Making Change: Speeches, Essays, and Articles

Students explore human nature through the stories of teenagers challenging the status quo and making real change in the world.

This unit has been archived. To view our updated curriculum, visit our 8th Grade English course.

Unit Summary

In this final 8th grade unit, students will embrace their own power as changemakers in the world. Throughout this year, students have read texts that explore some of the darkest moments in recent history and reveal harsh realities about the human capacity to be bigoted, violent, cruel, and oppressive. As young people enter adolescence and come to more fully understand the complexities and contradictions of human nature, it can feel truly overwhelming. What difference can anyone make, let alone a young person?

This unit is designed as a kind of antidote to the powerlessness that some students may be feeling. This two-week unit begins with several articles about the unique role young people can play and have played in making meaningful change in the world. Students will learn about specific teenage activists making a change in the world today and think critically about what makes different kinds of activism effective. Students will spend their final week writing a paper/essay about a social issue that matters to them personally. In order to demonstrate their writing growth, this project includes components written in three different genres: a research component, an argumentative component, and a short personal narrative. These papers will be a form of activism for students, as they share their work with classmates and build awareness around an issue that is personally significant to them.

Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials

Unit Prep

Essential Questions


  • How will YOU make a difference in your community and in the world? 

Reading Enduring Understandings


  • Young people have been active in social movements throughout history and continue to play an important role today.
  • Many young people around the world are standing up for what they believe in and are doing so in a variety of different ways.

Notes for Teachers


  • As with any topic related to politics, it is important that students remember to speak respectfully to one another and listen to opinions that may differ from their own. Because students are being asked to write about an issue that they feel personally connected to, it is particularly important to maintain a safe space in your classroom.
  • The assigned articles discuss school shootings and other forms of violence. You may wish to inform families about the content covered in this unit.

Lesson Map


  • “Why Demonstrating...”


Summarize an article and determine its central idea. 


2 days



Present essay to peers.

Common Core Standards

Core Standards