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Students grapple with themes of race, culture and class in the immigrant experience. Through deep analysis of texts, seventh graders explore a variety of perspectives as they wrestle with the authenticity of the American Dream.
In the first unit of the year, seventh graders will read an autobiographical account of Sherman Alexie’s upbringing on a poor Native American reservation. The book is beloved by teens and adults alike for its uplifting story of triumph by a boy with few advantages, as well as its candid and fresh voice. It is selected by teachers across the country for its appeal to reluctant readers and because it introduces vital issues such as the struggles of young adulthood, the search for personal identity, bullying, and poverty.
It is important to note that The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has been banned from several school districts across the country. Teachers should make sure to send a letter to parents explaining that there are adult themes, cursing, and sexual references in this book, but that the novel will serve as a vehicle to introduce themes that will be addressed throughout the seventh grade course such as the disillusionment of the American Dream and the search for personal identity. Please visit the Supporting Materials section of this Unit for a Sample Parent Letter.
In this unit, students will also develop the fundamental skills and habits around several key practices in class: vocabulary building, annotating text, literary conversation, independent reading, and evidence-based writing. As students read, discuss, and write about the text, they will examine how an author makes deliberate decisions around tone, theme, mood, conflict, and point of view to convey a deeper meaning to the reader.
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Book: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Little, Brown and Company, 2009)
Resource: Sample Parent Letter
Video: “Cutbacks on 'the Rez'” by Mac William Bishop
Article: “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” by Jane Yu
Article: “Fighting Sioux vs. Fighting Irish” (Blue Corn Comics)
Article: “Does Class Still Matter?” by David Leonhardt and Janny Scott (The New York Times)
Article: “Will Jeremy Lin’s success end stereotypes?” by Timothy Yu (CNN)
Website: Ending the Era of Harmful "Indian" Mascots by National Congress of American Indians
This assessment accompanies Unit 7 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.
In this first unit of the year, students will focus on reading and dissecting the prompt to ensure they fully understand the task at hand. Then they will also zoom in on the writing process of brainstorming, outlining, and drafting for on demand prompts (test-taking style prompts). Students will not be given graphic organizers, but instructed on creating their own outlines from a blank piece of paper. They will ultimately be assessed on whether they addressed the prompt itself, made a structured and accurate claim, previewed strong reasons in their leads, and grouped information into meaningful paragraphs.
FCA #1 – Overall:
FCA #2 – Lead:
FCA #3 – Organization:
tone, theme, internal conflict, point of view (first person), word meaning in context, mood, suspense, text features, compare and contrast, figurative language, juxtaposition
im, in, il = not, in = inside,re = again
poverty (11), orbit (3), realize (13), powwow (17), brawling (17), decrepit (31), reservation (3), burden (43), contemplate (33), ambitious (47), naive (79), arrogant (107), shallow (127), lust (127), sacred (165)
"cut to the chase" (94)
3rd grade: Iroquois, Sioux, and other indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest
“Cutbacks on 'the Rez'”
“Indian Country Diaries”
Explain how alcoholism and poverty affect the Native American community according to a nonfiction article.
ATDPTI pp. 1 – 15
Identify the humorous, matter-of-fact tone in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and what it reveals about Junior’s identity.
Annotate a narrative text looking for character, setting and tension while also using abbreviations and summaries in the margins.
ATDPTI pp. 15 – 31
Identify and analyze Junior’s tone when he finds his mother’s name in his textbook.
ATDPTI pp. 31 – 46
“Kill the Indian, Save the Man”
Identify and analyze the theme of hope.
Identify the meaning of text features (italics and dashes).
ATDPTI pp. 44 – 53
Analyze how the author contrasts Rowdy’s and Junior’s perspectives to develop the theme of hope in the text.
Practice the habits of discussion in class.
ATDPTI pp. 51 – 53
Compare and contrast how Rowdy and Junior cope with the theme of hopelessness.
ATDPTI pp. 54 – 66
Explain how the author uses internal conflict to reveal Junior’s emotions.
Explain how Sherman Alexie uses juxtaposition to characterize Junior.
Ending the Era
Write a persuasive essay on the debate over Indian mascots by focusing on the American Indian community’s objections to their use and the defense of mascot use within the world of sports.
ATDPTI pp. 67 – 81
Analyze how other characters influence Junior’s perception of himself.
ATDPTI pp. 82 – 98
Analyze Gordy’s influence on Junior’s perspective.
ATDPTI pp. 99 – 113
Analyze how Junior’s point of view changes in this passage.
Explain why first person point of view is an effective storytelling device.
ATDPTI pp. 114 – 129
Explain how the author develops Junior’s character when he pretends to be middle class.
“Does Class Still Matter?”
Determine the central idea of the article, “Does Class Still Matter?”
ATDPTI pp. 130 – 141
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text.
Explain the tension that Gordy describes between being an individual and being a part of a community.
ATDPTI pp. 142 – 149
Determine how the author builds the mood.
Analyze how the game shows Junior's negotiation between his old and new identity.
“Will Jeremy Lin...”
Compare and contrast the challenges Junior faces as a Native American with those of Jeremy Lin as an Asian American.
ATDPTI pp. 150 – 161
Analyze Junior’s tone as he remembers his grandmother.
ATDPTI pp. 162 – 178
Analyze how the author develops the mood through sentence structure and diction (word choice).
ATDPTI pp. 179 – 187
Explain how the author captures the rising tension at the basketball game.
ATDPTI pp. 187 – 198
Analyze how the author builds suspense at the basketball game.
ATDPTI pp. 199 – 214
Identify and analyze hyperboles.
Debate whether it is possible to be yourself and part of a group—even if you don’t identify with parts of that group.
ATDPTI pp. 215 – 230
Explain why Junior’s reconciliation with Rowdy is the resolution of the novel and what this reveals about the text’s theme.
Review literary devices and vocabulary from the unit.