Unit 5: Facing Calamity: Climate Change Facts and Fictions
Students explore human nature by studying the climate crisis and its causes and impact, and the role of government, businesses, and individuals in finding solutions.
In this final 8th-grade unit, students will learn about one of the most urgent issues facing the planet today: climate change. While previous units have focused on historical events, this unit focuses students’ attention on a crisis unfolding around them. While they will undoubtedly be familiar with the basic facts of climate change, this unit aims to provide students with some of the information and analytical tools needed to engage with this complex topic.
The core text of this unit is An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power by Al Gore. Gore’s 2006 film and book, An Inconvenient Truth, presented audiences with the current scientific research on climate change and sparked a worldwide conversation on the future of our planet. An Inconvenient Sequel is the 2017 follow-up, which includes the most up-to-date climate science with a significant focus on how individuals can take action to combat the crisis. This text is supplemented with a number of nonfiction articles that provide students with even more information about the way climate change is currently impacting people around the world and what people are doing today to fight back against politicians and large corporations that are standing in the way of solving this crisis. Additionally, students will read several examples of cli-fi, an emerging genre of science fiction that imagines what our future might look like if we do not address climate change.
Students will have the opportunity to use what they have learned about the current and potential impacts of climate change—as well as the narrative writing skills they have developed throughout the year—to write their own cli-fi stories. They will conclude the unit by taking action and writing a persuasive letter to their elected officials, drawing on the texts they have studied throughout the unit.
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Book: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power by Al Gore (Rodale Books, 2017)
Speech: “Greta Thunberg challenging The World Economic Forum in Davos - January 22 2019” (YouTube)
Speech: “Transcript: Greta Thunberg's Speech At The U.N. Climate Action Summit” by NPR Staff (NPR)
Article: “The Science of Climate Change Explained” by Julia Rosen (New York Times)
Article: “The Marshall Islands Are Disappearing” by Coral Davenport (New York Times)
Article: “Statement and Poem” by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner
Article: “As Rising Heat Bakes US Cities, The Poor Often Feel It Most” by Meg Anderson and Sean McMinn (NPR)
Article: “Notes from a Bottle” by James Stevenson (The New Yorker)
Article: “World After Water” by Abby Geni
Book: Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction by Manjana Milkoreit, Meredith Martinez, Joey Eschrich (Arizona State University, 2016)
Short Story: “Row” by Charmaine Wilkerson
Website: After Water Project (Tumblr)
Article: “Exxon Knew about Climate Change almost 40 years ago” by Shannon Hall (Scientific American)
Article: “What the new report on climate change expects from you” by Eliza Mackintosh (CNN)
Article: “Focusing on how individuals can stop climate change is very convenient for corporations” by Morten Fibieger Byskov (Fast Company)
Article: “The seven megatrends that could beat global warming: 'There is reason for hope'” by Damian Carrington (The Guardian)
Article: “Fishermen Sue Big Oil for Its Role in Climate Change” by Alastair Bland (NPR)
Article: “Gen Z on How to Save the World: Young Climate Activists Speak Out” (The Guardian)
Article: “Young Climate Activists and the Battle to Avert Catastrophe” by Ruairi Casey (Aljazeera)
This assessment accompanies Unit 5 and should be
given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the
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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
To see all the vocabulary for Unit 5, view our 8th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.
Fishtank ELA units related to the content in this unit.
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
Explain how specific words, phrases, and structural choices develop tone in Greta Thunberg’s speeches, and how tone impacts meaning.
Identify the key ideas Gore uses to support his claims about climate change and assess whether the evidence he provides is relevant and sufficient.
Identify a writer’s claims in a text and explain how they support those claims, as well as how they respond to conflicting viewpoints.
Infer the meaning of unknown words using context clues, use reference materials to verify the meaning of words, and explain how word choice develops meaning in an informational article.
Explain how Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner specific words and phrases develop tone in a poem and how tone impacts meaning.
Write objective summaries and determine central ideas in informational articles.
Identify claims made in an informational article and assess the relevance and sufficiency of evidence provided to support those claims.
Explain how writer Abby Geni uses imagery and figurative language to establish mood and meaning in a short story.
Determine a theme in the short story, "Notes from a Bottle" and explain how the author develops it; identify literary allusions and explain how they help to build meaning in a text.
Brainstorm ideas for a cli-fi story by reflecting on the science of climate change.
Create a vivid setting for a cli-fi story.
Add characters, dialogue, and a logical structure to a story.
Compare and contrast the central arguments of two articles about climate change, and explain how one author acknowledges and responds to viewpoints that differ from their own.
Determine the central idea of sections of An Inconvenient Sequel and synthesize information in a short presentation that educates classmates.
Synthesize information about a young climate activist and create a short presentation that educates classmates.
Delineate arguments made about climate change and assess whether the evidence provided is relevant and sufficient.
Engage in a Socratic Seminar with peers, responding directly to others by rephrasing and delineating arguments, determining the strength of evidence, and posing clarifying questions.
Identify the features of a successful letter to Congress, collect information on their representatives’ voting record on climate change, and begin to craft a strong hook.
Construct a strong thesis statement and compose effective body paragraphs for their letter to Congress.
Revise letters for form and style, using strong clauses to create cohesion between ideas.
Assessment – 2 days
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The content standards covered in this unit
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
— Use punctuation (comma, ellipsis, dash) to indicate a pause or break.
— Use an ellipsis to indicate an omission.
— Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words or phrases based on grade 8 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.
— Consult general and specialized 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).
— Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.
— Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
— Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints.
— Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant evidence is introduced.
— Analyze a case in which two or more texts provide conflicting information on the same topic and identify where the texts disagree on matters of fact or interpretation.
— Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.
— Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
— Analyze how a modern work of fiction draws on themes, patterns of events, or character types from myths, traditional stories, or religious works such as the Bible, including describing how the material is rendered new.
— Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
— Acknowledge new information expressed by others, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views in light of the evidence presented.
— Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and relevance and sufficiency of the evidence and identifying when irrelevant evidence is introduced.
— Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
— Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
— Introduce claim(s), acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.
— Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.
— Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
— Establish and maintain a formal style.
— Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.
— 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 point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.
— Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, and reflection, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.
— Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events.
— Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
— Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
Standards that are practiced daily but are not priority standards of the unit
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
— Spell correctly.
— Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
— Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
— Interpret figures of speech (e.g. verbal irony, puns) in context.
— Use the relationship between particular words to better understand each of the words.
— Distinguish among the connotations (associations) of words with similar denotations (definitions) (e.g., bullheaded, willful, firm, persistent, resolute).
— 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.
— Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
— Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).
— Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea.
— By the end of the year, read and comprehend literary nonfiction at the high end of the grades 6—8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
— Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
— By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of grades 6—8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
— Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; 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 and decision-making, track progress toward specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed.
— Pose questions that connect the ideas of several speakers and respond to others' questions and comments with relevant evidence, observations, and ideas.
— Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
— Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content
— Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information into broader categories; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
— Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.
— Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
— Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented
— Use a variety of transition words, phrases, and clauses to convey sequence, signal shifts from one time frame or setting to another, and show the relationships among experiences and events.
— Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on the narrated experiences or events.
— Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
— 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, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.
— Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas efficiently as well as to interact and collaborate with others.
— Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
— Apply grade 8 Reading standards to literature (e.g., "Analyze how a modern work of fiction draws on themes, patterns of events, or character types from myths, traditional stories, or religious works such as the Bible, including describing how the material is rendered new").
— Apply grade 8 Reading standards to literary nonfiction (e.g., "Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant evidence is introduced").
— 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.
Surviving Repression: Persepolis