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Into The Wild Unit for AP Lang & Comp

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 materials are helpful to you!

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.)