Too Broke to Learn

Students will read a three-part blog series to gain a new perspective on student poverty and the stereotypes surrounding people who experience poverty through no choice of their own.

Anchor(s)

R2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas. (Apply this standard to texts of appropriate complexity as outlined by Standard 10.) W9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. (Apply this standard to texts of appropriate complexity as outlined by Standard 10.)

Level(s):

Estimated timeframe:

Activity steps

  1. In this activity, students will read a three-part blog series to gain a new perspective on student poverty and the stereotypes surrounding people who experience poverty through no choice of their own. Guiding questions will help students practice the reading and writing skills targeted by the focus standards. Before reading “Too Broke to Learn,” tell students: “Think about what you know about living in poverty. Write down everything.” Share highlights with the class.
  2. While close reading opens in a new window part 1 of Jimmieka Mills’ blog, have students answer the following questions.
    • What were some of the effects of living in poverty for Jimmieka?
      • Possible answers: parents argued a lot, lights sometimes went out, hunger distracted her from reading and learning, she was often late to school since parents were working, parents’ drug addiction, no homework help, no “dinner time, she had to walk to school and home, little hope for the future
    • How did the author show resourcefulness as a child?
      • Possible answer: She stocked up for dinner at lunch.
    • Do you feel like you understand where she is coming from? Have you experienced this type of stress?
      • Possible answers could focus on diversity awareness if a student has not experienced this level of urban poverty.
    • What is the author’s central message? Cite evidence to prove it. Use the opens in a new window Central Idea graphic organizer if needed.
      • Possible answer: Living in poverty is consuming. Evidence could include the narrator’s preoccupations with food, the taking care of her sibling, and the embarrassment of how her family lived.
    • What is a theme or a moral of this part of the blog? Theme is defined as an underlying meaning of a literary work that may be stated directly or indirectly. Use the opens in a new window Finding Themes graphic organizer if needed.
      • Possible answer: It is hard to understand poverty unless you have lived it.
      • Possible answer: Children living in poverty have a difficult, if not impossible, road to success.
    • How does the author’s description of the disparity between her life and her classmates’ lives fit into a theme?
      • Possible answer: The contrast the author describes between those “having” and “not having” helps the reader understand poverty with specific, visual details. Maybe some students don’t realize what they may be taking for granted.
  3. While reading opens in a new window part 2 of Jimmieka Mills’ blog, have students answer the following questions.
    • How does the author stay motivated to accomplish the tasks at hand?
      • Possible answers: Jimmieka looked for programs to keep her away from the homeless shelter and her parents. A mentor outside from outside her community believed in Jimmieka and gave her hope she would go to college. She kept hopeful and continued to try to overcome obstacles.
    • What is the author’s central message? Cite evidence to prove it.
      • Possible answer: The narrator’s determination helped her overcome the disadvantages of living in poverty in middle and high school. Evidence could include the narrator’s active steps of finding a mentor and focusing everything on succeeding at school, even while working a part-time job.
    • What is a theme or a moral of this part of the blog? Theme is defined as an underlying meaning of a literary work that may be stated directly or indirectly.
      • Possible answer: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
      • Possible answer: If you can see a way out, take it.
    • How does the author show a positive work ethic? How do you show a positive work ethic?
      • Answers will vary but should focus on positive work behaviors.
  4. While reading opens in a new window part 3 of Jimmieka Mills’ blog, answer the following questions.
    • Summarize part 3 of Jimmieka’s blog in one or two sentences.
      • Possible answer: The author experienced self-doubt, death of her parents, pregnancy, and taking custody of her teen sister, but she continued to try to go to college because she knew the importance of education.
    • What is the author’s central message? Cite evidence to prove it.
      • Possible answer: Disruptions to getting an education happened to the narrator, yet she persevered. Evidence could include her inability to get financial aid, her pregnancy, and her parents’ deaths. (Note that some community colleges will waive the parent’s tax information for students less than 24 years old if there is a permanent estrangement of the relationship.)
    • What is a theme or a moral of this part of the blog? Theme is defined as an underlying meaning of a literary work that may be stated directly or indirectly.
      • Possible answer: Doing one’s best positively affects the lives of those close to you.
      • Possible answer: Hard work will pay off.
    • How will completing a goal affect those around you? How will you organize your time around your other responsibilities to achieve that goal?
  5. Having looked at three sections of Jimmieka Mills’ story, guide students in answering questions about overarching theme and workplace readiness skills.
    • How does Jimmieka Mills represent herself? What in the text supports your answer?
      • Answers could include: She shows determination and resourcefulness in school; her writing is clear and well organized, she overcomes adversity when she becomes pregnant and when her parents die.
    • Do you think Jimmieka Mills would be successful in the workplace? Why?
      • Answers should focus on her integrity, reliability, positive work ethic, initiative, and abilities to write clearly, use a computer, and represent herself honestly and in a positive light.
    • Have students work with a partner to write an answer to the following prompt: What is the narrator’s overall message or theme? With at least three references to the text, explain how the narrator developed this message. Theme is defined as an underlying meaning of a literary work that may be stated directly or indirectly.
      • Answers could include: Children living in poverty have disadvantages others may not understand, such as the lack of a printer, internet access, or funds for textbooks, but many of these children want to learn and succeed as much as people living with a higher economic status. Something needs to be done to support these kids.
  6. Extension opportunities include:

Workforce readiness skills


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