Lizzie Borden: Infamous Murder Case Nonfiction Unit, Tone, Bias, Persuasion

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Bespoke ELA
Grade Levels
9th - 12th, Higher Education
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82 pages
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Lizzie Borden was tried and ultimately acquitted for the MURDER of her PARENTS in the 1890s. The trial was controversial. How could a WOMAN possibly hack her parents to death and why? How could this have happened while she was HOME if she didn't do it?

In this nonfiction unit, students will read articles about the case and then decide for themselves if they think Lizzie Borden is INNOCENT or GUILTY.

If your students like this nonfiction unit, be sure to check out the Bespoke ELA activity on deciphering tone and bias through the media coverage of the infamous Jack the Ripper!

Students will complete the following activities:

1. Close reading of news stories, including text features (ten total)

2. 5 multiple-choice questions for EACH ARTICLE to prep for standardized testing

3. Debate the verdict in the trial

4. Close read the Prosecutor's Closing Arguments

5. Write a Closing Argument Speech

6. View a Documentary about the trial

This is a HIGH-INTEREST WAY to integrate nonfiction into your curriculum and get students interacting with nonfiction texts that they won't be able to put down!

Learning Objectives

• To determine how bias affects our perceptions of truth

• To persuade an audience using rhetorical devices + strategies

• To select strong and relevant evidence to support an argument

• To analyze the structure of non-fiction texts

• To evaluate sources for reliability

• To write a persuasive speech for a specific audience and purpose • To close read a text for tone and central ideas

Essential Questions

• How does word choice affect tone?

• How does tone affect the perception of the truth?

• How are news stories structured? How does this structure affect the presentation of facts? • How does context create meaning in a text?

• How does a writer create characterization in a text?

• How does rhetoric, structure, word choice, and evidence persuade a reader?

• How is a persuasive speech constructed effectively?

Common Core Standards

R1-6, 8-11/ W 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11/ SL 4, 6/ L 1-6

If you like this bundle, be sure to check out these other HIGH-INTEREST nonfiction bundles:

The Donner Party Tragedy-- A Nonfiction Research Synthesis Project

Nonfiction: Tone and Bias in the Media Coverage of Jack the Ripper


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Total Pages
82 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
2 Weeks
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).


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