English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Character
  • Grade 12 ELA
  • Things Fall Apart
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Benchmark Assessment (Cold Write).

    Benchmark Assessment (Cold Write).


    In this lesson, students will participate in a Benchmark Assessment (Cold Write). The Benchmark Assessment (Cold Write) is an unassisted and unrevised piece of writing whose purpose is to provide a quick gauge of the student’s mastery of the characteristics of a given genre. Today’s Benchmark Assessment (Cold Write) measures and provides a benchmark of students’ mastery of narrative writing. Then students will join a community of classmates who represent different characters from Things Fall Apart, and introduce their characters to this community.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Think of ways to help students recall what they already know about writing a narrative piece.
    • Familiarize yourself with the writing prompt and the scoring guide.
    • If you have students on an IEP or other accomodations: check to see whether they receive extended time or need an alternative test setting. Work with the professional supporting SWDs to make sure student needs are met.
    • Prepare activities for students who finish early.
    • Assign community groups, with one representative from each character group. Due to uneven numbers, some groups may have to have more than one representative of a character group.
    • Determine how students should work together in community groups based on the available technology. The community groups work together mostly outside of class time, which could mean sharing electronically or meeting in person.

    Narrative Writing

    • The purpose of this Benchmark Assessment (Cold Write) is to assess what students already know about narrative writing.
    • Have a conversation with students about what they already know about writing a narrative piece. Tell them that a narrative is often called a story. If students have trouble identifying what they already know about writing a narrative piece, gauge their recall by asking what stories they read last year or what stories they wrote.
    • In the next task, students will take the assessment. Be prepared to do the following:
      • ✓ Answer any questions that are not of a substantive nature, providing no additional guidance about the prompt.
      • ✓ Do a quick thumbs-up/thumbs-down check to ensure that students understand the prompt and are ready to begin writing. Remind students that they will have only 20 minutes to write.
      • ✓ Tell students to begin working. When the allotted time has elapsed, tell students to stop working. ✓ If students finish before time is up, direct them to other activities.


    Since you began school, you have used your imagination to write many stories. These stories are called "narratives." Today, you will write a narrative so that your teacher can see how much you know about writing a good story.

    Write a brief response to this question.

    • What do you already know about narrative writing?

    Open Notebook

    Share with the class.

    Benchmark (Cold Write): Narrative

    • Direct students to take the assessment. They will be responding to the following prompt:
    • Most of us remember important incidents that have remained significant over time.

    Tell a story about a small incident that you remember well. Describe the details of the incident. Your readers should understand why the memory has stayed with you. Your readers will want to know your feelings at the time of the incident. They will also be curious about how you feel about this small incident now.

    • After class, assess each student’s narrative piece. Students will have opportunities to write narratives throughout the year, during which they will have instruction on how to revise and edit their pieces. The information you gain from scoring this benchmark piece of writing will guide you in tailoring your writing instruction to individual student needs.
    • If students finish before time is up, direct them to other activities.

    Work Time

    Now you will write your narrative. Remember that a narrative is a story about events, both real and imaginary.

    You will have 20 minutes to write your narrative.

    • Write a brief narrative in response to the prompt.

    Group Work

    • Explain to students that although they will often be meeting with their character group in class, they will also be part of a second group that works together mostly electronically or otherwise outside of class: a community group that has one student representing each character. These community groups will conduct discussions and debates about various events, topics, and themes in the novel, making sure that all perspectives are represented.
    • Each community group will share various journal entries and assignments and respond to each other's thoughts.
    • Discuss whether any additional norms apply to group work (keeping in mind, for example, that tone can’t be detected online, and that students will be writing in character and not as themselves). Add suggestions to the Expectations for Partner and Group Work class chart.
    • Explain to students that they will be expected to do some sharing outside of class time.

    Work Time

    Look back over the Expectations for Partner and Group Work class chart you came up with in Lesson 4 to describe the norms for group work.

    • Is there anything that you believe should be added, based on your work so far?
    • What should be changed or added for a group that will meet primarily electronically or outside of class?

    Character Introduction

    • The more students share, the more engaging the community group will be; encourage students to be creative and have fun as they share. You may want to establish guidelines for the number of entries or the length of entries, but the most important thing is for students to play around with the characters, getting to know their own and other characters through this less formal interaction.
    • SWD: Be sure that all students are engaging in this activity successfully. If some need further support, gather them and provide additional explanations.

    Work Time

    Throughout this unit, in addition to your character group, you will be a member of a community group that consists of one representative from each character group. You’ll share opinions, debates, and journal entries with your community group members to read and comment on. You will share and discuss with the same group members throughout the unit, though you will not spend much time working together in class.

    • Keeping in mind that you will be writing as your character, compose a character journal entry that introduces your character. Share it with your community group. Be sure to use evidence from the character synopsis you read in the last lesson to justify your response.

    Open Notebook

    Sharing with your community group will be a big part of your work this unit. Sometimes you will work on an entry in class, and sometimes you will have a specific entry to complete for homework. However, you should also write as you complete reading assignments, adding your character’s commentary on the events and conflicts of each chapter, and responding to other characters’ perspectives.

    Character Introductions

    • Remind students that they are commenting in character.
    • If they do not have time to write or read these introductions during the lesson, have them do so for homework.


    Browse through the character introductions and comment on at least one other introduction.

    • What does your character like or dislike about this person?

    Personal Journal - Entry #4 and Things Fall Apart

    • Students are responsible for tracking vocabulary words as they go. Encourage them to use these words in their various writing assignments: personal journal entries, character journal entries, community group entries, and so forth.
    • An example entry is provided in the Personal Glossary.
      • ELL: Some of the words in the questions can be somewhat difficult for some ELLs to follow. If necessary, rephrase using words you know students can understand to allow all ELLs to fully participate and to have a fair chance to answer the questions.


    Complete another personal journal entry.

    • Of the characters that you have become acquainted with through the past two lessons, whom do you find the most sympathetic? The least sympathetic? Why? To whom do you relate the most?

    Open Notebook

    Before the next lesson, read Chapters 1 and 2 of Things Fall Apart .

    As you read, look for words that are unfamiliar to you. You will compile a personal glossary , which you will share with the other members of your character group. Throughout the unit, you will be encouraged to use words from your glossary in journal entries and writing assignments. See the Personal Glossary for more details.