ELA 9-12: Words Matter


Words Matter: “Shooting an Elephant” Overview 

The student work samples are taken from the explanatory LDC module embedded within the larger Words Matter unit; both the larger unit and module are documented here. The LDC module, on its own, starts at the "Task and Rubric Analysis: Part 4 of the Unit: Breaking Down the Prompt." Teachers may choose to teach the entire unit or teach the LDC module on its own depending on their students' needs.  

The unit centers on diction and tone: how words carry multiple layers of meaning, and how authors purposefully choose words to convey deeper meanings. The ELA content is represented by these essential questions: 1) How is it that words can mean so much more than their dictionary definitions, and 2) How can word choice (a single word and/or a pattern of word choices) impact meaning? This LDC module is designed to support the reading and writing process for the unit's final performance task, in which students write a literary analysis essay explaining how George Orwell's diction in his essay "Shooting an Elephant" develops tone and meaning.

The pre-module portion of the unit, represented here as a series of mini-tasks in the "Preparing for the Task" segment of the instructional ladder, utilizes supplemental texts that provide opportunities for students to practice this kind of analysis as a whole class and in small groups: Pat Mora's "Same Song" and Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays." 

The pre-module portion of the unit also features pre- and formative assessment activities, engagement activities designed to get students thinking about and playing with the core ideas and concepts of connotation and the power of word choice, and lessons around the concepts of diction and tone.   

Framing of the “Shooting an Elephant” Summative Essay:All student samples are from 2015 fall semester sophomore English classrooms from across the states of Kentucky & Colorado. Student work represented here includes various ability levels. 

Note: One Pre-Module Formative Paragraph is in response to Sandra Cisneros’s “Eleven,” but updated unit materials do not mention this as a potential text for students to respond to.

Our focus standard for this assessment is 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 (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone). The scoring/rubric annotations refer to various aspects on the LDC Informational/Explanatory Rubric, and the annotations regarding student comprehension of grade-level text refer to the R.9-10.10 standard.

The skill students hone in this unit transfer to work they will do in English class for the rest of the year: using textual evidence, paying attention to specific diction, using close reading strategies, and justifying students’ thinking.