Unit 3: Abusing Power: Animal Farm and Wicked History
Students explore human nature through careful study of the Russian Revolution, focusing on the ways in which leaders manipulated and oppressed their own people.
George Orwell’s Animal Farm has had great international impact for its messages about power and political corruption in the 20th century. Orwell witnessed the atrocities sanctioned by Joseph Stalin under the guise of communism, and his famous novel is a satire of societies that allow leaders to lie, cheat, and oppress the naive, obedient masses. The author’s decision to feature animal characters recalls classic children’s fables, but there is nothing simple or childlike about this story. Orwell’s novel is not intended to entertain; rather, it is a criticism of historical events and a warning to future generations about the dangers of tyranny.
In order to provide students with necessary schema to understand the time period that Orwell satirizes, this unit begins with the nonfiction text Joseph Stalin (A Wicked History), which dives into the history of Joseph Stalin and the Russian Revolution. This text is intended to introduce students to the real-life atrocities committed during this time period and give them a small window into the lives of the tens of millions of people who were murdered, starved, exiled, imprisoned, or killed on the battlefield, all at the instruction of Joseph Stalin.
Through their work with these two texts, students will explore questions about the power of language and draw conclusions about the way it can be used as a method of control. They will dig deeply into the use and impact of propaganda. They will explore the genre of allegory, the impact of satire, and the way that historical knowledge can create dramatic irony within a text. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to think about artistic interpretation through two lenses: they will think about how authors use and interpret historical events in a fictional text and they will analyze how a film interpretation can differ from the source text and evaluate the decisions directors make.
As this unit follows directly behind the unit focusing on Elie Wiesel’s Night, students will continue their year-long study of justice/injustice, particularly in the context of extreme human cruelty and suffering. Much like Elie Wiesel’s message that the stories of human atrocities must continue to be told, so too does Orwell’s text continue to act as an urgent, relevant call-to-action.
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Book: Joseph Stalin (A Wicked History) by Sean McCollum (Franklin Watts, 2010)
Book: Animal Farm by George Orwell (Signet Classics, 1996)
Article: “An Introduction to Communism” by Jessica McBirney
Article: “Capitalism” by Jessica McBirney
Video: “One Human Family, Food for All” by Caritas Internationalis (YouTube)
Article: “Propaganda is Everywhere”
Article: “11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting”
Article: “Types of Propaganda”
Video: “AP English Literature and Composition Terms | SATIRE | 60second Recap®” by 60second Recap (YouTube)
Video: “AP English Literature and Composition Terms | ALLEGORY | 60second Recap®” by 60second Recap (YouTube)
Movie: Animal Farm
Photo: Gary Varvel Cartoon
This assessment accompanies Unit 3 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
To see all the vocabulary for Unit 3, view our 8th 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.
Define and articulate the differences between capitalism and communism.
Explain the events, ideas, and social conditions that began to shape Stalin’s behavior and beliefs about the world.
Identify the events, ideas, and social conditions that led to the Russian Revolution, and explain Stalin’s role in the establishment of a new communist society and government.
Explain the purpose of Stalin’s Five-Year Plan, its impact on the people of the Soviet Union, and how author McCollum uses specific text features to develop key ideas about this time period.
Summarize information about a specific propaganda device and present that information to classmates.
Identify ways that Stalin used propaganda to control the people of the Soviet Union.
Determine the central idea of individual chapters of Joseph Stalin (A Wicked History) and the text overall, and explain how the author develops and supports these ideas.
Conduct a short research project in order to create an infographic on a specific aspect of propaganda.
Summarize and interpret research by creating an infographic on a specific aspect of propaganda.
Define the literary genres of satire and allegory, and explain their purposes.
Explain how Orwell uses descriptive language to develop Old Major’s perspective and make connections between Old Major’s speech and real-world economic systems.
Identify specific events and lines of dialogue that reveal character traits, and explain the impact of events on the plot of Animal Farm.
Explain the impact of different propaganda techniques the pigs use in Animal Farm.
Explain how George Orwell has interpreted individuals and events from the Russian Revolution and portrayed them in his allegorical text, Animal Farm.
Explain how the pigs use propaganda techniques to manipulate the other animals, and how the author uses this manipulation to develop dramatic irony.
Explain how George Orwell has interpreted events of the Russian Revolution and portrayed them in his allegorical text Animal Farm.
Explain how the pigs have betrayed the original principles of Animal Farm, and how their betrayal and manipulation of the other animals creates dramatic irony.
Explain how Squealer uses language and propaganda techniques to manipulate the other animals, and how the author uses this manipulation to develop dramatic irony.
Explain the significance of specific lines and events in Animal Farm and what they reveal about characters and the plot.
Determine what Orwell wants the reader to understand about the Russian Revolution and human nature more broadly, and explain how he develops these ideas in Animal Farm.
Identify places where the film version of Animal Farm differs from the original text and evaluate the choices that the director made.
Engage in a Socratic Seminar with peers, demonstrating a deep understanding of the text and topic by posing and responding to questions and providing evidence to support ideas.
Explain the expectations of the writing task and begin to gather evidence from supplemental texts.
Construct a strong thesis statement and compose effective body paragraphs.
Draft an introduction and conclusion and revise essay for clarity, mechanics, and organization.
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.
— Form and use verbs in the indicative, imperative, interrogative, conditional, and subjunctive mood.
— Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb voice and mood.
— 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.
— Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).
— Analyze in detail the structure of a specific paragraph in a text, including the role of particular sentences in developing and refining a key concept.
— Compare and contrast a fictional portrayal of a time, place, or character and a historical account of the same period as a means of understanding how authors of fiction use or alter history.
— 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.
— Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.
— 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 differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.
— Analyze the extent to which a filmed or live production of a story or drama stays faithful to or departs from the text or script, evaluating the choices made by the director or actors.
— 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.
— 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.
— Pose questions that connect the ideas of several speakers and respond to others' questions and comments with relevant evidence, observations, and ideas.
— 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.
— Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.
— 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.
— 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 capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
— Use punctuation (comma, ellipsis, dash) to indicate a pause or break.
— Spell correctly.
— Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
— Use verbs in the active and passive voice and in the conditional and subjunctive mood to achieve particular effects (e.g., emphasizing the actor or the action; expressing uncertainty or describing a state contrary to fact).
— 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 common, grade-appropriate Greek or Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., precede, recede, secede).
— Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
— Interpret figures of speech (e.g. verbal irony, puns) in context.
— 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.
— 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.
— 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.
— 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.
— Follow rules for collegial discussions and decision-making, track progress toward specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed.
— 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.
— 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.
Encountering Evil: <em>Night</em>
Surviving Repression: <em>Persepolis</em>