Finding Connection: The Outsiders

Students explore the topic of "coming of age" through the story of a young man struggling to determine right and wrong in a world defined by violence.

Unit Summary

S. E. Hinton’s 1967 novel, The Outsiders, is a classic coming-of-age story. Written when Hinton was just a teenager, the text follows the story of Ponyboy, a young teenager who has recently lost both of his parents and is being raised by his older brothers. Although the text is set in the 1960s, the emotions Ponyboy experiences are timeless and universal, as Hinton captures the inner life of a young teenage boy as he navigates the complexities of life as a “greaser” in a world prejudiced against them.  This book is a middle school “classic” for good reason: Ponyboy’s story continues to resonate with young readers, even sixty years after its original publication.

In this unit, students will closely analyze how authors develop the unique perspective of their narrator and track how characters’ perspectives change in response to specific events. They will also pay close attention to the way that authors structure text, studying “standard” narrative structures in order to better understand how individual incidents, scenes, and chapters fit together to create a cohesive narrative. Additionally, this text provides opportunities to study foreshadowing and how that literary device works to create tension in the text—and provide the reader with the opportunity for reflection on earlier events and how these events influence later outcomes. Students will also compare a film version of the core text with the original novel, thinking metacognitively about how the experience of reading is similar and different from viewing a film. This unit also includes three nonfiction texts that, in addition to providing students with a contemporary lens through which to understand the events and characters in The Outsiders, are also an opportunity to practice the skill of deciphering the meaning of words in context.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

  • Book: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (Speak, 2006)    —  750L

Supporting Materials

Assessment

This assessment accompanies Unit 4 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • How does belonging to a group shape a person’s life and identity?
  • How do stereotypes and prejudices influence the way we see others and ourselves?

Vocabulary

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Text-based

bewildering bewilder conviction conformity conform contempt contemptuous delirious defuse defiance gallant grudge incredulous premonition resentment resent vital wince

Root/Affix

-ment re-

Academic

climax conclusion context clues exposition falling action flashback foreshadowing rising action

To see all the vocabulary for this course, view our 6th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Notes for Teachers

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  • This book addresses a number of difficult and mature topics, including gang violence, murder, domestic violence, the death of parents, the death of friends, a police shooting, and PTSD/depression. There are also several scenes that include slurs and offensive stereotypes about women, indigenous people, and gay people. Although there are few truly “graphic” scenes in the text, students will very likely feel emotionally impacted by many of the events and topics described. Additionally, the nonfiction articles students read in this unit discuss issues of violence and crime today. As always, be mindful of your students’ backgrounds and life experiences and be aware that they may have strong reactions to the book. 
  • Although this text was written by a woman, it is notable that there are very few female characters in the text. You may wish to have students reflect on the way that gender is portrayed in the novel, particularly the way that female characters are often treated as if they are the property of their boyfriends.
  • This is a compelling text and most students will likely feel motivated to read it for homework. There is an audiobook available if some of your students need that support. Additionally, the film version follows the original text very closely (the version titled “The Full Novel” includes many scenes that were edited out of the version shown in theaters), which may be helpful for some students.

Fishtank ELA Connections

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This unit continues our year-long study of what it means to “come of age.” Students have explored this topic through a variety of genres and at this point in the year are beginning to develop a more nuanced understanding of what it means for a young person to navigate a complex world and declare his or her own identity. Students will be able to draw connections between each text: Kenny from The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 and Ponyboy each struggle to recover from trauma; Jonas from The Giver and Ponyboy both yearn for love and connection to others.

Future Fishtank ELA Connections

Previous Fishtank ELA Connections

Lesson Map

23

Writing

  • The Outsiders

    W.6.1.a

    W.6.1.e

Complete a strong introductory and conclusion paragraph.

25

2 days

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Core Standards

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L.6.1

L.6.1.e

L.6.3

L.6.3.b

L.6.4

L.6.4.a

L.6.4.b

L.6.4.d

L.6.5

L.6.5.b

RI.6.2

RI.6.4

RI.6.6

RL.6.2

RL.6.3

RL.6.4

RL.6.5

RL.6.6

RL.6.7

SL.6.1

SL.6.1.d

SL.6.3

W.6.1

W.6.1.a

W.6.1.b

W.6.1.c

W.6.1.d

W.6.1.e

Spiral Standards

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L.6.1.a

L.6.1.b

L.6.1.c

L.6.1.d

L.6.2

L.6.2.b

L.6.2.b

L.6.3.a

L.6.5.a

L.6.5.c

L.6.6

RI.6.1

RI.6.10

RL.6.1

RL.6.10

RL.6.9

W.6.10

W.6.4

W.6.5

W.6.9

W.6.9.a