Middle Reader Lesson Plan
GUIDED ANTI-BIAS/ANTI-RACIST READING | GRADES 5+
This lesson is divided into 4 sections that are designed to follow along with the book From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks. Each section focuses on reading comprehension, critical thinking, and self-reflection based on the Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards. There are discussion questions, reflection prompts, and activities to guide the student and facilitator.
Lesson content was written by Samantha Romano, Saya Heinonen, and Nicole Damon as part of their work in the Social Justice in K12 Education course at Portland State University and was designed to start or deepen anti-bias conversations in families and other learning communities.
From the Desk of Zoe Washington is a middle reader book about Zoe, who is faced with both exciting and challenging things going on at the beginning of summer break. She is fighting with her best friend Trevor and her other friends are out of town. But, she gets an internship at a local bakery that will help her to pursue her baking dreams. On her 12th birthday, she receives a letter from her father who she has never met because he’s been in prison her whole life. They begin a correspondence and he admits that although he is in prison for something very bad, he is innocent. Zoe starts to question the justice of why he would be in prison if he was innocent and springs into action. She doesn’t understand why nobody is helping her father so she decides to, and her perseverance is inspiring to the people around her and to the reader. Her fight for social justice shows that anyone can make a real difference while her relationships show that she is still a kid who can make mistakes. But along the way she resolves her fight with Trevor and they get into some shenanigans while trying to find a witness to concur with Marcus’ alibi. Her relationships with her friends and the grown ups in her life show love, communication, accountability (yes, she gets her phone taken away too) and the power of speaking up. Zoe’s confidence grows as she is empowered in her identities: a baker, a friend, Black, social activist, daughter and music lover. This confidence growth shows in her voice, her baking prowess and the joy that she brings to her family and friends at the end of the book.
From the Desk of Zoe Washington was written by Janae Marks, and it is her first published book. The book was inspired after Marks learned that one out of every 27 kids has a parent in prison and that Black people are seven times as likely to be wrongfully convictedof murder than white people. Janae has a background in musical theater as well as creative writing. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and daughter. In interviews, Janae also reveals that she wrote three books before getting her debut published, which shows she really understands Zoe’s perseverance as well. Hopefully Marks will publish another inspiring story soon enough!
This guided reading lesson is designed to be part of a larger life-long commitment to anti-racist teaching and learning for the student and the facilitator. Reading Is Resistance sees reading as an opportunity to seed deeper conversations and opportunities for action around racial equity in our communities. We hold the belief that being anti-racist is a process of learning (and unlearning) over time.
The Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards (focused on Identity, Diversity, Justice, and Action) serve as guides for our work.
TEACHING TOLERANCE STANDARDS (GRADES 6-8) COVERED IN THIS LESSON
Identity Domain #1
I know and like who I am and can comfortably talk about my family and myself and describe our various group identities.
Diversity Domain #8
I am curious and want to know more about other people’s histories and lived experiences, and I ask questions respectfully and listen carefully and nonjudgmentally.
Justice Domain #11
I relate to people as individuals and not representatives of groups, and I can name some common stereotypes I observe people using.
Action Domain #19
I will speak up or take action when I see unfairness, even if those around me do not, and I will not let others convince me to go along with injustice.
GUIDED READING LESSON PLAN
SECTION ONE: CH 1-9
List all of the identities that you have learned about Zoe Washington so far. IDENTITY DOMAIN #1
What part of her identity does she learn more about throughout these chapters?IDENTITY DOMAIN #1
SECTION TWO: CH 10-18
In communicating with Zoe’s father Marcus, how does she use diversity to discover Marcus’s experiences? Discuss some examples of how she listens to her father without judgement. DIVERSITY DOMAIN #8
How does Zoe interact with people throughout the book that have different backgrounds from herself? Describe two different characters from the book and how she uses her understanding of diversity to interact with them. DIVERSITY DOMAIN #8
SECTION THREE: CH 19-27
What is Zoe’s opinion about her father in the beginning of the book, and how does her opinion change about those that share Marcus’s same identity in terms of being charged and sentenced for a serious crime? JUSTICE DOMAIN #11
Describe how the adults in Zoe’s life use their own biases of children to unfairly make assumptions about her capabilities. JUSTICE DOMAIN #11
What does Zoe learn throughout the book about systemic racism? JUSTICE DOMAIN #11
SECTION FOUR: CH 28-36
How does Trevor change his actions with his friendship towards Zoe from the beginning of the book? ACTION DOMAIN #19
How does Zoe repeatedly take action throughout the book to help Marcus? ACTION DOMAIN #19
Discuss the characters in the book who have not taken action in proving Marcus’s innocence, and reasons as to why they took no action.ACTION DOMAIN #19
Do you have an example of a time where you witnessed someone being treated unfairly and stood up for them? Discuss what happened and the actions you took to defend them. ACTION DOMAIN #19
Do you have an example of a time where you did not take action for someone being treated unfairly? Discuss and list the ways in which you would take action to stand up for that person. ACTION DOMAIN #19
Get to know the author by watching this interview with Janae Marks
Watch Janae Marks read-aloud an excerpt from the book and answer Q&A’s
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Front Desk by Kelly Yang