Students read three masterful works of fiction by Sherman Alexie, Karen Russell and Alice Walker, and practice skills, habits, and routines that will be used regularly in the high school classroom.
This short introductory unit serves as the bridge between middle school and high school literature courses. In this unit of study, students will practice skills, habits, and routines that will be used on a regular basis in the high school classroom: vocabulary practice, close reading, annotating text, collaborative conversation, and evidence-based writing. These skills will be developed and honed as students read three masterful works of short fiction. Simultaneously, students will review essential literary skills and concepts they have learned in middle school and apply them to ninth grade-level texts.
The year will begin with the “How to Fight Monsters” chapter from Sherman Alexie’s novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. This chapter follows the protagonist, Junior, through his first day at his new off-reservation school as he struggles to understand the social norms and expectations in this foreign environment. Students will investigate the author’s craft, examining the techniques Alexie uses to characterize Junior and develop the theme of identity.
Students will then work to further develop close reading and annotating skills as they examine St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, a contemporary short story by Karen Russell. The story is structured around a handbook that describes various stages of adapting to a new culture, with powerful advanced vocabulary, and strongly developed young characters who struggle to adapt in this strange new setting. The complex text and thematic treatment of identity make the story particularly appropriate as one of the first high school texts that students encounter. As students read, discuss, and write about the text, they will again examine how the author’s deliberate choices, such as text structure and diction, create character, meaning, and theme. Students will practice taking a thematic topic (like “identity”) and developing it into a theme statement that reveals the author’s message on the thematic topic. (Some of the concepts and questions from this portion of the unit have been adapted from Engage New York Module 9.1.)
Finally, students will read Alice Walker’s powerful short story, Roselily. In this very brief story, Walker creates a complex characterization of the narrator, Roselily, a young woman who jumps into marriage with a man she barely knows, who is of a different faith and who is from a faraway city. Her desperate attempt to abandon her past and start fresh develops the thematic topic of identity that is echoed in all three stories.
At Match, students have a Composition class 4 days per week in addition to English class. Below, we have included Supplementary Composition Projects to reflect the material covered in our Composition course. For teachers who are interested in including these Composition Projects but do not have a separate Composition course, we have included a “Suggested Placement” to note where these projects would most logically fit into the English unit. While the Composition Projects may occasionally include content unrelated to English 9, most have both a skill and content connection to the work students are doing in their English 9 class.
In the literature lessons of this unit, students read several short works of fiction focused on the theme of identity. While not explicitly tied to any of the works of short fiction in the English 9 unit, the supplementary Composition Projects are tied to the theme of identity and develop some of the same skills the students will need to be successful on the writing portion of the Unit 1assessment. All of the Composition Projects in this brief unit are narrative pieces, but the focus on selecting evidence and providing context for that evidence is the same skill students will use in the literary analysis writing in the English 9 unit. While not recorded as an area of focus in the project descriptions below, a focus on using advanced vocabulary could also be very smoothly woven into these projects. The emphasis on analyzing diction and on mastering new and complex vocabulary in the English unit could be reinforced in the Composition Projects by requiring students to use some of the vocabulary in their writing. Words that would be particularly applicable to the writing projects are bewildered, inevitable, assimilation, and latent. The concept of culture shock could also be referenced by students in “The Snare” essay. The writing focus areas of this unit come directly from the “Proficient” column of the Match High School composition rubric rows for Thesis, Evidence, Explanation, and Revision.
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This assessment accompanies Unit 1 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.
It is the beginning of the year and we are introducing 9th grade levels of rigor for the three standards listed below, all of which are spiraled from 8th grade. Below are the three rows of the rubric that are the focus areas for this unit. Assess students relative to the "proficient" column of our Composition Writing Rubric.
Students will begin the unit by working on a process writing piece about “The Freshman Snare,” in which they will work on all the Writing Focus Areas listed below. The second project is an on demand piece in which students will show their progress on the first three Writing Focus Areas. In general, on demand pieces do not allow for the in-depth revisions possible during a process writing project. Assess students relative to the "proficient" column of our Composition Writing Rubric.
text features, epigraph, diction, characterization, conflict, theme, narrator, point of view, evidence, juxtaposition, diction, tone
in-, re-, super-, bi- [bilingual (227), bipedal (230)], lukos-/lupos-, anthropos-
Absolutely True Diary: betray (55), translucent (56)
"St. Lucy’s": couth (225), remedied (225), agitation (226), ostracized (227), exultant (227), menacing(229), bewildered (229), taunt (230), latent (231), inability (236), ferocity (237), rehabilitated (246)
"Roselily": superficial, usurped, inevitable
Other: assimilation (thematically tied)
Absolutely True Diary: crucifixion (55), “the rez” (56), “fisticuffs” (61)
"St. Lucy’s": lycanthropic, boarding school, culture shock, “backwoods” (226), “apiary” (226), “purgatory” (227), “naturalized citizens” (227), “Caramba!” (231), “wolf in sheep’s clothing” (232), “catechism” (233), “the Charleston” (237), sotto voce (240), “the Sausalito” (241), “prosciutto” (246)
"Roselily": “Dearly Beloved…” (1), “covered head” (1), “cinder” (1), “yoke” (2)
Students will become familiar with the concept of “culture shock” as well as biculturalism.
ATDPTI pp. 54 – 57
Explain how Sherman Alexie uses juxtaposition to characterize Junior.
Practice the systems and routines (vocabulary acquisition, annotation, independent reading) of the high school literature classroom.
ATDPTI pp. 59 – 66
Explain the techniques Alexie uses to reveal and develop theme.
Practice the systems and routines (same as yesterday, plus evidence-based writing) of the high school literature classroom.
“4 Stages of Culture Shock”
St. Lucy's p. 226 — Stage 1 Epigraph
Explain how the author uses specific diction to characterize the girls on p. 225.
Practice the systems and routines (same as yesterday, plus root study) of the high school literature classroom.
St. Lucy's pp. 226 – 229 — Stage 1
Explain how the author uses diction to reveal important information about characters, plot and conflict.
Practice the systems and routines (same as previous day's, plus vocabulary in context) of the high school literature classroom.
St. Lucy's pp. 229 – 235 — Stage 2
Explain how the author is using the central conflict and characters to develop the theme of identity.
Practice the systems and routines (previous routines, plus habits and expectations of rigorous discussion) of the high school literature classroom.
“History and Culture: Boarding Schools”
St. Lucy's pp. 235 – 240 — Stage 3
Explain how the author uses the characterization of Claudia, Mirabella, and Jeannette to further develop the conflict.
St. Lucy's pp. 240 – 246 — Stages 4 and 5
Explain how the author continues to develop theme in the final pages of the text.
Discussion & Writing
St. Lucy's — Whole Text
Discuss the theme of identity and write a thematic statement about the author’s message in "St. Lucy’s".
St. Lucy's — Whole text
Draft a written response to the prompt using brainstorming from day 8.
“Roselily” pp. 1 – 6
Explain how the author creates character and establishes conflict in the first four paragraphs of the story.
Explain how the author uses the story’s structure to convey theme.
Discussion & Writing
Compare the authors' craft and the theme development of all three stories through discussion and writing.
We have our own ideas about who we are and what we are about. But other people, family members, teachers, random strangers on the street, can also assign certain attributes or characteristics to us based on what they can see or know about us. So, who are we really?
In this essay, it is your job to explain who or what really defines who we are as individuals. Is our identity entirely defined by us as individuals? Or do other people help to define who we are? Explain using relevant examples and evidence from your own thoughts and experiences.
An effective essay:
Making it to high school is an accomplishment. The freedoms here are greater, and even the pool of potential friends is more expansive, but the responsibilities are heavier, too, and the impact of your decisions more influential. Freshman year is therefore one of the most important times in your life.
Still, because high school is such an enormous transition from middle school, many freshmen struggle to succeed in the new environment. Freshmen sometimes find Composition class, where independence is high and self-regulation is required, to be especially challenging. They therefore sometimes fall into the Freshman Snare, a trap of distractions posed by all the newness of high school… and they end up meeting disappointment.
In your first writing project of the year, explain what the Freshman Snare is, and using advice from this year’s sophomores, describe how you will avoid the Freshman Snare.
An effective essay:
Beginning high school often means starting at a new school, adapting to different expectations, and adjusting to new teachers, students, and ways of doing things. Like someone adjusting to life in a new culture, students beginning high school can experience some culture shock.
Based on the article “The Four Stages of Culture Shock” and your experience in your first week or so of this year, in which stage of culture shock would you place yourself? Explain using evidence from both the article and your experiences.
An effective essay:
What impact does acclimating and/or assimilating to a new culture have on an individual’s identity? Explain using evidence from both The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.
An effective essay: