This 24-page document offers so much versatility in terms of inserting a few excerpted passages from Krakauer's Into the Wild it into an already established English curriculum. The mini-unit was initially devised for use in an English Elective, Social Misfit in Literature, as a way to study how people develop an attitude towards something that drives the person to isolate him/herself from society. My students always struggle to finish the full book with the same enthusiasm as they started with, which is a shame because I feel I lose their confidence when it comes to selecting texts for study. This sparked the idea to excerpt the text in 3 sections to focus on the more enticing parts of the depiction of McCandless’s life and death as it relates to why he ends up in the Alaskan wilderness. Students will use organizers and reading analysis/comprehension questions to help form a focus/claim about the text, organizing evidence from the text to support those ideas. Please note that the unit is heavy in psychology terminology, such as cognitive dissonance, because the unit was devised to be used in a Social Misfits elective. Keep it the way it is, or pare down the editable document yourself to the basic reading and writing practice.
The document opens with a pre-reading page of psychology terminology and vocabulary to be used later in the student writing. As well, by utilizing the text citation for the textbook, The World of Psychology, students will discuss as a group how attitudes form and change. Students will then be assigned the task to read the first excerpt of Into the Wild, pages 3-23, and a list of concepts and topics to search for and note while reading. Break up the reading with a little comprehension practice, with questions such as:
1. The best characterization of McCandless as described by Wayne Westerberg from the second full paragraph on page 16 (“These are what Alex used to drink...Kind of a strange deal what happened to him.”) is…
b. an alcoholic
2. The strongest central idea present in pages 18-19 is best described as…
a. don’t overthink things
b. people need a place to call home
c. family issues effect people
d. one mistake can change everything
Students will also use this time to complete a short partner research activity on central themes from the text. The document includes a research mentor text for help with demonstration with students. These activities will lead students to organize notes on the text in a graphic organizer, which the mentor research will help with. Picking the text up for pages 117-126 and 187-199, students can consider how their initial ideas and research are further developed by Krakauer and/or demonstrated in the actions and circumstances of McCandless. Additional graphic organizers and pre-writing materials are provided to extend previous ideas and lead students to writing a 2-3 paragraph response about their own focus. Keep it the way it is, or edit it to fit your own course or objective:
“Write a 2-3 paragraph response regarding a central idea about the development of an attitude toward something from Into the Wild. Use direct text evidence from Into the Wild to support your analysis about how Krakauer develops McCandless’s misfit condition, and utilize outside source information to help build your idea.”
Several “teacher’s materials” are provided with ideas and suggestions, as well as a scoring rubric. Please note that a full lesson plan is not provided, but task directions are written for students that will make moving through the materials clear and smooth. As well, note that because of copyright reasons, texts, such as Into the Wild and The World of Psychology, are not provided. But there are clear citations and page numbers, so acquiring necessary materials should not be challenging. Consider making copies of the excerpted pages for margin note-taking practice, and intense focus on Krakauer’s writing.
I am sure you will appreciate the value of this product for the purchase. Students will also enjoy the story, and work harder at forming writing ideas and using text support. For kicks, follow up the unit with the Sean Penn movie. Thanks for your interest! Visit me at www.ateacherintherye.com.