Facing Calamity: An Inconvenient Sequel

Students explore human nature by studying the climate crisis and its causes and impact, and the role of government, businesses, and individuals in finding solutions.

Unit Summary

In this penultimate eighth-grade unit, students will learn about one of the most urgent issues facing the planet today: climate change. While previous units have focused on historical events, this unit focuses students’ attention on a crisis unfolding all around them. While they will undoubtedly be familiar with the basic facts of climate change, this unit aims to provide students with some of the information and analytical tools needed to engage with this complex topic.

The core text of this unit is An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, by Al Gore. Gore’s 2006 film and book, An Inconvenient Truth, presented audiences with the current scientific research on climate change and sparked a worldwide conversation on the future of our planet. An Inconvenient Sequel is the 2017 follow-up, which includes the most up-to-date climate science, with a significant focus on the way individuals can take action to combat the crisis. This text is supplemented with a number of nonfiction articles that provide students with even more information about the way climate change is currently impacting people around the world and what people are doing today to fight back against politicians and large corporations that are standing in the way of solving this crisis. Additionally, students will read several examples of cli-fi, an emerging genre of science fiction that imagines what our future might look like if we don’t address climate change.

Students will have the opportunity to use what they have learned about the current and potential impacts of climate change—as well as the narrative writing skills they have developed throughout the year—to write their own cli-fi stories. They will conclude the unit by taking action and writing a persuasive letter to their elected officials, drawing on the texts they have studied throughout the unit.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials

Assessment

This assessment accompanies Unit 5 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • Who is responsible for causing the climate crisis and who is responsible for solving it?
  • What will happen if we don’t address climate change?
  • What is the relationship between the climate crisis and social, economic, and political power?

Reading Enduring Understandings

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  • We are already seeing the impacts of climate change today, and things will only get catastrophically worse if we do not immediately address this crisis.
  • People with less money and political power are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
  • The world’s slow response to climate change can at least partially be linked to the actions of large corporations that have benefited financially from ignoring the crisis.
  • There is a growing movement of activists and artists who are speaking out about climate change and the dangers we face by not urgently addressing it.

Content Knowledge and Connections

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  • Fossil fuels
  • Greenhouse gas
  • Industrial Revolution
  • Climate denier
  • Environmental justice
  • Lobbyists
  • Tipping point
  • Paris Climate Accord

Notes for Teachers

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  • This unit is built on the following foundational premises:
    • Climate change is real.
    • Climate change is one of the most urgent issues facing us today.
    • Climate change is caused by human activity.
  • Immediate action is needed to solve the climate crisis.
  • This unit does not present climate change science as a “debate” and does not include texts that feature the voices of climate change skeptics or deniers. Students will read texts that include facts agreed upon by the scientific community. While the above premises are not up for debate within this unit, students will have the opportunity to think critically about who should be held accountable for climate change and who is responsible for solving it.
  • That said, students will undoubtedly be aware that there is a debate around climate change and that it has become something of a partisan issue. This unit may be controversial, depending on the community in which you teach, and you may experience push-back from administration, parents, and possibly from your students. Pages 228–237 of An Inconvenient Sequel are a useful resource for responding to climate skeptics (students will also read this section of text at the end of this unit).

Lesson Map

1

  • “Greta Thurnberg World Economic Forum”

  • “Greta Thunberg UN Climate Action Summit”

    RI.8.4

    RI.8.7

Explain the impact of specific words and phrases on tone in Greta Thunberg’s speeches on climate change.

2

  • An Inconvenient Sequel pp. 10 – 27

    RI.8.8

Identify the key ideas Gore uses to support his claims about climate change and assess whether the evidence he provides is relevant and sufficient.

3

  • How Do We Know?

  • Are Humans the Cause?

    RI.8.8

Delineate arguments made about climate change and assess whether the evidence provided is relevant and sufficient.

4

  • An Inconvenient Sequel pp. 28 – 134 — (excluding pages 42–43, 61–63, 78–79, 98, 110–111, 117, 120–123, 128–129)

    RI.8.2

    W.8.2.a

    W.8.8

Summarize and synthesize information from An Inconvenient Sequel and conduct independent research to supplement information from the text.

5

  • An Inconvenient Sequel pp. 28 – 134 — (excluding pages 42–43, 61–63, 78–79, 98, 110–111, 117, 120–123, 128–129)

    RI.8.2

    W.8.2.a

    W.8.8

Create a cohesive and coherent poster that describes one of the significant impacts of a warming planet.

6

  • “The Marshall Islands”

    RI.8.4

    L.8.4.c

    L.8.4.d

Determine the meaning of unknown words and phrases using context clues and explain the impact of word choice on tone.

7

  • “A Poem to My Daughter”

    RL.8.4

    RI.8.7

Explain how Jetnil-Kijiner uses specific words and phrases to create meaning and develop tone in her poem, and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different media in communicating ideas.

8

  • “We're moving...”

    RI.8.4

Explain the impact of word choice on mood, tone, and meaning.

9

  • “As Rising Heat...”

    RI.8.2

    RI.8.5

Determine how an author develops a central idea over the course of an article through the use of supporting ideas and specific lines of text.

10

  • “Notes from a Bottle”

    RL.8.2

    RL.8.9

Explain how an author develops theme in a short story and how allusions to other texts and events help create meaning.

11

  • “Time capsule found...”

    RL.8.4

Explain how Atwood uses literary devices in order to establish tone in her short story.

12

  • “World After Water”

    RL.8.2

    RL.8.4

    L.8.5.a

Explain how the author’s use of figurative language establishes mood and develops meaning and a central idea.

13

Writing

  • “Everything Change” — Forward

  • After Water Project — especially Roxane Gay’s essay

  • “Row”

  • “Endangered”

    RL.8.10

    W.8.3

Identify the primary features of the genre of cli-fi through careful study of mentor texts.

14

Writing

  • “Everything Change” — Forward

  • After Water Project — especially Roxane Gay’s essay

  • “Endangered”

  • “Row”

    W.8.3

    W.8.3.b

    W.8.3.d

Create a vivid setting for their cli-fi stories.

15

Writing

  • “Everything Change” — Forward

  • After Water Project — especially Roxane Gay’s essay

  • “Endangered”

  • “Row”

    W.8.3

    W.8.3.a

    W.8.3.b

Add characters, dialogue, and a logical structure to their stories.

16

  • “What the new report...”

  • “Focusing on how individuals...”

  • An Inconvenient Sequel pp. 260 – 267

    RI.8.9

Explain how two articles discussing solutions for the climate crisis interpret facts differently and draw different conclusions.

17

  • “Exxon Knew...”

  • “Fishermen Sue...”

    RI.8.2

Objectively summarize and determine the central ideas of nonfiction texts.

18

  • An Inconvenient Sequel — 177–214, 276–293

    RI.8.2

Determine the central idea of sections of text and synthesize information in order to educate classmates on a specific topic.

19

  • An Inconvenient Sequel pp. 226 – 237

  • “Why People Don't Believe in Climate Science”

    RI.8.6

Explain the different approaches Gore takes to acknowledge and challenge misinformation about climate change.

20

  • An Inconvenient Sequel pp. 136 – 175

  • “The seven megatrends...” — Introduction, Section 1, Section 7, Conclusion

    RI.8.8

Delineate arguments made about climate change and assess whether the evidence provided is relevant and sufficient.

21

Socratic Seminar

  • Socratic Seminar Guide

    SL.8.1.c

    SL.8.1.d

Engage in a Socratic Seminar with their classmates, summarizing the positions of others and posing questions that draw connections between their ideas and classmates' ideas.

22

Writing

  • Letter to Legislators

  • Congressional Letter

  • How to... — 9 Essential Tips for Writing to Your Congressperson

    W.8.1

    W.8.8

Identify the features of a successful letter to congress, collect information on their representatives’ voting record on climate change, and begin to craft a strong hook. 

23

Writing

  • Congressional Letter

  • Letter to Legislators

  • How to... — 9 Essential Tips for Writing to Your Congressperson

    W.8.1

    W.8.1.a

    W.8.1.b

    W.8.1.e

Draft strong persuasive letters that clearly communicate their position.

24

Writing

  • Letter to Legislators

  • Congressional Letter

  • How to... — 9 Essential Tips for Writing to Your Congressperson

    W.8.1

    W.8.1.c

    W.8.1.d

Revise their letters for form and style, using strong clauses to create cohesion between ideas. 

25

2 days

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.8.4 — Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words or phrases based on grade 8 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

  • L.8.4.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.8.4.c — Consult general and specialized 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.8.4.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.8.5 — Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

  • L.8.5.a — Interpret figures of speech (e.g. verbal irony, puns) in context.

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.8.1 — Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the 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.8.5 — Analyze in detail the structure of a specific paragraph in a text, including the role of particular sentences in developing and refining a key concept.

  • RI.8.6 — Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints.

  • RI.8.7 — Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea.

  • 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.

  • RI.8.9 — Analyze a case in which two or more texts provide conflicting information on the same topic and identify where the texts disagree on matters of fact or interpretation.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.8.1 — Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RL.8.2 — Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.

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

  • RL.8.9 — Analyze how a modern work of fiction draws on themes, patterns of events, or character types from myths, traditional stories, or religious works such as the Bible, including describing how the material is rendered new.

  • RL.8.10 — By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of grades 6—8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.8.1 — Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

  • SL.8.1.c — Pose questions that connect the ideas of several speakers and respond to others' questions and comments with relevant evidence, observations, and ideas.

  • SL.8.1.d — Acknowledge new information expressed by others, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views in light of the evidence presented.

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.8.1.c — Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

  • W.8.1.d — Establish and maintain a formal style.

  • W.8.1.e — Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.

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

  • 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.8.8 — 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.