Spider Stories

Students read, discuss, and write about spider — or Anansi — folktales from West Africa, which have been used for generations to teach lessons about human nature and the consequences of good and bad behavior. 

Unit Summary

In this unit, second graders explore Spider, or Anansi, folktales from West Africa. Folktales have been used for generations to teach important lessons about human nature and the consequences of good and bad behavior in a way that is clear, convincing, and easily relatable. Through reading and learning about Spider, students will be able to debate and analyze what it means to be a good person and the importance of hard work and cooperation. Studying the actions of Spider, a character with whom it is easy to connect and empathize, allows students to begin to develop a sense of moral behavior and understanding of the world around them by learning from the actions of others. It is our hope that this unit, in connection with others in the sequence, will help students begin to develop a strong moral compass and a nuanced understanding of what constitutes right and wrong.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

See Text Selection Rationale

Assessment

This assessment accompanies this unit and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • What can folktales teach us about being a good person?
    Potential lessons students can learn from the Spider stories:
    • One who plays tricks himself may be tricked if he is too greedy.
    • You cannot take shortcuts to get what you want.
    • You get what you deserve.
    • It’s better to be smart than to be big.
    • Temporary happiness is not worth long-term pain and embarrassment.
    • Think about others before yourself.

Writing Focus Areas

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Sentence-Level Focus Areas

  • Expand simple sentences using question words.

Over the course of the unit, students focus on the power of a single sentence. While students continue to get feedback on using complete sentences, they also use the prompts of when, where, and why to add more details to simple sentences. For students who are still struggling to write complete sentences, we recommend using our guide Sentence-Level Feedback and Support to provide individual and small-group feedback throughout the unit.

Narrative Writing Focus Areas

  • Brainstorm and develop focused narrative with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Zoom in on one moment by adding details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings.
  • Use adjectives and adverbs to describe characters in more detail.

In Unit 1, students began writing narrative stories with a strong beginning, middle, and end. In this unit, students continue to work on brainstorming and writing stories, specifically trickster tales, that have a strong beginning, middle, and end. Students also are challenged to think about the different ways they can describe a character’s actions, thoughts, and feelings.

Foundational Skills

Fluency Focus Areas

  • Readers read with expression and volume to match interpretation of the passage.
  • Readers use proper intonation to show interpretation of the passage.

A priority of this unit is modeling how to read a text with the right expression, volume, and intonation to match the interpretation of the passage. All of the stories should be read aloud with an emphasis on using strategies of fluent reading to bring the characters and events to life. When reenacting and retelling a story, students should also use the same expression and intonation to bring the story to life.

Vocabulary

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Text-based

appetite ashamed brilliant clever commotion deserve disgrace foolish fool greedy gullible mischievous mourn puny satisfied stalk wise wisdom

Root/Affix

dis-

Related Teacher Tools:

Content Knowledge and Connections

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  • Folktales are stories that are passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. Folktales typically teach a lesson about right and wrong.
  • Trickster tales are a type of folktale. Trickster tales have one character who is clever and devious and who often creates problems for the other characters. The trickster character often goes unpunished.
  • Anansi, or Spider, stories originated in West Africa, where they were told by a storyteller. Enslaved people brought Anansi stories to the Caribbean and the U.S., where they evolved and became a symbol of resistance.
  • Anansi, or Spider, is a complicated character: He can be greedy, selfish, naughty, and gullible, but also clever, helpful, and humble.

Lesson Map

1

  • The Adventures of Spider — Introduction

    RL.2.1

    RL.2.2

Explain why people in West Africa tell folktales about Spider by making inferences about key details that support the central message of a story.

2

  • The Adventures of Spider — "How Spider Got a Thin Waist"

    RL.2.2

    RL.2.3

Describe Spider by describing how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.

3

  • The Adventures of Spider — "How Spider Got a Thin Waist"

    RL.2.2

    SL.2.1

    SL.2.2

Recount “How Spider Got a Thin Waist” and determine the central message or lesson.

4

  • The Adventures of Spider — "Why Spider Lives in Ceilings"

    RL.2.2

    RL.2.3

Describe Spider by describing how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.

5

  • The Adventures of Spider — "Why Spider Lives in Ceilings"

    RL.2.2

    RL.2.5

    SL.2.1

    SL.2.2

Retell “Why Spider Lives in Ceilings” and determine the central message or lesson.

6

  • The Adventures of Spider

    L.2.1.e

    L.2.1.f

Construct better and more informative sentences by using question words to add more details.

7

  • The Adventures of Spider — "How Spider Got a Bald Head"

    RL.2.2

    RL.2.3

Explain if Spider had been helpful or not by explaining how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.

8

  • The Adventures of Spider — “How Spider Got a Bald Head”

  • Teacher-created materials — Props or picture clues to help retell the story

    RL.2.2

    RL.2.5

    SL.2.1

    SL.2.2

Retell “How Spider Got a Bald Head” and determine the central message or lesson.

9

  • The Adventures of Spider — “How Spider Helped a Fisherman”

    RL.2.2

    RL.2.3

Describe Spider by describing how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.

10

  • The Adventures of Spider — “How Spider Helped a Fisherman”

    RL.2.2

    RL.2.5

    SL.2.1

    SL.2.2

    SL.2.4

Retell “How Spider Helped a Fisherman” and determine the central message or lesson.

11

  • The Adventures of Spider — “Why Spiders Live in Dark Corners”

    RL.2.2

    RL.2.3

Explain what lesson Spider learned and how he learned it by recounting stories and determining their central lesson.

12

  • The Adventures of Spider — “Why Spiders Live in Dark Corners”

  • Teacher-created materials — Props or picture clues for student retells (optional)

    RL.2.2

    RL.2.5

    SL.2.1

    SL.2.2

Retell “Why Spiders Live in Dark Corners” including the central message or lesson.

13

  • The Adventures of Spider

    L.2.1.e

    L.2.1.f

Construct better and more informative sentences by using question words to add more details.

14

  • The Adventures of Spider — "How the World Got Wisdom"

    RL.2.2

    RL.2.3

Explain why Spider decided to throw the pot on the ground by describing how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.

15

  • The Adventures of Spider — "How the World Got Wisdom"

    RL.2.2

    RL.2.5

    SL.2.1

    SL.2.2

Retell “How the World Got Wisdom” and determine the central message or lesson.

16

  • The Adventures of Spider

    SL.2.1

    SL.2.2

Argue if Spider has more positive or negative traits by defending claims or opinions to content-related questions.

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3 days

  • Anansi's Feast

    RL.2.4

    SL.2.4

Perform a reader’s theater version of Anansi by reading with sufficient accuracy and fluency.

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Narrative Writing

    W.2.3

    W.2.5

Brainstorm a trickster tale featuring Spider by planning to write a narrative that includes details about a beginning, middle, and end.

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Narrative Writing

    W.2.3

    W.2.5

Use details to describe a character’s actions, thoughts, and feelings in a narrative.

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Narrative Writing

    W.2.3

    W.2.5

    L.2.2.c

Revise writing using adjectives to make sentences more interesting.

21

Narrative Writing

    W.2.3

    W.2.5

    L.2.2.c

Edit narrative writing to use an apostrophe to form contractions and frequently occurring possessives.

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Assessment

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.2.1 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

  • L.2.1.e — Use adjectives and adverbs, and choose between them depending on what is to be modified.

  • L.2.1.f — Produce, expand, and rearrange complete simple and compound sentences (e.g., The boy watched the movie; The little boy watched the movie; The action movie was watched by the little boy).

  • L.2.2 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

  • L.2.2.c — Use an apostrophe to form contractions and frequently occurring possessives.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.2.1 — Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.

  • RL.2.2 — Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.

  • RL.2.3 — Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.

  • RL.2.4 — Describe how words and phrases (e.g., regular beats, alliteration, rhymes, repeated lines) supply rhythm and meaning in a story, poem, or song.

  • RL.2.5 — Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.2.1 — Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 2 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

  • SL.2.2 — Recount or describe key ideas or details from a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.

  • SL.2.4 — Tell a story or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking audibly in coherent sentences.

Writing Standards
  • W.2.3 — Write narratives in which they recount a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure.

  • W.2.5 — With guidance and support from adults and peers, focus on a topic and strengthen writing as needed by revising and editing.