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Drop in to Literature! Close Read & Analyze Passages From Acclaimed Novels


Powerful Stories Book Club #2 - From the Desk of Zoe Washington (Black Author)

In this 6-week course, students will practice literary analysis in a fun, interactive way with roles like the writer, reporter, designer, adviser, magnifier, theme tracker, connector, and predictor, as they lead in-depth discussions.
Alaina Bell Gao
382 total reviews for this teacher
3 reviews for this class
Completed by 6 learners
  There are no upcoming classes.
year olds
learners per class


Charged upfront
$15 per class
Meets 1x per week
Over 6 weeks
50 minutes per class

There are no open spots for this class.

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Class Experience

My classes are largely focused on higher thinking skills. By engaging with the novel actively, the students will focus on characterization, plot structure, conflict, and themes, as they make connections between the novel and their lives. They will develop critical thinking skills and presentation skills.

Ontario (Canadian) Curriculum:

1.4 demonstrate understanding of a variety of texts by summarizing important ideas and citing supporting details

1.5 make inferences about texts using stated and implied ideas from the texts as evidence

1.6 extend understanding of texts by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them

1.7 analyse texts and explain how specific elements in them contribute to meaning (e.g., narrative: characters, setting, main
idea, problem/challenge and resolution, plot development

1.8 express opinions about the ideas and information in texts and cite evidence from the text to support their opinions

2.3 communicate in a clear, coherent manner, presenting ideas, opinions, and information in a readily understandable form

2.4 identify various elements of style – including alliteration, descriptive adjectives and adverbs, and sentences of different types, lengths, and structures – and explain how they help communicate meaning (e.g., alliteration and rhythm can emphasize ideas or help convey a mood or sensory impression)

American Common Core Standards:

Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.

Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character's thoughts, words, or actions).

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.

Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.

Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles.

Pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others.

Review the key ideas expressed and explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.

Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.
Prior to each class, each student MUST read that week's chapters and prepare to lead part of the discussion. I will ask you to choose a role after you sign up. Join early to get your pick of the roles! Then, you'll get a new role each week!


Word Master
Theme Tracker

*The students will use our class site to share notes, quotations, or passages to help them guide the discussion, but they can also prepare a small PowerPoint presentation to share each week (optional). LibreOffice is free and has a great Presentation program. The students can upload their presentation files to the class site or have them open on their screens for screen-sharing. (Tip: I recommend saving files as PDFs so the slides will look the same when they are opened on other computers.)


*Please read the chapters before class because this is a literature circle where we discuss the book in a creative way (with different roles). There will definitely be no time to do the reading in class, including the first class. That is your time to present your conclusions and creations based on your reading. So, sign up early and get started! Then, we can have plenty of fun!

Lesson 1: Read chapters 1 to 6
Lesson 2: Read chapters 7 to 12
Lesson 3: Read chapters 13 to 18
Lesson 4: Read chapters 19 to 24
Lesson 5: Read chapters 25 to 30
Lesson 6: Read chapters 31 to 36 and the epilogue
Each learner must have their own copy of From the Desk of Zoe Washington.
50 minutes per week in class, and an estimated 2 - 4 hours per week outside of class.
The main character has a loving, supportive family, but her biological dad is in prison (wrongfully convicted). After she receives a letter from him, she makes a series of potentially dangerous choices (secretly writing back, lying to her parents and grandmother, determining to clear him by tracking down a witness, going to meet a stranger with a friend who is also underaged, etc.) Throughout all of this, she is safe, but it could turn out to be different in real life. The novel explores why she made these decisions, the danger of her choices, and the consequences. However, without full discussion, the novel may lean in favour of her having made the right choices. Therefore, in our classes, we will focus on alternative endings that could have come about as a result of her choices. The story is a bit "too good to be true" as it stands. I recommend that parents read the novel at the same time, since there are numerous conversations to be had about safe choices, trust, mistakes, forgiveness, systematic racism, etc.


Alaina Bell Gao
Lives in Canada
Let's explore the world through literature, art, and social studies!
382 total reviews
181 completed classes

About Me

Hi! My name is Alaina Bell Gao, and I am an experienced Canadian English teacher with 15+ years of professional teaching experience. As a dedicated, creative, gentle, and patient neurodivergent teacher, many neurodiverse learners thrive in my... 
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