Unit 4: 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.
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.
Please Note: In August 2023, we updated enhanced lesson plans for the writing lessons in this unit. There may be 3-4 instructional days added to the unit writing projects. You may notice discrepancies in previously downloaded/printed unit or lesson plans.
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Book: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (Speak, 2006)
Movie: The Outsiders
Poem: “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost (poets.org)
Article: “Study: Teens who expect to die young are more likely to commit crime” by The Dallas Morning News (The Dallas Morning News)
Poem: “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks
Article: “At some schools, students find a place for peace” by Lolly Bowean (Chicago Tribune)
Video: “We Real Cool”
Assessment Text: “The War of the Wall” by Toni Cade Bambara
Rubric: Sequel Outline and Exposition Rubric (G6, U4)
This assessment accompanies Unit 4 and should be
given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the
Download Content Assessment
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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
point of view/perspective
To see all the vocabulary for Unit 4, view our 6th 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.
Notes to help teachers prepare for this specific unit
Fishtank ELA units related to the content in this unit.
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.
Explain how S. E. Hinton begins to develop the narrator’s point of view in The Outsiders.
Explain how specific sections of Chapter 2 fit into the overall structure of The Outsiders and develop the reader’s understanding of characters.
Explain how Hinton continues to develop Ponyboy’s point of view and identify how and why his point of view changes.
Explain how specific scenes and lines of text fit into the overall structure of The Outsiders and move the plot forward.
Compare and contrast setting elements and scenes from The Outsiders with the film version and describe the experience of viewing the film.
Explain how Hinton continues to develop Ponyboy’s point of view, and identify how and why his point of view changes.
Determine the theme of “Nothing Gold Can Stay” and explain how poet Robert Frost uses literary devices to develop that theme.
Explain how Hinton develops different characters’ perspectives and analyze how and why characters’ perspectives change.
Explain how Hinton develops different characters’ perspectives and analyze how and why characters’ perspectives change in response to plot events.
Gather information and create an outline for a fictional diary entry written from Cherry Valance's perspective.
Draft a diary entry written from Cherry Valance's perspective, focusing on using precise words and descriptive language.
Explain how Hinton develops mood in significant scenes in this chapter, and how this chapter fits into the overall structure of The Outsiders.
Explain how Hinton develops Ponyboy’s point of view and his reactions to plot events.
Explain how Hinton develops Ponyboy’s perspective, and identify how and why his perspective has changed.
Identify themes in The Outsiders and explain how Hinton develops these themes in Chapter 12.
Compare and contrast scenes from The Outsiders with the film version and describe the experience of viewing the film.
Determine the meaning of unknown words in an informational article using context clues and Greek/Latin roots.
Explain how poet Gwendolyn Brooks uses literary devices to develop tone and meaning in the poem, “We Real Cool.”
Determine the meaning of unknown words through context clues, and then successfully use those words in their own writing.
Engage in a Socratic Seminar with peers, responding directly to others by rephrasing and delineating arguments and posing clarifying questions.
Unpack a writing prompt, study a mentor text, and begin to brainstorm ideas for narratives.
Create a plot outline for a sequel to The Outsiders.
Identify the features of a text's exposition and draft one exposition paragraph.
Write four exposition paragraphs of a sequel to The Outsiders.
Assessment – 2 days
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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.
— Recognize variations from standard English in their own and others' writing and speaking, and identify and use strategies to improve expression in conventional language.
— Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
— Maintain consistency in style and tone.
— Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 6 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
— Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word's position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
— Use common, grade-appropriate Greek or Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., audience, auditory, audible).
— 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; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
— Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings.
— Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
— Describe how a particular story's or drama's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.
— Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
— Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.
— Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.
— Compare and contrast the experience of reading a story, drama, or poem to listening to or viewing an audio, video, or live version of the text, including contrasting what they "see" and "hear" when reading the text to what they perceive when they listen or watch.
— Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
— Review the key ideas expressed and demonstrate understanding of multiple perspectives through reflection and paraphrasing.
— Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.
— Present claims and findings, sequencing ideas logically and using pertinent descriptions, facts, and details to accentuate main ideas or themes; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
— Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
— Introduce claim(s) and organize the reasons and evidence clearly.
— Support claim(s) with clear reasons and relevant evidence, using credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.
— Establish and maintain a formal style.
— Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
— Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.
— Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, and description, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.
— Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to convey experiences and events.
— With some 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
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
— Spell correctly.
— Consult reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation of a word or determine or clarify its precise meaning or its part of speech.
— Verify the preliminary determination of the meaning of a word or phrase (e.g., by checking the inferred meaning in context or in a dictionary).
— Interpret figures of speech (e.g., personification) in context.
— Distinguish among the connotations (associations) of words with similar denotations (definitions) (e.g., stingy, scrimping, economical, unwasteful, thrifty).
— Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
— Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
— By the end of the year, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 6—8 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
— Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
— Compare and contrast texts in different forms or genres (e.g., stories and poems; historical novels and fantasy stories) in terms of their approaches to similar themes and topics.
— By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 6—8 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
— Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
— Follow rules for collegial discussions, set specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed.
— Pose and respond to specific questions with elaboration and detail by making comments that contribute to the topic, text, or issue under discussion.
— Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
— Use words, phrases, and clauses to clarify the relationships among claim(s) and reasons.
— Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from the argument presented.
— Use a variety of transition words, phrases, and clauses to convey sequence and signal shifts from one time frame or setting to another.
— Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
— 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 three pages in a single sitting.
— Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
— Apply grade 6 Reading standards to literature (e.g., "Compare and contrast texts in different forms or genres [e.g., stories and poems; historical novels and fantasy stories] in terms of their approaches to similar themes and topics").
— Apply grade 6 Reading standards to literary nonfiction (e.g., "Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not").
— 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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