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.

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

Core Materials

Supporting Materials

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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

Reading Enduring Understandings

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  • 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

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  • 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

1

  • “What Adults Can Learn from Kids”

    RI.8.8

Identify a speaker’s argument and the reasoning she uses to support that argument, and assess the relevance and sufficiency of her evidence. 

2

  • “7 Times in History...”

    RI.8.2

Determine the central idea of an article and explain how it is developed over the course of the text. 

3

  • “Why Demonstrating...”

    RI.8.2

Summarize an article and determine its central idea. 

4

  • “'Young People are Angry'”

    RI.8.4

Determine the meaning of unknown words through context clues and determine a speaker’s tone based on specific words and phrases used in the text. 

5

  • “Five Teens...”

  • “TIME's 25...”

  • “7 Female...”

  • “The Youth Activists...”

  • “These Teenage Activists...”

  • “Seven Young...”

    SL.8.4

Clearly present information to classmates and work collaboratively to draw conclusions based on research.

6

Project

    W.8.1

    W.8.2

    W.8.2.a

    W.8.2.b

    W.8.3

    W.8.7

    W.8.8

    W.8.9

Research a topic of choice and gather appropriate evidence from reputable sources. 

7

Project

    W.8.1

    W.8.2

    W.8.2.a

    W.8.2.b

    W.8.3

    W.8.7

    W.8.8

    W.8.9

Complete a draft of the informational section of an essay, incorporating sufficient evidence from multiple sources. 

8

Project

    W.8.1

    W.8.1.a

    W.8.1.b

    W.8.2

    W.8.3

Craft persuasive essays, including sufficient evidence and reasoning, as well as a strong counterclaim.

9

Project

    W.8.1

    W.8.2

    W.8.3

    W.8.3.a

    W.8.3.d

Structure personal narratives that clearly communicate a point of view. 

10

Project

    W.8.1

    W.8.2

    W.8.3

    W.8.5

Provide meaningful feedback to peers and incorporate feedback into own writing. 

11

2 days

Project

    SL.8.4

Present essay to peers.

Common Core Standards

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.8.2 — Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RI.8.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.

  • RI.8.8 — Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant evidence is introduced.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.8.4 — Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

Writing Standards
  • W.8.1 — Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

  • W.8.1.a — Introduce claim(s), acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

  • W.8.1.b — Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.

  • W.8.2 — Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content

  • W.8.2.a — Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information into broader categories; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

  • W.8.2.b — Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.

  • W.8.3 — Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

  • W.8.3.a — Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.

  • W.8.3.d — Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events.

  • W.8.5 — With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.

  • W.8.7 — Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.

  • W.8.8 — Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

  • W.8.9 — Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.