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Free Into The Wild Unit for AP Lang & Comp

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

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I start most posts off by saying "blah blah blah *insert popular title*" is one of my favorite books to teach, but Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is one of my favorite books, period. I have read many outdoor and adventure books after this, searching anything that comes close, but to me, it stands alone. I love Krakauer's writing, I think McCandless is fascinating, and I don't hate how Krakauer weaves in his own story to shed light on McCandless. I know a lot of people don't like the Krakauer interjections, especially my students, but I think they add tension and depth.

(For my fellow lovers of outdoor & adventure books, the only book that I think comes close to Into the Wild in terms of writing quality and mystery and life contemplation is Harley Rustad's Lost in the Valley of Death. If you know of any other books that you think come close to ITW, please let me know in the comments section so that I can read all of them tomorrow!)

My first attempt at teaching Into the Wild was as an 8th grade teacher. (Yes-I will stop there. There is nothing else to say. It was a bad attempt and the book is a much better fit for upperclassmen on the verge of leaving home.) My coworker came across the idea of using Into the Wild as a class text at our AP training, where the facilitator suggested it and provided some activities. We were down with the idea, especially since our book room was teeming with copies no one had used in a while. Sold. Sold. Sold.

I have taught the book in a few different ways, but the general unit I finally settled on is below. I hope these free Into the Wild unit materials!

Into the Wild/Individualism

Essential Questions

  • What are the relationships between man and nature?

  • What does it mean to be a rebel?

  • What is the relationship between self and society?

  • How do we construct identity through our actions, interests, values and beliefs?


  • Vocabulary quiz

  • Reading quiz

  • Rhetorical Analysis essay

  • Socratic seminar with essential questions

Day 1-Thoreau

Journal & Share Out (10-20 minutes):

  • Take out a sheet of paper and take 10 minutes to reflect on your relationship (or non relationship) with nature.

  • Could you live, personally, live without nature?

As an interesting hook, I would then show clips of Grizzly Man. I never showed the whole thing because not all clips are school appropriate, but here is the list of clips that are semi appropriate. (As a side note, I highly recommend the full documentary for personal viewing. It's beautiful and heartbreaking.)

This Grizzly Man activity takes 20-30 minutes. The handout below helps the kids to organize their notes & reactions so that you can hold a discussion.

After the opening, I went over the essential questions for the unit, gave a general overview of the unit game plan, and jumped into Into the Wild by having kids read and discuss the author's note.

Day 2

I started this class by giving students a vocabulary list for Into the Wild , going over words they didn't recognize, and having them look up "real-world" sentences on (20-30 minutes)

The majority of today's class, though, was focused on doing a close reading of the first page. To do this, I gave kids a copy of the passage and gave them time to annotate (about 10-15 minutes). Then we had a 30ish minute discussion in response to the questions.

The rest of class was spent going over the homework, which was to read and annotate Into the Wild a few pages at a time in preparation for an end of unit Socratic Seminar based on our essential questions. I gave them the annotations assignment sheet and answered all of their questions. I can't share this handout because it was created by a colleague and is not mine to share.

Day 2 Homework: Read Chapter 1 of Into the Wild

Day 3

For most class periods, I tried to start off with a vocabulary activity. The directions for this day were:

  • Choose 6-8 words from the vocabulary list that you do not know that well.

  • Create a comic in which you attempt to use the 6-8 words in a cohesive scenario

  • When you finish your comic, make a set of Quizlet flashcards for all of the words.

Next I had kids read the short story "To Build a Fire" by Jack London and compare it to the first chapter of Into the Wild. They filled in a handout with guiding compare/contrast questions and did a bit of analysis. (45-60 minutes)

Homework: Read and annotate Into the Wild

Day 4

As usual, we started with a vocabulary activity. Here were the directions for the students:

  • Choose a word that you are unfamiliar with.

  • Get a sheet of blank paper.

  • Personify your words (pretend they are people) and create one of the following:

a Facebook page for your word; make sure it interacts with 7 other words from our list.

a Twitter feed for a word; make sure it interacts with 7 other words from our list.

an Instagram account for your word; make sure it interacts with 7 other words from our list.

Next, I lectured on modes of discourse because I felt students needed the language of structure analysis to understand Krakauer a bit more.

Once they had a basic understanding of the idea that structure can serve a purpose, I had them analyze a passage from Chapter 5 about "The Slabs."

Homework: Read and annotate Into the Wild.

Day 5

Our vocabulary directions for this day were as follows:

  • You have been assigned a word from our vocabulary list.

  • Find a contextualized example sentence from This means that when you read the sentence, it provides clues to what the word means. These are the types of sentences I choose to put on the vocabulary quiz. (Sometimes I alter them to add more context, which you are welcome to do as well.)

After our vocabulary activity, we did a close reading & discussion of a passage about McCandless's relationships. The passage was from Chapter 7.

Homework: Read and annotate Into the Wild.

Day 6

For this lesson I started by having kids create "Twitter war" with their vocabulary words. The directions were as follows:

  • I will assign you a partner.

  • Make sure you know their name.

  • Create a Twitter war between two imaginary or real people that uses 10-15 of your vocabulary words.

  • Show me when you are done.

Next we studied a passage from Chapter 8, where Krakauer tries to argue that McCandless is a pilgrim.

We contrasted this passage with a passage from Chapter 9, where Krakauer tries to draw connections between McCandless, Ruess, and monks.

Their homework for the night was to read through Chapter 9 and expect a reading quiz next class.

Day 7

I sell a multiple choice reading test in my TpT store. Throughout the unit, chopped up the test and turned it into reading quizzes as needed. On this day, I used the questions for Chapters 1-9.

Afterwards, we did an analysis of Krakauer's use of epigraphs.

Homework: Read & annotate Into the Wild

Day 8

Vocabulary warm-up: Make a Quizlet for your vocabulary words.

Once we were well into Into the Wild, we paused to read a bit of Thoreau. I asked students to read and annotate "Why I Went Into the Woods" and then to answer some discussion questions in small groups.

Homework: Read & annotate Into the Wild

Day 9

For this class period, we started some informal vocabulary Pictionary. I asked students to get with a partner and take turns drawing a vocabulary word and having their partner guess.

Next, we completed a journal and I gave kids 15 minutes to write. The prompt asked them to reflect on if they found McCandless admirable in any way.

Once kids were done writing, I put them into groups to share out. Since my kids sometimes would talk and sometimes would not talk, I used a rubric to grade their share out.

After this we did a timed rhetorical analysis about a passage from Chapter 15.

Day 10

For this day's vocabulary activity, I asked kids to get with a partner, open a Google doc, and script a conversation between two people (famous people, made up people. whomever). They needed to use 15 of their vocabulary words.

After this, I gave students time to finish reading and annotating Into the Wild.

Homework: Finish reading and annotating Into the Wild. Expect a reading quiz next class.

Day 11

At this point I was ready to give the kids a vocabulary quiz, so I gave them time to do an activity that would help them study for it. I always quiz kids by asking them to plug the vocabulary word into a blank in a sentence, so to prepared for this I asked to do look up a contextualized sentence for a vocabulary word that I assigned them. They needed to alter the sentence to add hints and clues and then post the sentence on a class Google doc. Everyone could then use this doc to study.

Homework: Study for vocabulary quiz.

Day 11

This is just one of many ways to teach Into the Wild, and every year I end up doing something differing. Please feel free to share any of your favorite ideas in the comments

Other Materials That I Sometimes Used During This Unit

(Depending on the Year)

  • Into The Wild movie (rated R-had to get permission slips)

Other Materials

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