Unit 3: 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.
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 the 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. Seeing 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 dive deep into 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. In writing, 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 writing a narrative continuation of one of the unit texts.
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Book: The Wild Book by Margarita Engle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 2014)
Book: Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015)
Book: Rules by Cynthia Lord (Scholastic Paperbacks, 2008)
Book: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012)
Video: “What is Dyslexia?” by TED-Ed
Rubric: Grade 4 Narrative Writing Rubric
Article: “Governor's personal mission to support screening for dyslexia” by Los Angeles Times, adapted by Newsela staff (Newsela)
Article: “After setbacks, dyslexia screening for young students moves forward in California schools” by Carolyn Jones (EdSource)
Rubric: Grade 4 Literary Analysis and Opinion Writing Rubric
Template: Single Paragraph Outline
These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills.
Download Cold Read Assessment
Download Cold Read Assessment Answer Key
Download Content Assessment
Download Content Assessment Answer Key
Additional progress monitoring suggestions are included throughout the unit. Essential Tasks can be found in the following lessons:
Suggestions for how to prepare to teach this unit
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.
The central thematic questions addressed in the unit or across units
Literary terms, text-based vocabulary, idioms and word parts to be taught with the text
To see all the vocabulary for Unit 3, view our 4th 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.
Describe what life was like in Cuba in 1912.
Explain how the narrator feels about word-blindness.
Explain why learning to read is difficult for children with dyslexia and how this connects with the narrator in The Wild Book.
Write a paragraph that explains what word-blindness is and how it impacts Fefa’s life.
Analyze how the setting of the story influences the main character.
Explain the meaning of lines 11–16 of "Trouble" and how the author develops character.
Describe Fefa's relationship with her family.
Explain what evidence the author includes to support the idea that the narrator feels safe and what she feels safe from.
Explain what daydreams the narrator is referring to.
Explain why the author calls the last chapter "Courage" and what this signifies.
Writing – 2 days
Identify a theme in The Wild Book and write a paragraph explaining how the theme is shown through the speaker.
Analyze and debate unit essential questions using details and understandings from the entire unit.
Opinion Writing – 4 days
Write a persuasive letter explaining whether or not early screening for dyslexia is important.
Analyze how having a learning disability impacts the way Ally sees herself and the way others see her.
Analyze how having a learning disability impacts the way Melody sees herself and the way others see her.
Analyze how having a learning disability impacts the way Catherine views David and Jason.
Narrative Writing – 3 days
Represent unit themes and concepts by participating in a culminating task that requires deep understanding of unit texts.
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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.
— Correctly use frequently confused words (e.g., to, too, two; there, their).
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
— Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
— Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
— Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.
— Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character's thoughts, words, or actions).
— Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.
— Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
— Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.
— Pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others.
— Review the key ideas expressed and explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.
— Paraphrase portions of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
— Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information
— Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which related ideas are grouped to support the writer's purpose.
— Provide reasons that are supported by facts and details.
— Link opinion and reasons using words and phrases (e.g., for instance, in order to, in addition).
— Provide a concluding statement or section related to the opinion presented.
— Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
— Orient the reader by establishing a situationand introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.
— Use dialogue and description to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.
— Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences and events precisely.
— With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.
— Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; take notes and categorize information, and provide a list of sources.
Standards that are practiced daily but are not priority standards of the unit
— Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
— Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 4 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
— Use common, grade-appropriate Greek and Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., telegraph, photograph, autograph).
— Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
— Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal precise actions, emotions, or states of being (e.g., quizzed, whined, stammered) and that are basic to a particular topic (e.g., wildlife, conservation, and endangered when discussing animal preservation).
— Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
— Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
— Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
— Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including those that allude to significant characters found in mythology (e.g., Herculean).
— Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics (e.g., opposition of good and evil) and patterns of events (e.g., the quest) in stories, myths, and traditional literature from different cultures.
— By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, in the grades 4—5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
— Differentiate between contexts that call for formal English (e.g., presenting ideas) and situations where informal discourse is appropriate (e.g., small-group discussion); use formal English when appropriate to task and situation.
— Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
(Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1—3 above.)
— With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.
— Apply grade 4 Reading standards to literature (e.g., "Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text [e.g., a character's thoughts, words, or actions].").
— Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
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