Believing in Yourself: The Wild Book

Students explore the difficulties of having a learning disability and how that influences a person's self-image, enabling them to see the world as a diverse place, by reading the core text The Wild Book.



Unit 5

4th Grade

Unit Summary

In this unit, students will explore the difficulties of having a learning disability and how a learning disability influences the way a person feels about themselves by reading the core text, The Wild Book. Throughout the unit, students will be challenged to think about multiple thematic topics—believing in ourselves, accepting differences, persevering through challenges, and trusting in family during difficult times. Exploring these themes will allow students to develop a deeper appreciation for people's unique differences and struggles and learn to accept everyone for their strengths. It is our goal that this unit, combined with others in the curriculum, will help students see the world as a diverse place, not just in terms of race but also in terms of abilities, and that no matter what, everyone can be successful.

The text, The Wild Book, was chosen not only for its powerful themes but because Margarita Engle, the award-winning Latina author, uses verse to bring to life a difficult historical period in Cuba. The book tells the story of Margarita Engle's grandmother who grew up in Cuba during a time of lawlessness. Margarita Engle tells her grandmother's story in a way that helps readers build empathy and understanding of the hardships our ancestors may have faced. Simultaneously, students also see the power of poetry and its influence on Cuban culture in the early 20th century.  Students see that despite the hardships the country faced, it was also a place of artistic beauty. 

This unit challenges students to deeply analyze how authors develop themes within individual poems and also across a longer work. Students will analyze how characters are developed, how word choice and imagery are used to bring power and meaning to different verses, and how the author uses varying experiences to reveal themes. Doing deep text analysis of the poems on an individual level and also on a more broad level will help students understand the power of the various themes and how the author develops them. 

Students will also deeply explore the setting, noticing how the setting of a story, in this case, Cuba, influences the way characters behave, foreshadows events, and provides a window into the society where the character lives. In previous units, students focused on sharing and elaborating on their own ideas when discussing the text. In this unit, students begin to build on their classmates' ideas, seeking to genuinely understand what their peers are saying by asking questions, adding on, or engaging in multiple exchanges. 

Students continue to build their writing fluency by writing daily in response to the Target Task and continue to work on crafting opinion and literary analysis paragraphs, focusing on writing strong topic sentences, picking reasons, and using different strategies to elaborate on those reasons. Using the mentor texts from the unit as a guide and narrative writing done in previous units, students end the unit by writing a narrative continuation of one of the unit texts.

Please Note: In January 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: The Wild Book by Margarita Engle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 2014)   —  1050L

Supporting Materials


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 can we learn from hearing our ancestors' stories? 
  • What was the political and social climate of Cuba in 1912? How did it impact citizens? 
  • How does having a learning disability impact the way people see themselves and the way that others see them?

Reading Focus Areas

  • A novel written in verse combines poetry with storytelling.

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

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

Writing Focus Areas

Opinion Writing

  • Write strong topic sentences that clearly state the opinion.

  • Provide reasons and evidence to support a particular opinion.

  • Link opinions and reasons using words and phrases.

  • Provide a concluding statement or section.

Narrative Writing

  • Use relevant text details to develop characters, ideas, or situations.

  • Brainstorm and draft a story with a logical sequence of events that unfolds naturally.

  • Use dialogue and description to show a character's response to events.

  • Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

  • Elaborate to support ideas. Provide evidence or examples to justify and defend a point clearly.

  • Use specific vocabulary. Use vocabulary that is specific to the subject and task to clarify and share thoughts.

  • Build on a partner's ideas. Seek to genuinely understand what their peers are saying, and then build on.



advise agonizing anxious burden cringe defy discouraged dread dyslexia frantic fragrant heroine ominous outraged perilous ransom remedy relieved shriek stalling taunt triumph vanishing verse



To see all the vocabulary for Unit 5, 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 4

Examining Our History: American Revolution


Unit 6

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans

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