In Harper Lee's classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch tells his daughter, Scout, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." Empathy, the ability to understand and share the thoughts and feelings of others, is an important part of our humanity. How do we best express empathy? How does showing and accepting compassion help inform our understanding of the world? These are the questions your students will explore in this unit. The fiction of Harper Lee, Upton Sinclair, Gabriel García Márquez, and Eugenia Collier; the photographs of Dorothea Lange; the timeless words of John Steinbeck and Robert F. Kennedy; and the works of poets and playwrights will help students experience the hardships of early twentieth-Century immigrants, the struggle and despair of migrant families during the Great Depression, and the unrest and turbulence that threatened the United States during the 1960s. Your students will analyze classic works of literature and powerful informational texts in which a wide variety of human experiences demonstrate the importance of developing compassion for others. Blasts tie the unit's essential question to contemporary topics, such as the role of print and photojournalists in exposing injustice, and the Extended Writing Project guides students through a rigorous writing process in order to help them develop an argumentative essay expressing their own evidence-based ideas about empathy. In all, this unit offers students the opportunity to explore a question that is relevant to our times: How does human compassion inform our understanding of the world?
Blast: How do we develop empathy for others?