Charlotte's Web

Students explore the meaning of true friendship by reading E.B. White's classic novel Charlotte's Web, examining its themes, setting, character and language, and learning to develop empathy for others.

Unit Summary

In this unit, students will explore the meaning of true friendship by reading Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Charlotte’s Web, a classic novel written in 1952, clearly illustrates how difficult and scary it can be to make a friend, yet how rewarding a true friendship really is. Over the course of the novel, students will consider what it means to be a good friend, whether or not friendship is always easy, and whether or not conflicts and struggle really are an important part of strengthening friendships. By deeply connecting with the characters, students will learn about the power of helping others, how creativity and determination can help solve problems, and that people can and do change. Students will also begin to understand the cycle of life and beauty, and the emotional responses that come with death through the eyes of Wilbur. It is our hope that this unit, in connection with other units, will provide the foundation for developing empathy and understanding about true friendship and life.

Charlotte’s Web was chosen not only because of the strong theme of friendship and life, but because it is a classic in children’s literature. Charlotte’s Web was written in the early 1950s and contains themes and language that are more archaic than other texts from the year. Therefore, students will learn how to analyze themes, settings, characters and language that are less familiar and relatable.

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Unit Launch

Online learning modules that include short videos and readings to help teachers prepare to teach a unit.

 

Texts and Materials

Core Materials

  • Book: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (HarperCollins Publishers, 2012)   —  680L

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Assessment

These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills. Additional progress monitoring suggestions are included throughout the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • What are the characteristics of a strong friendship?
  • What can death teach us about how to live? 

Writing Focus Areas

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Sentence-Level Focus Areas

  • Combine sentences using appositives, pronouns, and conjunctions
  • Edit for complete sentences and spelling
  • Write simple, compound, and complex sentences. 

In this final unit of the year, students will combine sentences using all the different techniques they’ve learned. All students should be writing a variety of sentences in a paragraph format.

Paragraph-Level Focus Areas

  • Use single-paragraph outlines to brainstorm cohesive paragraphs 
  • Understand components of a topic sentence
  • Differentiate between topic and supporting details 
  • Write concluding sentences 

This unit reinforces the components of a strong paragraph. Students will practice composing paragraphs with topic sentences, supporting details, and concluding sentences in response to Target Task questions. ​​​​

Opinion Writing Focus Areas

  • Clearly state an opinion
  • Provide reasons that support an opinion
  • Use appropriate transition words to connect your reasons
  • Include a concluding statement 

After reading Charlotte’s Web, students will write an opinion piece explaining which character helped Wilbur the most. Students must brainstorm an opinion, decide which evidence is most convincing, and use appropriate transition words to connect their evidence. There is evidence for more than one character, so students need to be thoughtful about what pieces of evidence they choose and why.

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Fluency Focus Areas

  • Readers adhere to punctuation, particularly end marks. 
  • Readers read dialogue in a way that shows interpretation of the passage. 
  • Readers self-correct when reading difficult words and sentence structures. 
  • Readers adjust reading rate depending on the purpose for reading and task.

This unit has a few fluency focuses. The first is on adhering to punctuation, particularly end marks. E.B. White uses a variety of end punctuation in order to help a reader connect with the characters and understand the plot. Students will be pushed to read the sentences based on the punctuation in order to show a deep interpretation of the passage. E.B. White also highlights the way in which different characters speak, particularly the Goose. Students will focus on reading the dialogue in a way that is true to the character while also sounding conversational. Finally, students will continue to work on self-correcting when reading difficult words and sentence structures in order to read with smoothness and fluidity. 

Teachers should plan to do fluency checkpoints at several points throughout a unit. Have students grade themselves or a friend on the Reading Fluency Rubric. If a student scores a 2 or lower on any of the sections, we offer some ideas for additional fluency instruction and support in our Fluency Assessment Package.

At the end of each unit, teachers should assess each student using the unit’s fluency assessment found in the Fluency Assessment Package. This assessment is quick. Teachers should plan to pull students one-on-one to do this while the rest of the class is independently reading or writing.

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Fluency Package

Additional tools to help monitor and support students’ reading fluency.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

  • Questioning and clarifying to build understanding. Students seek to clarify a particular point a student makes by asking follow up questions. 
  • Build on and challenge partner's ideas. Students challenge the thinking of their peers.
  • Synthesizing to build deeper meaning. Students synthesize everything they heard into a coherent statement at the end of the discussion 

The main focus of this unit is getting students to critique and analyze the reasoning of others. At this point, students should be able to clarify and explain their own thoughts using ideas and vocabulary from the text. They should also be able to engage with the thinking of others by building on, paraphrasing, and asking clarifying questions. Now students will work on engaging with others at a much deeper level. 

Instead of just building on to a partner’s idea, students should begin to challenge his or her thinking. To do so, students may focus on a particular idea or example, and then explain why they disagree. Or, multiple students should be pushed to analyze and critique a particular problem or line of thought. The idea is that students are able to use discussion strategies to go deep into a particular point or idea. 

Finally, students should be able to synthesize key ideas from the discussion. The synthesis should hit on the key takeaways and learning of the discussion. This is to ensure that students walk away from the discussion with new or deeper understandings of the topic.

Guidance on teacher moves to support these discussion focuses can be found in our Guide to Academic Discourse (below).

Vocabulary

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Below are all of the unit vocabulary words. Prior to teaching the unit, we recommend teachers decide which words to prioritize. We also recommend that teachers decide which affixes to prioritize. See our teacher tool Prepping Unit Vocabulary (below) for more guidance on which words to pick as priority words.

Text-based

admiration amused anxiety appeal/lure appalled arose bloodthirsty boast brutal cautiously clever commotion complimentary conspiracy dazed decency detested disgust dreary dud enchanted endure envy fibs frantic gloomy gullible humble hysterics injustice listless loathed modest neglected objectionable praise radiant relieved runt salutations scheming sedentary shamelessly shrieked slogan sociable triumph triumphantly unbearable vaguely vanish versatile wearily wondrous

Root/Affix

-able -less -ly -ous -tion in- un-

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Vocabulary Package

Additional vocabulary tools that help reinforce and support student vocabulary development.

Content Knowledge and Connections

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Lesson Map

1

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 1

    RL.3.3

Defend an opinion about whether or not all members of the family have the same perspective about Wilbur.

2

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 2

    RL.3.3

Analyze how the author uses the details of chapter two to deepen a readers understanding of each family members perspective of Wilbur.

3

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 3

    RL.3.3

Explain how Wilbur’s interactions with the goose help the reader get a better understanding of who he is.

4

Writing

    L.3.1.h

    L.3.1.i

Writers combine sentences to make their writing more interesting.

5Essential Task

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 4

    RL.3.3

    RL.3.4

Describe how E.B. White creates the feeling of loneliness.

6

Discussion & Writing

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 1-5

    RL.3.3

    W.3.1

    W.3.1.a

    W.3.1.b

    W.3.1.d

    SL.3.1

Describe Wilbur by closely reading a text, participating in a class discussion, and writing a well-organized essay to support an idea.

7

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 5

    RL.3.3

    RL.3.4

Analyze the significance of the words Wilbur uses to describe Charlotte and what this reveals about him.

8

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 6

    RL.3.3

    RL.3.4

Describe Templeton and how the others feel about him.

9

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 7-8

    RL.3.3

Explain different perspectives by analyzing different characters points of views and reactions to key events in a text.

10

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 9

    RL.3.2

    RL.3.3

Describe how Wilbur is feeling at the end of the chapter and why.

11Essential Task

Discussion & Writing

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 1-10

    RL.3.3

    W.3.1

    W.3.1.a

    W.3.1.b

    W.3.1.d

    SL.3.1

    SL.3.1.c

    SL.3.1.d

Describe Wilbur and Charlotte’s relationship by closely reading a text, participating in a class discussion, and writing a well-organized paragraph to support an idea.

12

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 10

    RL.3.3

Describe what terrible thing happened in the chapter and how it had a positive impact on the characters and the plot.

13

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 11

    RL.3.3

Describe how each character responds to the miracle and why they respond that way.

14

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 12

    RL.3.3

Explain why the animals want to save Wilbur.

15

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 13

    RL.3.2

    RL.3.3

Explain why the chapter is titled “Good Progress.”

16

Discussion & Writing

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 1-13

    RL.3.3

    W.3.1

    W.3.1.a

    W.3.1.b

    W.3.1.d

    SL.3.1

    SL.3.1.c

    SL.3.1.d

Describe Wilbur and Charlotte’s relationship by closely reading a text, participating in a class discussion, and writing a well-organized essay to support an idea.

17

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 14

    RL.3.3

Explain Fern’s mother’s perspective on Fern’s time in the barn and if Dr. Dorian has the same perspective.

18

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 15

    RL.3.2

    RL.3.3

Explain the significance of the chapter title “The Crickets”.

19

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 16

    RL.3.3

Analyze how Wilbur has changed and predict what Wilbur will do next.

20

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 17-18

    RL.3.3

Explain how Charlotte is changing and if Wilbur truly understands the change.

21Essential Task

Discussion & Writing

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 1-18

    RL.3.3

    W.3.1

    W.3.1.a

    W.3.1.b

    W.3.1.d

    SL.3.1

    SL.3.1.c

    SL.3.1.d

Describe Wilbur and Charlotte’s relationship by closely reading a text, participating in a class discussion, and writing a well-organized paragraph to support an idea.

22

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 19

    RL.3.3

Explain how the fair has caused people to change and why.

23

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 20

    RL.3.3

Explain how everyone responds to the speech and why they respond that way.

24

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 21

    RL.3.3

Describe what happens to Charlotte at the fair ground and if she was lonely.

25Essential Task

  • Charlotte’s Web — Ch. 22

    RL.3.2

    RL.3.3

Explain how Wilbur continues to show his love and friendship for Charlotte even though she is no longer alive.

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Discussion & Writing

  • Charlotte’s Web

    RL.3.2

    W.3.1

    W.3.1.a

    W.3.1.b

    W.3.1.d

    SL.3.1

Determine the central message or lesson of Charlotte's Web and explain how it is conveyed through the key details in the text.

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2 days

Opinion Writing

  • Charlotte’s Web

    RL.3.3

    W.3.1

    W.3.1.a

    W.3.1.b

    W.3.1.d

Explain which character helped Wilbur the most using the best supporting details from the text.

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Discussion

  • Charlotte’s Web

    SL.3.1

    SL.3.1.c

    SL.3.1.d

Analyze and debate unit essential questions by stating a claim and supporting the claim with evidence from the entire unit.

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Assessment

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.3.1 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

  • L.3.1.h — Use coordinating and subordinating conjunctions.

  • L.3.1.i — Produce simple, compound, and complex sentences.

  • L.3.2 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.3.2 — Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.

  • RL.3.3 — Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.

  • RL.3.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.3.1 — Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

  • SL.3.1.c — Ask questions to check understanding of information presented, stay on topic, and link their comments to the remarks of others.

  • SL.3.1.d — Explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.

  • SL.3.3 — Ask and answer questions about information from a speaker, offering appropriate elaboration and detail.

Writing Standards
  • W.3.1 — Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons.

  • W.3.1.a — Introduce the topic or text they are writing about, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure that lists reasons.

  • W.3.1.b — Provide reasons that support the opinion.

  • W.3.1.d — Provide a concluding statement or section.

Sprial Standards

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L.3.1

L.3.2

L.3.4

L.3.4.b

L.3.6

RF.3.3

RF.3.4

RL.3.1

RL.3.10

RL.3.4

RL.3.5

RL.3.6

SL.3.1

SL.3.1.b

SL.3.6

W.3.10

W.3.4

W.3.5