Unit 1: Building Community: Seedfolks
Students explore the theme of community through the book Seedfolks, wrestling with how prejudice and racism impact the way people treat each other and the ways in which that can influence a community.
This unit serves as a launch to fifth grade literature. By reading the core text, Seedfolks, students will explore what it means to be part of a community and how the actions of one person can positively impact an entire community. Students will grapple with how being part of a community can help a person change and evolve as they discover new things about themselves. Students will also wrestle with how prejudice and racism impact the way people treat each other and how both can influence an entire community. It is our hope that this unit helps establish a strong classroom community and that the characters in Seedfolks can serve as a model for how people from all walks of life can come together to be part of a strong, productive community.
The text Seedfolks was chosen not only because of its portrayal of the power of community but also because of the unique structure of the text. Each chapter is told from a different character’s point of view and shows how as the garden grows, the character’s hearts grow bigger and their worldview and compassion grow. The structure of the text allows for students to begin exploring two key fifth grade standards, comparing and contrasting two or more characters and describing how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described. Through a combination of daily and longer discussions, students learn how to prepare for class discussions, determining which evidence best supports a particular idea and how to elaborate on that evidence. By writing daily in response to the Target Task question, students begin to build their writing fluency, seeing the power of writing as a tool for understanding what they are reading. This unit also serves as the foundation for learning how to brainstorm and write strong literary analysis/opinion paragraphs, focusing on drafting topic sentences and determining supporting details. At the end of the unit, students write their first narrative, using the mentor text as a guide to writing their own chapter in Seedfolks.
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Book: Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman (Harper Trophy, 2004)
Rubric: Grade 5 Narrative Writing Rubric
Template: Narrative Brainstorming Template
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
Every character has a distinct purpose. Stories can have multiple characters with distinct purposes.
Comparing characters helps readers develop a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the text.
How characters respond to challenges is important to understand plot and theme.
Use single-paragraph outlines to brainstorm cohesive paragraphs.
Write strong topic sentences that clearly state an opinion or answer the question.
Identify details and reasons that support the opinion.
Use coordinating conjunctions to explain supporting details.
Write concluding sentences.
Brainstorm and draft a story with a logical sequence of events that unfolds naturally.
Orient the reader by introducing characters and setting.
Use transitional words and phrases to manage the sequence of events.
Prepare for discussion.
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 their thoughts.
Literary terms, text-based vocabulary, idioms and word parts to be taught with the text
To see all the vocabulary for Unit 1, view our 5th 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.
Notes to help teachers prepare for this specific unit
The chapter Maricela is skipped due to the sensitive content included in the chapter. The unit focuses on how one person can impact a community and the ways in which prejudice can impact the way people treat one another. The events and content included in this chapter are not necessary for understanding the unit essential questions and are distracting to the overall learning goals of the unit. The main character of the chapter, Maricela, grapples with how she wishes she would miscarry, and while Leona helps her begin to see why she would want to keep her baby, the complexity of grappling with wanting vs. not wanting a pregnancy is complex for a 5th grader and not needed to understand the plot. Therefore, the Fishtank plans skip this chapter.
We recommend naming to students that you are skipping this chapter, but also naming that readers often do this. We suggest telling students that there are a variety of reasons why readers may skip sections of a text. One reason is there may be content in the text that is inappropriate (in this case it is Maricela's internal struggles surrounding her pregnancy, but with other texts, this could be things that are triggering or scary). Another reason is that there may be sections of the text that provide context that is unnecessary for understanding the plot and can be skipped in order to finish the book faster (readers will encounter this in Return to Sender when the teacher summarizes sections of the text to help with pacing). Another reason is that depending on when a text was written there may be sections of the text that are outdated or offensive (sometimes if it fits the goals of the unit, students may analyze these sections of text, but if not, they will skip them). If you have other personal examples or reasons for why you may skip sections of a text, we recommend sharing them with students. That way students see this as something that is common as a reader.
If you decide to include the chapter on Maricela, we encourage you to provide additional support to students to ensure that they are able to process the content of the chapter.
Predict if the actions of one person can influence an entire community.
Explain how the vacant lot sparks Kim’s and Ana’s memories of the past and if the memories are the same.
Compare and contrast Wendell and Gonzalo’s uncle’s reaction to the garden.
Compare and contrast how the garden influences Leona with how others are influenced by the garden.
Describe Sam's perspective on the garden and how his perspective changed.
Write a paragraph that explains how one person can impact a community.
Describe how the garden was a both a positive and negative experience for Virgil and his father.
Explain why the garden feels like a family to Sae Young.
Explain the significance of the quote "we, like our seeds, were now planted in the garden" and who is responsible for the change.
Write a paragraph that describes how one person can impact a community.
Analyze if the narrators in Seedfolks would agree or disagree with the idea that people with different cultural identities can come together to form a strong community.
Determine a theme for a story and explain how the characters’ actions support the development of theme, by using key details and character actions to describe key themes in a text.
Describe the overall structure of Seedfolks and how different events fit together to create the plot, by describing the overall structure of a text.
Writing – 3 days
Write a paragraph to explain how one person can impact a community.
Writing – 4 days
Write your own chapter in Seedfolks by using a narrative structure to develop imagined experiences based on the events of the text.
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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.
— Explain the function of conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections in general and their function in particular sentences.
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
— Use a comma to separate an introductory element from the rest of the sentence.
— Spell grade-appropriate words correctly, consulting references as needed.
— Compare and contrast the varieties of English (e.g., dialects, registers) used in stories, dramas, or poems.
— Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
— Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).
— Explain how a series of chapters, scenes, or stanzas fits together to provide the overall structure of a particular story, drama, or poem.
— Describe how a narrator's or speaker's point of view influences how events are described.
— Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 5 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.
— Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles.
— Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, using formal English when appropriate to task and situation.
— 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 ideas are logically grouped to support the writer's purpose.
— Link opinion and reasons using words, phrases, and clauses (e.g., consequently, specifically).
— 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 situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.
— Use a variety of transitional words, phrases, and clauses to manage the sequence of events.
— With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
Standards that are practiced daily but are not priority standards of the unit
— Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 5 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., photograph, photosynthesis).
— Interpret figurative language, including similes and metaphors, in context.
— Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal contrast, addition, and other logical relationships (e.g., however, although, nevertheless, similarly, moreover, in addition).
— Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
— Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
— Quote accurately from 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 figurative language such as metaphors and similes.
— By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, at the high end of the grades 4—5 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
— 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.)
— Apply grade 5 Reading standards to literature (e.g., "Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or a drama, drawing on specific details in the text [e.g., how characters interact]").
— 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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