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Culminating Project: “My Rule to Live By”

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Building on the background students learned in Unit 1 through reading Bud, Not Buddy and the Steve Jobs speech, as well as the study of “If” in Unit 2, students will write informative essays based on one of their personal “rules to live by.” At the start of the unit, students will be presented with three relevant real-world topics (bullying, healthy habits, and environmental stewardship) with which they likely have significant personal experience. Based initially on this personal experience, students will discuss how those issues might translate into “rules to live by.” Then students will consider what it will take to truly inform others about their potential rules, given that personal experience is rarely sufficient to be a true expert on a topic. Ultimately, their “rules” will need to be informed by evidence.

This emphasis on evidence will serve as the launch of a short research project. Students will be organized into “research teams” around one of the three real-world topics that mostinterests them. In these research teams, students read about their topic, gathering relevant information to support their possible rule. Across multiple lessons, they use a Researcher’s Notebook to add information they gather and then answer focusing questions. The research skills taught in this unit are modeled through a class research project (about the importance of reading every day). This unit also has a heavy emphasis on speaking and listening skills.

At the start of the unit, the teacher will model good habits of discussion. Throughout the unit, students will participate in a series of discussion groups as they research their topic. Each discussion revolves around a focusing question; the teacher tracks students’ mastery of speaking and listening skills using a Discussion Tracker. As a part of the mid-unit assessment, over the course of two lessons, the teacher will use the same tracker to assess students’ speaking and listening skills. 


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 formulate and use “rules” to lead better lives?
  • How can a “rule to live by” be supported with research-based evidence?
  • Individuals develop their own “rules to live by” based on their experiences.
  • “Rules to live by” can be supported through research and evidence.
  • Researchers discuss their findings with one another to build their knowledge and understanding.

Content Connections

  • This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read literature and informational text about rules to live by and the Great Depression. 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:
  • Because research teams will be studying different research questions, the content connections will vary between groups. The topics of “bullying” and “reading for a better life” are more focused on social studies curriculum. “Healthy habits” is focused on science curriculum. Environmental stewardship through “reduce, reuse, recycle” spans both social studies and science standards.


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 library to do further research on their topic.


  • 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.


  • Students may turn their essays into speeches that they perform for a live audience, such as parents or younger students.
  • For all students independently proficient with technology, consider allowing them to create a recorded public service announcement (PSA) based on their essay (e.g., iMovie, Garage Band).
  • Students interested in, or independently proficient in, the arts may consider:

*       Creating an accompanying poster for their essay

*      Creating a graphic essay (similar to a graphic novel, but informational)

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