Human Decency

Unit 3: Human Decency

Anchor Text: Dante’s Inferno

  • Purpose:  The Inferno is a poem written in the 14th century by Dante Alighieri, and is the first half of the Divine Comedy. This poem is of a higher lexile level than previous anchor texts, so it is something that will challenge students and push them towards higher achievement. This text is highly engaging to the Osborne High School student because it deals with subject matter that students will find interesting (heaven and hell) and offers many opportunities to explore extreme and grotesque imagery. This anchor text will be used during our “Human Decency” unit.
  • Lexile: 1430

Anchor Text: The Pearl

  • Purpose: The Pearl  by John Steinbeck is a story of right and wrong and how far one person will go to protect his own family. What kind of moral laws can be broken in order to protect one’s own family? This text will be engaging to the students at our high school because it will raise issues that anyone would be familiar with, such as the desire for money in times of poverty, and the moral qualms that may be associated with the things done to get that money. This anchor text will be used during the “Human Decency” unit.
  • Lexile: 1010

Supplementary Texts:

  • The Analects
    • Purpose: The Analects is a collection of moral and ethical principles developed by the Chinese thinker Confucius in conversations with his disciples in the 3rd century. This text will be used in comparison to Proverbs in the New Testament of the Bible to give students historical texts to support a reflection on their own ideas of what is right and wrong.
    • Lexile: 1080
  • “The Man Who Had No Eyes” by MacKinlay Kantor
    • Purpose: This story was written in 1985, and is a story with a twist at the end about making the most of a bad situation. The story will be relevant to students because of the issues and questions it raises (What would you do if it happened to you?). This will also be highly interesting to them because of the unexpected ending.
    • Lexile: 620
  • “Everyman”
    • Purpose: This 15th century morality play was written in order to teach people about doing good deeds before their death, and how the good deeds that we do will live on after us. The play is engaging to students because it asks them to consider what sort of legacy they will leave behind when they die. It also raises issues about how religious ideals have changed over the years, and whether or not the “morals” described in the play still apply today.
    • Lexile: 910
  • The Bible, The Torah, and The Koran
    • Purpose:  Using the canonical texts of the world’s three major monotheistic religions will provide a background for the rest of the unit. Dante’s Inferno, “Everyman,” and the Analects are all heavily steeped in religious background, and learning the parables and stories that helped the authors create their works will help students understand the authors’ purpose and ideals. These texts will be engaging to students because they will be encouraged to look at their own religious beliefs and what has influenced them, and they will also learn canonical stories that are ever-present in both pop culture and literature.

Strategy Toolbox:

  • Pre-reading Activities:
    • KWL chart
    • Background information/notes on religious, parables, morality, ethics, ethical paradigms, etc.
    • Vocabulary – both literary (canon, parable, allusion, allegory, etc.) and “big words” from the texts.
    • Illustration activity – What does Hell look like?
    • Value Line
  • During reading Activities:
    • Incredible Shrinking Summary (Dante’s Cantos)
    • Levels of Hell diagrams
    • Thinking maps to attributes of parts of hell
    • Group performance activities – act out pivotal scenes, etc.
    • Essay prewriting/brainstorming (brace map brainstorm, etc.)
    • Character diagrams for Everyman, the Blind Beggar, etc.
  • Post-reading Activities:
    • Finishing KWL chart
    • Revisiting Value Line
    • Revisions to Hell illustrations
    • “What circle would they go in” TPR activity
    • Disney Bad-guys in Hell – which circle and why (for Ursula, Scar, the Evil Stepmother, etc.)

Writing Prompt:

FAQ Paper and Presentation


A humanitarian is someone who is devoted to the promotion of human welfare and the advancement of social reforms.  Most people would argue that a humanitarian, while not perfect, is someone who is highly ethical and moral.  Humanitarians are known worldwide for their good deeds and charitable acts even though they all come from a variety of cultures and religions.  The idea of helping our fellow man is a universal theme that transcends any differences in background or belief.

You will select a humanitarian from the list provided to research.  You are responsible for introducing your humanitarian to the class.

Paper Requirements:

  • You will create a list of 10 Frequently Asked Questions you think the average person would need to know the answers to about your humanitarian in order to understand who that person is and what that person did in order to be considered a humanitarian.  These questions will be bolded in your paper.
  • You will use no less than 5 sources to research the information on your humanitarian
  • You will answer each of the questions with 3-5 sentences
  • Your answers will be paraphrasing from your research—no direct quotations
  • Each answer will have a correct MLA citation
  • You will turn your paper in to me to grade.

Presentation Requirements:

  • Create a PowerPoint presentation about your humanitarian
  • You will need an introduction slide, one slide for each question, and a reference slide.
  • You may use clip art and pictures from the internet as long as you cite them correctly.
  • You will present your PowerPoint to the class.


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