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NEW Units of Study in Writing for Grades 3-5 coming this summer! Pre-order now!

Critical Literacy: Unlocking Contemporary Fiction with Trade Book

By Mary Ehrenworth, Sonja Cherry-Paul, Heather Burns

This unit is unlike what most of us experienced in our English classes as teens. It’s not an all-class novel unit, nor a classic interpretation unit, nor a canonical text unit. Like the novel at the heart of this unit—Ibi Zoboi’s Pride: A Pride and Prejudice Remix—this unit offers a new take on an old classic.


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Full Description

About the Unit

This unit is about cultural relevance and getting teens to fall in love with books that are deeply meaningful to the lives they are living right now. The unit will introduce young people to some of the great writers of their generation, the writers who are writing for them, and will create powerful opportunities for teens to share their voices, and find their places, in school and in the world. 

Across the unit, readers will:

  • Deepen their comprehension, studying summaries and reviews in preparation for reading and developing their own analytical summarizing techniques;
  • Consider transactional reading practices, identifying the ways that readers bring their own identities to a text and the ways that these identities shape their responses;
  • Be innovative in their writing about reading, annotating and taking longer-form notes in reading notebooks to engage more deeply with texts and other readers;
  • Investigate power dynamics, power systems, and sources of power through theoretical lenses;
  • Become literacy activists, learning to speak seriously and passionately about books they choose to read and recommend to book club peers.

The goal of this unit is to teach contemporary literature in a way that empowers our students as democratic readers and thinkers, and young activists.

About the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, Middle School Grades

We want our middle grades students to become flexible, resilient readers, we want them to have a toolkit of strategies for dealing with difficulty, and we want them to read broadly and deeply, alert to the intricacies of texts and to the power of language. To accomplish such ambitious goals, we need classroom structures and resources that support this kind of explicit teaching and learning. The reading workshop offers a simple and predictable framework for teaching strategies and for giving students feedback while they are in the midst of the ever-changing, complex reading work they will do across the middle school grades.  

The Units of Study for Teaching Reading series saves teachers hundreds of hours of planning, freeing time for analyzing student work, working with individuals and small groups, and for studying with colleagues. The series provides teachers with the tools and support they need to move students quickly and efficiently toward grade-level expectations, while also helping kids become proficient, lifelong readers.


Additional Resource Information

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