Jessica Wlotzka, MSDE Admin, Kathleen Maher-Baker
Literature, Education, English Language Arts, Language, Grammar and Vocabulary, Reading Informational Text, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
Middle School
  • Analyze
  • Close Read
  • Grade 8
  • Iowa Video
  • Literary Nonfiction
  • MSDE
  • Maryland State Department of Education
  • Text Evidence
  • Unit 2
  • Write
  • blended
  • iowa-video
  • License:
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Media Formats:
    Downloadable docs, Graphics/Photos, Interactive, Text/HTML, Video, Other

    Education Standards

    War of Words Lesson 1 (MDK12 Remix)

    War of Words Lesson 1 (MDK12 Remix)


    Lesson Overview

    This is a close reading lesson of “Little Things Are Big” by Jesús Colón . This text was featured in a newspaper column written in the 1950s.  The essay is an introduction to the concepts of conflict in literature.

    Lesson Focus

    How do the perceptions we have of ourselves and of others create conflicts?

    Student Outcomes

    Students will be able to determine how the conflict in “Little Things Are Big” was influenced by outward (physical) identifiers as well as infer how the conflict may have been different if the main character would have made a different choice. 


    Image source: "Menschen, Offentliche..." by Tim Savage on


    Students will consider the ways in which we identify people with whom we have had no personal contact.  Provide the example of a stranger in the mall or in an airport. Students will make a list of at least five things they use as “markers” which form their opinions about people they don’t know. In this lesson, ‘markers’ refers to obvious physical characteristics.

    • Discuss as a group or Think-Pair-Share
    • Create a class summary, noting most common identifiers
    • Using the class list, discuss how outward appearance can create conflicts between individuals and groups.
    • Tech. alternative to Quickwrite: Create a Padlet.  Consider making the Padlet in “Shelf” format, so that you can separate class responses. Students can then view all responses in real time.  Discuss as a class or post a question in Google Classroom so that all students have a chance to contribute and respond to “What are the most common identifiers?” as well as “How can outward appearance create problems or conflicts between different people or groups of people?”


    Image of notepad with the word "Think" written.

    Image source: "Ideas" by KristopherK on


    How do you know WHO someone really is?  

    What if you haven’t really gotten to know them?  

    What if you see a stranger in the mall or in an airport?  

    If you were asked to decide who that stranger is,

    how would you?


    Make a list of at least five things you use as “markers” to form your opinions about people you don’t know. Hint: think about obvious physical characteristics. Your teacher may provide you with paper, a document, a poster, or a Padlet. Please listen for directions at this time. 


    Attached is a presentation your teacher may choose to show you.

    Close Read

    First, students will independently read and/or listen to the text linked in the lesson plan.  Then, students will read and annotate in a small group or in pairs at teacher discretion. 

    First Read: "Little Things Are Big" by Jesus Colon

    In an array of mostly clear gummy bears, one red gummy bear stands out among the rest.

    Image source: "Gummibärchen" by Ronile on

    *Open, or take out, the text your teacher has assigned to you (CommonLit, PDF, or paper copy).  Here is an additional link to the text as well as a video: Click on this Text and Video Link

    *Independently read and/or listen to the text.

    *Think about the conflict or problem that occurs. Need a review of conflict? Here is a link that may help refresh your memory: Click on this Conflict Link

    *If you are working on, please answer the guiding questions as you read. 

    Second Read

    Option A

    With a small group, read and annotate with the teacher. Use your paper copy or a digital copy provided for you.

    Option B

    With a partner, read and annotate the text on paper.  

    Underline examples of physical descriptions of people in the text.

    Circle descriptions of the setting in the text. (where and when)

    Place an !!! exclamation mark !!! next to areas of conflict in the essay.

    BONUS: Place an “I” or an “E” next to examples of External vs Internal conflict.

    Option C

    With a partner, read and annotate the text using the digital graphic organizer provided. Your teacher may also instruct you to annotate using Scrible.  You may also be required to answer the assessment questions on CommonLit.  Please wait for directions. 


    The word "feedback" is written on a chalkboard.

    Image source:  "Feedback" by geralt on

    Students will answer the questions provided on the presentation either as a whole group or in a jigsaw format (Assign questions to each group and share aloud).  Questions are also listed below. Teachers may also consider putting a select amount of questions on poster paper, having students rotate and respond, and then gallery walk at the end.

    • Discussion Questions listed below.  Please listen for directions from your teacher.

      • What is the author’s purpose in the essay?  Why is this important?
      • Do we know how the woman perceived the narrator?  Why is this?
      • What conflict does the narrator face?
      • What type of conflict is this?  What are the reasons for this conflict?
      • How does the setting affect the conflict?  Would the conflict have occurred if the meeting had taken place during the daytime?
      • What effect does the physical/outward appearance of the characters have on the conflict?
      • How does the repetition of the word “white” demonstrate the narrator’s concerns?  What reasons would he have for these concerns? Were his concerns valid? Why? (Discussion of cultural standards of the 1950’s and of today)
      • What could have changed the resolution of the conflict? (possible ideas:  the woman asked for help, the woman was in danger, the narrator was a woman instead of a man)
      • How did the narrator’s perceptions of the woman and of society form what he chose to do?

    Exit Slip

    Students will complete a short exit slip to conclude Day 1 and revisit the Quickwrite.

    Exit Slip

    Think back to your Quickwrite.  What “markers” did you write that help you determine someone’s identity without ever really meeting them?

    Now, as an exit slip, please list three “markers” Jesús Colón, the author, used in making his decision about what to do.

    A look ahead: next, you will be responding to the text in paragraph format.  Start thinking about whether or not you think the author made the correct choice.

    Closing Written Assessment

    Written Response:

    Students will respond to the following questions in paragraph format. (Teacher may select as appropriate for the class) Technology Option: Students choose one of the questions below to write about in standard format.  Students may record oral responses for the other two questions on FlipGrid. It is recommended that students complete a written response to prompt number two, as it can be used as a formative assessment for this unit.

    1. Did Jesús Colón make the right decision?  Why or why not?

    2. How was the conflict in “Little Things Are Big” influenced by outward (physical) identifiers?  Would the story have changed if the identifiers were different? Explain your answer.

    3. How might the story have ended if Jesús Colón decided to approach the woman and offered to help?  How might she have responded to him? Based on that response, what effect would this have had on him?


    • Using a rubric of teacher’s choice, students will work in pairs to review and revise their written response before handing them in.  


    Selected Response: Students will also be given two selected response questions. 


    1. What is the primary conflict in the essay, “Little Things Are Big”?

      • Internal (man vs self)

      • External (man vs man)

      • External (man vs  society)

      • External (man vs  nature)


    1. Which of the following quotes best demonstrates the conflict you chose in Question 1?

      • “It was going to be a problem for her to get off; two small children, a baby in her arm, and a suitcase in her hand. “

      • “I'm a Negro and a Puerto Rican. Suppose I approach this white lady in this deserted subway station late at night? …Should I offer my help?”

      • “I ran up the steps of that long concrete stairs in twos and when I reached the street, the cold air slapped my warm face.”

      • “…if I am ever faced with an occasion like that again, I am going to offer my help regardless of how the offer is going to be received. Then I will have my courtesy with me again.”

    Image of a pencil that has written the word "create"

    Image source: "Write" by LUM3N on


    For your final task, you will be responding to three written response questions and two selected response questions.  Please see the attached document and pay attention for directions from your teacher.