Empathy is a hard concept to teach middle school students. Katherine Paterson's book THE SAME STUFF AS STARS offers valuable discussion lessons while touching on the topic of foster care.
NOTE: This unit is divided into 5 different sections (approximately 35-40 book reading pages per section). Each section has a summary, discussion questions/highlights, vocabulary/ vocabulary test, and student packet questions. It is recommended to pace the unit at one section per week. However, for higher level classes, two sections would be very doable.
Ways to use this unit: Whole class learning, small group format, challenging higher learners, or pick apart and go as you want.
Common Core Standards in this Unit
CCSS ELA-Literacy-RL6.1: Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
CCSS ELA-Literacy-RL6.2: Determine a theme or central idea of the text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
Progress of Plot/ Relationships
CCSS ELA-Literacy-RL6.3: 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 towards a resolution.
Meanings of words
CCSS ELA-Literacy-RL6.4: 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 mean and tone.
CCSS ELA-Literacy-RL6.5: 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.
Link to other texts
CCSS-ELA-Literacy-RL6.9: Compare and contrast texts in different forms of genres in terms of their approaches to similar themes and topics.
How to use this Unit
Summary—each chapter has a brief summary. This may be used to set up the lesson or assess student understanding and comprehension.
Discussion questions—created to promote discussion within the class; may also be used to assess reading comprehension.
Highlights—specific notes about events in the book; supplemental material suggestions that may be useful to promote better understanding; “add-ons” that I have used in my own teaching to make this unit fun.
Vocabulary—specific words found in each chapter that relate to the understanding of the setting, character or plot. Definitions are provided. Students have a similar section in their packets where they will use the following strategies to define a word: apposition, word analysis, context clue.
*Vocabulary quizzes/answer key included in packet. Students should be encouraged to know definitions and be able to use vocabulary words correctly within a sentence.
Student Chapter packet questions—student packet questions to promote development of common core standards. Standards are noted (for example, RL6.2) next to the questions. Answers are provided.
Note: The student packet is meant to be used as a work packet and discussion tool. Students may assess their work and track progress on their Student Progress Trackers and use this information to guide their study for the final test.
Vocabulary—be able to define specific words in text using the following vocabulary strategies: apposition, word analysis, context clues.
Application questions—each question is specifically linked to a CCSS within this unit. All questions are labeled.
Student Progress Tracker—found at the end of the student packet. Each chapter’s CCSS are highlighted. Students are encouraged to track their overall progress for the unit. Teachers may use a percentage system or a simple scoring system, as provided below:
*3---Answer was right on! No extra add on needed.
*2---Answer was good, but needed to add a bit to complete.
*1—didn’t have correct answer. Had to write add a lot to complete answer.
*0---oops! forgot to answer the question (this can always be turned into higher number once the question is completed and assessed by the teacher.