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unit 1
14 Instructional days (14 hours)

Building Background Knowledge: War Coming Close to Home


Students begin the novel Inside Out & Back Again, by Thanhha Lai, focusing on how critical incidents reveal the dynamic nature of Ha, the main character, whose Vietnamese family is deciding whether to flee during the fall of Saigon. The novel is poignantly told in diary entries in the form of short free-verse poems. Students will consider how text structure, figurative language, and specific word choice contribute to a text’s meaning as they closely read selected poems. Their study of the novel is paired with reading a rich informational article, “The Vietnam Wars,” which gives students key background knowledge about the history of war in Vietnam. Students build their skills using context clues, and also begin the routine of “QuickWrites,” receiving explicit instruction and then practicing writing strong paragraphs in which they effectively cite and analyze text.


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Bilingual Language Progressions

These resources, developed by the New York State Education Department, provide standard-level scaffolding suggestions for English Language Learners (ELLs) to help them meet grade-level demands. Each resource contains scaffolds at multiple levels of language acquisition and describes the linguistic demands of the standards to help ELA teachers as well as ESL/bilingual teachers scaffold content for their English learning students.


From of the New York State Education Department. Grade 8 ELA Module 1, Unit 1 Overview. Available from; accessed 2015-05-29. Newer versions may exist from Expeditionary Learning.
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