on work done in previous units, students also review the different pathways and patterns authors use to reveal the theme of a story. Finally, because Bud, Not Buddy includes a lot of vivid descriptive language, students analyze and unpack the figurative language in the text in order to build a deeper understanding of characters and events. This unit also includes two core texts - a fiction text and an informational text. Therefore, over the course of the entire unit, students will work on using the information they learn from the nonfiction text about the Great Depression to confirm and deepen their understanding of what life was like during the Great Depression.  Since this is the culminating unit in the sequence, when discussing the text students focus on critiquing and analyzing the reasoning of others, using what they learned from previous units on how to clarify and share their own thoughts and how to engage with the thinking of others to push the discussion to a deeper level. In this unit students also have multiple opportunities to write literary analysis/opinion paragraphs, using what they learned from previous units about topic sentences, supporting details, and elaboration to write multiple-paragraph essays in response to a question. The unit culminates with students writing a final informational report, synthesizing what they have learned about the Great Depression. 

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

  • Book: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (Laurel Leaf, 2014)   —  950L

Supporting Materials


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

Additional progress monitoring suggestions are included throughout the unit. Essential Tasks can be found in the following lessons:

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

Unit Launch

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.

Essential Questions

  • What traits help people succeed in the face of challenge? 
  • Can a person be entirely self-sufficient? 
  • What was the Great Depression? How does the setting of the Great Depression influence the way the story unfolds? 

Reading Focus Areas

  • The setting of a story influences the way characters behave, foreshadows events, and provides a window into the society where the character lives.

  • Authors use figurative language to help a reader build a deeper understanding of an event or idea.

  • Authors reveal a theme of a story using predictable pathways and patterns.

Writing Focus Areas

Opinion Writing

  • Group related ideas together to support the topic sentence or opinion.

  • Provide reasons that are supported by facts and details.

  • Link opinions and reasons using words and phrases.

  • Provide a concluding statement or section.

Informational Writing

  • Introduce a topic clearly.

  • Develop the topic with facts, definitions, and details.

  • Link ideas using words and phrases.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

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

  • Build on and challenge partner’s ideas.

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



"on the lam" acquaintance confidential contaminated deny devour doze eviction exaggerate fidget foster fumbling glum grateful hard-headed ignorant income insist jolt judgmental kin meddling nourished nosy paltry proper privilege puny raid resourceful reputation retrieve revenge rightful scolding scoop scrawny starvation suffer symbolize temporary tolerate unemployment upbringing

Idiom/Cultural Reference

"in hot water" "spitting image" "talking someone's ear off"


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To see all the vocabulary for Unit 6, view our 4th 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

Lesson Map

Common Core Standards

Core Standards


Supporting Standards

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Unit 5

Taking a Stand: Shiloh

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