Finding Connection: The Outsiders

Students explore the topic of "coming of age" through the story of a young man struggling to determine right and wrong in a world defined by violence.

Unit Summary

S. E. Hinton’s 1967 novel, The Outsiders, is a classic coming-of-age story. Written when Hinton was just a teenager, the text follows the story of Ponyboy, a young teenager who has recently lost both of his parents and is being raised by his older brothers. Although the text is set in the 1960s, the emotions Ponyboy experiences are timeless and universal, as Hinton captures the inner life of a young teenage boy as he navigates the complexities of life as a “greaser” in a world prejudiced against them. This book is a middle school classic for good reason; Ponyboy’s story continues to resonate with young readers, even 60 years after its original publication.

In this unit, students will closely analyze how authors develop the unique perspective of their narrator, and they will track how characters’ perspectives change in response to specific events. They will also pay close attention to the way that authors structure text, studying standard narrative structures in order to better understand how individual incidents, scenes, and chapters fit together to create a cohesive narrative. Additionally, this text provides opportunities to study foreshadowing and how that literary device works to create tension in the text—and provides the reader with the opportunity for reflection on earlier events and how these events influence later outcomes. Students will also compare a film version of the core text with the original novel, thinking metacognitively about how the experience of reading is similar to and different from viewing a film. This unit also includes three nonfiction texts, which, in addition to providing students with a contemporary lens through which to understand the events and characters in The Outsiders, are an opportunity to practice the skill of deciphering the meaning of words in context. 

This unit continues our year-long study of what it means to “come of age.” Students have explored this topic through a variety of genres and at this point in the year are beginning to develop a more nuanced understanding of what it means for a young person to navigate a complex world and declare his or her own identity. Students will be able to draw connections between each text: Kenny from The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 and Ponyboy each struggle to recover from trauma; Jonas from The Giver and Ponyboy both yearn for love and connection to others; Jazz from Being Jazz and Ponyboy both believe that people are more similar than they are different but that prejudice and stereotypes keep us divided. 

In this unit, students will briefly return to narrative writing and then spend the majority of their time working on strengthening their literary analysis essays. In the first task, students will study flashbacks by writing their own. Hinton uses this literary device in The Outsiders, and students will analyze her use of a flashback before crafting one of their own, in which they have to use what they know of the text and characters thus far to create a narrative that is both original and fits within the world of the text. This task is an opportunity to track students’ development with narrative writing, and also to introduce the use of transitional phrases to indicate shifts in time (W.6.3.C) -- a necessary skill for writing effective flashbacks. In the second writing task of the unit, students will return to the central topic of 6th grade ELA: coming-of-age. This task requires that students think about how The Outsiders fits within the genre, considering both what it means to “come of age” and how and why Ponyboy develops and changes over the course of the text. In addition to supporting students’ development as analytical writers -- spiraling back to standards W.6.1.A, W.6.1.B, and W.6.1.E -- this unit introduces the concept of formal tone (W.6.1.D). Additionally, students will continue the work they began in the first task of using transitional words and phrases, applying them now to their persuasive, analytical writing.

Subscribe to Fishtank Plus to unlock access to additional resources for this unit, including:

  • Enhanced Lesson Plans
  • Essential Task Guides
  • Student Handout Editor
  • Google Classroom Integration
  • Vocabulary Package
  • Fluency Package
  • Data Analysis Package

Texts and Materials

Core Materials

  • Book: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (Speak, 2006)   —  750L

Supporting Materials

See Text Selection Rationale

Unit Prep

Essential Questions


  • How does belonging to a group shape a person’s identity? 
  • What forces divide people and what forces bring people together?
  • How do stereotypes and prejudices influence the way we see others and ourselves? 

Reading Enduring Understandings


  • People often see others as being more different from them than they really are; these perceived differences can lead to conflict and even violence.
  • It is important to look for beauty in the world, even when things seem bleak or hopeless. 
  • All people have a desire to “belong” and form strong connections with others; for some people, friends can become a kind of family. 



Notes for Teachers


  • This book addresses a number of difficult and mature topics, including gang violence, murder, child abuse, the death of parents, the death of friends, police shooting, and depression. There are also several scenes that include slurs and offensive stereotypes. Although there are few truly “graphic” scenes in the text, students will very likely feel emotionally impacted by many of the events and topics described. Additionally, the nonfiction articles students read in this unit discuss issues of violence and crime today. As always, be mindful of your students’ backgrounds and life experiences and be aware that they may have strong reactions to the book. 
  • Although this text was written by a woman, it is notable that there are very few female characters in the text. You may wish to have students reflect on the way that gender is portrayed in the novel.
  • This is a compelling text, and most students will likely feel motivated to read it for homework. There is an audiobook available if some of your students need that support. Additionally, the film version follows the original text very closely (the version titled “The Full Novel” includes many scenes that were edited out of the version shown in theaters), which may be helpful for some students. 
  • Questions 4-8 on the unit assessment reference the short story, "The War of the Wall" by Toni Cade Bambara (see unit materials). Be sure to include this short story with the assessment.
  • Each lesson plan lists the homework for that evening; the vast majority of the time the assignment is for students to read and take notes on the pages of focus for the following day’s class. Students should come to class prepared with a literal understanding of the reading in preparation for closely rereading shorter sections of text during that class period. For homework accountability, it is recommended that teachers check students’ reading notes each day to ensure that they read and understood the gist of the chapter. Additionally, teachers may wish to assign a short written response to the homework thinking task to bring to class the following day. Another option is to give a quick homework check quiz at the beginning of each class (3–6 questions assessing literal understanding). 


This assessment accompanies Unit 4 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Lesson Map


  • The Outsiders — chapter 1


Explain how S. E. Hinton begins to develop the narrator’s point of view in a text.


  • The Outsiders — chapter 2


Explain how specific sections of chapter 2 fit into the overall structure of The Outsiders and develop the setting and theme.


  • The Outsiders — chapter 3



Explain how Hinton continues to develop Ponyboy’s point of view and identify how and why his point of view changes.


Narrative Writing

  • The Outsiders — chapters 1-3

  • The Outsiders pp. 31 – 34 — Johnny's flashback



Write a flashback scene, including transition words to signal sequence and changes in timeframe. 


  • The Outsiders — chapter 4


Explain how specific scenes and lines of text fit into the overall structure of the text and develop the plot.


  • The Outsiders — chapter 4

  • The Outsiders — 00:00:00–28:49


Compare and contrast setting elements and scenes from The Outsiders with the film version, and describe the experience of viewing the film.


  • The Outsiders — chapter 5



Explain how Hinton continues to develop Ponyboy’s point of view and identify how and why his point of view changes.


  • “Nothing Gold...”



Determine the theme of a poem and explain how the poet uses literary devices to develop that theme.


  • The Outsiders — chapter 6



Explain how Hinton develops different characters’ perspectives and analyze how and why characters’ perspectives change in response to plot events.


  • The Outsiders — chapter 7



Explain how Hinton develops different characters’ perspectives and analyze how and why characters’ perspectives change in response to plot events.


  • The Outsiders — chapter 8



Explain how Hinton develops different characters’ perspectives and analyze how and why characters’ perspectives change in response to plot events.


  • The Outsiders — chapter 9


Explain how specific scenes and lines of text fit into the overall structure of the text and develop the plot.


  • The Outsiders — chapter 10



Explain how Hinton develops Ponyboy’s point of view and his reactions to plot events.


  • The Outsiders — chapter 11


Explain how Hinton develops Ponyboy’s and other characters’ perspectives, and how and why their perspectives change.


  • The Outsiders — chapter 12


Identify themes in The Outsiders and explain how Hinton develops these themes in chapter 12.


  • The Outsiders — 1:12:22–1:27:35 (end)


Compare and contrast scenes from The Outsiders with the film version and describe the experience of viewing the film.


  • “Study: Teens...”




Determine the meaning and connotations of unknown words in a text using context clues and Greek/Latin roots.


  • “Study sheds...”


Summarize key ideas and determine a central idea of a nonfiction article and explain how the author develops this idea.


  • “A School's...”




Determine the meaning of unknown words through context clues and then successfully use those words in their own writing.


Socratic Seminar

  • The Outsiders

  • Socratic Seminar Guide



Engage in a Socratic Seminar with peers, responding directly to others by rephrasing and delineating arguments and posing clarifying questions.


Literary Analysis Writing

  • The Outsiders




Gather evidence appropriate to the task and craft a strong thesis statement. 


Literary Analysis Writing

  • The Outsiders




Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion between ideas within a literary analysis. 


Literary Analysis Writing

  • The Outsiders



Revise essays to ensure consistent use of a formal tone and academic language.


2 days


  • “The War of the Wall”

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.6.4 — Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 6 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

  • L.6.4.a — Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word's position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.

  • L.6.4.b — Use common, grade-appropriate Greek or Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., audience, auditory, audible).

  • L.6.4.c — Consult reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation of a word or determine or clarify its precise meaning or its part of speech.

  • L.6.4.d — Verify the preliminary determination of the meaning of a word or phrase (e.g., by checking the inferred meaning in context or in a dictionary).

  • L.6.5.b — Use the relationship between particular words (e.g., cause/effect, part/whole, item/category) to better understand each of the words.

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.6.2 — Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

  • RI.6.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.6.1 — Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RL.6.2 — Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

  • RL.6.3 — Describe how a particular story's or drama's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.

  • RL.6.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.

  • RL.6.5 — Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.

  • RL.6.6 — Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.

  • RL.6.7 — Compare and contrast the experience of reading a story, drama, or poem to listening to or viewing an audio, video, or live version of the text, including contrasting what they "see" and "hear" when reading the text to what they perceive when they listen or watch.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.6.1 — Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

  • SL.6.1.c — Pose and respond to specific questions with elaboration and detail by making comments that contribute to the topic, text, or issue under discussion.

  • SL.6.1.d — Review the key ideas expressed and demonstrate understanding of multiple perspectives through reflection and paraphrasing.

  • SL.6.3 — Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.

Writing Standards
  • W.6.1 — Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

  • W.6.1.a — Introduce claim(s) and organize the reasons and evidence clearly.

  • W.6.1.b — Support claim(s) with clear reasons and relevant evidence, using credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.

  • W.6.1.c — Use words, phrases, and clauses to clarify the relationships among claim(s) and reasons.

  • W.6.1.d — Establish and maintain a formal style.

  • W.6.1.e — Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from the argument presented.

  • W.6.3 — Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

  • W.6.3.a — Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.

  • W.6.3.b — Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, and description, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.

  • W.6.3.c — Use a variety of transition words, phrases, and clauses to convey sequence and signal shifts from one time frame or setting to another.

  • W.6.3.d — Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to convey experiences and events.

  • W.6.3.e — Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events.