Module 4

Unit 1: “Once in a while, something slips-”

Essential Question

How do authors use craft and structure to develop characters and ideas?

Common Core Standards

RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail 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.
RL.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone.
L.9-10.4.a Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 9–10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
a. Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence, paragraph, or text; a word’s position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
L.9-10.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
W.9-10.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.
W.9-10.9.b Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
b. Apply grades 9–10 Reading standards to literary nonfiction (e.g., “Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning”).
W.9-10.2.a-f Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
L.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
L.9-10.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Suggested Student Objectives

Students will be required to:
Students read E. B. White’s personal essay “Death of a Pig.” The essay thus serves as a foundation for two important discussions: one around the elements tragedy, in preparation for work with Macbeth in 10.4.2; and one around the structure of a narrative essay.

Suggested Student Objectives
Students will be required to:
1) Read closely for textual details
2) Annotate texts to support comprehension and analysis
3) Engage in productive evidence-based discussions about text
4) Collect and organize evidence from texts to support analysis in writing
5) Collect and organize evidence from texts to support claims made in writing
6) Use vocabulary strategies to define unknown words

Suggested Text
Personal Essay
  • “Death of a Pig” E. B. White

Resource Links

Found on
Death of a Pig
Short Response Rubric and checklist
End-of-Unit Text Analysis Checklist
Grammar and spelling conventions:
Colon and Semicolon Handout
Analyze nonfiction: Central and main Ideas
Answer the BIG Question with Examples and Evidence pdf


Fishbowl protocol:Activity 5: Fishbowl Discussion
The fishbowl discussion is designed to mimic real-life interactions, where people move in and out of conversations as contributors or as recipients of information. The activity promotes active listening for students and allows them to join and contribute as they feel comfortable. The purpose of the fishbowl discussion is to facilitate student discussion around the two “Mr. Julius Caesar” competitions in a structured manner. Arrange the students into two mixed groups: an inner Group (A) and an outer Group (B).
Explain that as Group A discusses questions posed by the teacher, Group B observes and listens to Group A’s discussion.
When a member of Group B wants to join Group A’s discussion, students should tap a Group A classmate and they trade places. Explain that all students should be in Groups A and B at some point during the discussion.
  • Students listen.
  • Arrange the desks in two concentric circles. Members of the inner circle discuss questions posed by the teacher. Members of the outer circle listen, observe, and decide when they would like to swap places in order to contribute to the discussion taking place.
  • Teachers may wish to set up parameters for this task (e.g., time limits, number of student swaps, number of student swaps per discussion question) so that the flow of student discussion is not disrupted in a way that curbs the quality of the conversation.
  • Depending on class size, there may be more than one fishbowl at a time. In this situation, the teacher may want to solicit note takers to keep track of the ideas being expressed. Note takers can share after the fishbowl discussion.
Fishbowl protocol in a 10th grade ELA class

Stay and Stray

The teacher will divide the class into groups of four or five students, with each group getting a poem and/or piece of artwork, an oversized sheet of paper, and markers. Within the groups, the students will analyze the poem/artwork that was assigned to them and discuss their thoughts and feelings relating to the work. The group will then use the oversized sheet of paper and markers in order to create a visual presentation of their discussion. At the end of the group activity, one student will volunteer to be the presenter while the other members of the group will watch the presentations of the other groups. The students watching the presentations will have a short period of time to read the poem assigned to the other group or view the piece of artwork. The presenters will then discuss what their group thought and explain the work that was completed.

Table Text

The teacher will divide the class into groups of four or five students. Each group will receive a poem along with a worksheet presenting four to five questions (enough for each student in the group to always have a question to answer). The students will read the poem, then answer the first question on their worksheet. After a predetermined time interval, the students will switch worksheets and then answer the next question. Once all the questions on the worksheet have been answered, the students will then have a group conversation based on their thoughts and the answers of their classmates.


Considering and thinking about a topic or question and then writing what has been learned; pairing with a peer or a small group to share ideas; sharing ideas and discussion with a larger group To construct meaning about a topic or question; to test thinking in relation to the ideas of others; to prepare for a discussion with a larger group
Discussion Groups Engaging in an interactive, small group discussion, often with an assigned role; to consider a topic, text, question, and so on To gain new understanding or insight of a text from multiple perspectives
Quickwrite Responding to a text by writing for a short, specific amount of time about a designated topic or idea related to a text To activate background knowledge, clarify issues, facilitate making connections, and allow for reflection.


Unit 1 Writing prompts:
  • How do words and phrases in section 1 reveal White’s tone?
  • What specific details in this section contribute to the development of a central idea?
  • How do White’s specific structural choices in this section develop ideas he introduced earlier in the text?
  • How do White's specific word choices in section 4 refine the tone of "Death of a Pig"?
  • What characteristics and components of a personal essay are present in White’s “Death of a Pig”?
  • How does White achieve beauty and meaning in the context of this personal narrative?
  • What is the effect of White’s use of parallel structure and various types of phrases (noun, verb, adjectival, adverbial, etc.)?
Post Unit Assessment
Unit 1: How does White develop the idea “once in a while something slips” over the course of the text?