Adapting to Survive: Short Stories and Poems

Students explore the attributes necessary for survival and the importance of physical and mental strength by reading excerpts from Julie of the Wolves, Endangered, Hatchet, and a variety of poems.



Unit 4

5th Grade

Unit Summary

In this unit, students explore the attributes necessary for survival by reading excerpts from Julie of the Wolves, Endangered, Hatchet, and a variety of poems. With each story, students will explore if one needs more physical or mental strength, or a combination of both, to overcome an obstacle or problem. Students will also explore how our ability to adapt and make changes impacts our lives and our ability to survive. It is our hope that this unit challenges students to think about how they tackle obstacles and the power and influence they have over their own lives. 

When analyzing individual stories, students will focus on explaining how scenes fit together and contribute to the overall structure of a story or poem, summarizing a text, and determining the theme. After analyzing a story or poem in-depth, students will then practice comparing and contrasting across stories and analyzing the way in which different stories approach similar themes and topics. This unit places a large emphasis on the power of rereading a text in order to build deeper meaning. Throughout the unit, students will have multiple opportunities to engage with a particular text multiple times in order to analyze and notice the author's craft and additional layers of meaning. When discussing the text, students continue to work on engaging with the thinking of others by building on, and paraphrasing ideas in order to understand, and questioning and clarifying. At this point in the sequence, students should be able to write fluently in response to the daily Target Tasks in order to show understanding of the text. Students review how to write literary analysis essays and paragraphs, building on work done in previous units. The unit ends with students writing a narrative continuation of one of the excerpts from the story, giving students a practice to hone and refine the narrative writing skills built in the previous units. 

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

  • Book: Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George (HarperCollins; First Edition edition, 2016) (pp. 5-25)   —  860L

  • Book: Endangered by Eliot Schrefer (Scholastic Paperbacks; Reprint edition, 2014) (pp. 76–83, 90–95, 98–103)

  • Book: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2006) (pp. 113–120, 161–170)   —  1020L

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 steps can be taken to prepare for a wilderness emergency? 
  • What strategies are necessary for surviving a wilderness emergency? 

Reading Focus Areas

  • Scenes in a story fit together to provide the overall structure of a story.

  • Summaries can be used as a way to describe how the theme of a story is conveyed.

  • When comparing and contrasting stories in the same genre, readers should look for nuanced similarities and differences between the texts.

Writing Focus Areas

Opinion Writing

  • Create topic/introductory sentences that clearly state an opinion.

  • Provide logically ordered reasons and details to support an opinion.

  • Organize ideas into paragraphs.

  • Provide a concluding statement or section.

Narrative Writing

  • Use relevant text details or background knowledge from the text to develop characters, ideas, or situations.

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

  • Orient the reader by introducing characters and setting.

  • Use a variety of transitional words, phrases, and clauses to manage the sequence of events

  • Use description and dialogue to develop experiences, events and characters.

  • Use precise words and phrases to describe character actions and feelings.

  • Provide a conclusion that follows the narrated sequence of events.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

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

  • Paraphrase to make meaning. Paraphrase what others are saying in order to keep track of key ideas in a discussion.

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



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To see all the vocabulary for Unit 4, view our 5th 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.

Lesson Map

Common Core Standards

Core Standards


Supporting Standards

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Unit 3

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Unit 5

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