In this unit, students are introduced to the topic, guiding questions, and central text of the module: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (excerpts only). By the end of the unit, they will understand the historical context of this text as well as the tools and processes they will use as they read and analyze it. Their analysis will focus on Douglass’s purpose and how he tells his story in order to accomplish it. In the beginning of the unit, students listen to and discuss The People Could Fly (a picture book by Virginia Hamilton). This book introduces the topic of slavery as well as one of the module’s guiding questions: What gives stories and poems their enduring power? The next set of lessons introduces the central text and its context. Through reading informational texts and working with images, students build their understanding of slavery, the life of Frederick Douglass, and the debate over slavery in which his voice was so significant. In these lessons, students focus on analyzing texts and supporting their analysis with textual evidence (RI.7.1).
After a pause to launch independent reading for the module, students begin their work with the Narrative. As they read excerpts from the first two chapters, students consider Douglass’s purposes, practice the routines they will use for reading this text, and notice what gives this story its power. The unit closes with a set of lessons on poetry. Students read poems that deepen their understanding of slavery, and build their ability to recognize and interpret figurative language—skills that will be critical as they continue their reading of Douglass. The End of Unit 1 Assessment focuses on students’ ability to analyze how structures, word choice, and figurative language contribute to a poem’s meaning.