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Analyzing Structure and Communicating Theme in Literature: “If” by Rudyard Kipling and Bud, Not Buddy

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In the first half of this second unit, students continue to explore the topic of “rules to live by” as they closely read the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling. Students determine themes of the poem, consider what “rules to live by” Rudyard Kipling is communicating, and analyze how individual stanzas contribute to the poem’s overall meaning. They compare the experience of reading the poem and listening to it read aloud, noticing the importance of pacing and intonation. Finally, students compare and contrast approaches to theme between the poem and the novel.

In the mid-unit assessment, students will read a new excerpt of “If,” analyze how that stanza contributes to the overall meaning of the poem, determine a theme communicated in that stanza, and compare and contrast how that theme is communicated in Bud, Not Buddy. In the second half of Unit 2, students return to a close reading of the novel as they prepare to write a literary argument essay about the nature of “Bud’s Rules.” Throughout the unit, as students read Bud, Not Buddy, they continue to pay close attention and keep track of how the plot unfolds as Bud responds to each new experience and person he encounters on his journey. Specifically, they continue to think, talk, and write about the nature of his rules.

For the end of unit assessment, students write a literary argument essay in which they establish a claim about how Bud uses his rules: to survive or to thrive. Students substantiate their claim using specific text-based evidence. The formal start of Unit 3 is contained in two lessons of this unit in order to give teachers time to read and provide feedback on the end of unit assessment. This unit also launches an independent reading routine. The series of lessons for launching independent reading can be found as a stand-alone document. Teachers should consider launching this once students have completed reading Bud, Not Buddy after the mid-unit assessment.



Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • What are rules to live by?
  • How do people use these rules?
  • How do people communicate these “rules”?
  • How does figurative language and word choice affect the tone and meaning of a text?
  • People develop “rules to live by” through their own life experience.
  • People use these rules to both survive and thrive.
  • These “rules to live by” are communicated through a variety of literary modes.
  • An author’s word choice affects the tone and meaning of a text.

Content Connections

  • This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read literature and informational text about “rules to live by.” However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies key ideas and themes to support potential interdisciplinary connections to this compelling content. These intentional connections are described below. Big Ideas and Guiding Questions are informed by the New York State Common Core K–8 Social Studies Framework:


Texts to buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please refer to Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Cover Text Quantity ISBNs
Bud, Not Buddy
by Christopher Paul Curtis
One per student
ISBN: 978-0440413288, 043940200X

Texts included in the unit

Texts that are included in the lesson materials.

Cover Text Quantity Publisher
Cyber Bullying Statistics
“Is the Cafeteria Ruining Your Life?”
by Elizabeth Larson and Justin O’Neill
“Bullies Behind Bars”
by Carmen Morais
"Adults cut back fast food, but U.S. kids still eat too much fat: CDC”
by Susan Heavey
“Recipe for Health”
by Emily Sohn
“Make Your Move”
by Jennifer Marino-Walters
“Health Rocks,” Skipping Stones, Jan./Feb. 2013. 23
by Skipping Stones
“The Life of a Cell Phone”
by United States Environmental Protection Agency
“Earth Day, Your Way: Celebrate Earth Day, April 22,”
by Weekly Reader
“Live by Design, Not Default”
by Skipping Stones
“A Skateboarder Goes Green,”
by Blair Rainsford
by Rudyard Kipling
President Barack Obama, “Back-to-School Speech,”
by President Barack Obama
Steve Jobs, “Stanford University Commencement Address,” speech
by Steve Jobs


Optional Activities


  • As students consider the idea of “rules to live by,” a number of options for experts are possible. Consider bringing in guests from a variety of walks of life to share their own life “rules” based on the experiences they have had. (It will be important to discuss the nature of the rules and experiences with each expert before he or she shares them with students.) Examples include: the school guidance counselor, family members of students, high school or college students who previously attended your school and have succeeded, local business owners, other teachers, etc.


  • Consider taking students to a local event in which they can see live poetry or spoken word. This will allow students to see poetry in a more dynamic way. Discuss the impact (or lack of impact) of oratory in place of written text.


  • Students can develop plans for service relating to their own “rules to live by.” For example, if a student’s rule relates to the environment, he or she can volunteer for a local litter pickup. If there is a common theme across the class, students may want to participate as a group.
  • Students can share their “life lessons” with younger students.


  • Consider having students practice and perform their own oral presentation of “If” by Rudyard Kipling or other poetry. This will allow them to put into practice their understanding of the difference between written text and oratory.

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