Reader’s Workshop: “It’s a Dilemma!”
Grade 6 Kathi Hand
Assumption St. Bridget School
This Reader’s Workshop is based on the model taught by Nancy Skerrit and Emily Hard
from the Tahoma School District. Their model integrates reading with explicit teaching
of thinking skills.
In this Reader’s Workshop, students read novels in which characters face ethical choices.
In addition to instruction and practice with comprehension, vocabulary, and literary
elements and devices, students will also explore the dilemmas faced by these characters.
They will evaluate the choices made in the novels and identify values that are affirmed in
those choices. Prior to this workshop, students would have discussed dilemmas and
explored various aspect of ethical decision-making.
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Crash by Jerry Spinelli
The Cheat by Amy Goldman Koss
The Girls by Amy Goldman Koss
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
1. Character analysis
Outcome: Students will apply the thinking skill of analysis to the characters in the
novel, in order to decide what virtues are represented in that character. They will
provide evidence from the text to support their decision.
Students will begin with this question: What virtue(s) do you see in this character? They
will then identify the character’s actions, his/her words, and his/her relationships with
other characters. On the graphic organizer for analysis, they will list these examples and
make inferences about the character from them. They will then examine the inferences to
see which virtue(s) they see in that character. Finally, they will summarize their
observations in a statement that answers their initial question.
Outcome: Students will identify both internal and external conflicts in the novel.
For each conflict, they will identify values that are competing with one another.
Example: In The Girls, Renee has to decide whether to stick up for Maya by standing up
to Candace or to go along with Candace and Darcy as they use her to pick on another girl.
In this internal conflict, sticking up for Maya means being honest, being loyal to Maya,
and rejecting the meanness that makes her so uncomfortable. On the other hand, going
along with Candace and Darcy also represents loyalty to friends as well as maintaining
her status as one of “the group.”
Outcome: Students will brainstorm alternative actions for characters who face an
ethical dilemma. They will evaluate the pros and cons of each alternative and
recommend one choice of action for the character.
Students will listen to a story in which the protagonist has cheated in class. He has to
decide whether to confess this to his parents. Midway through the story, students will
work in groups to describe the moral dilemma faced by this boy, generate and critique at
least three alternatives for him, and recommend one course of action, giving reasons for
their choice. Each group will report back to the large group, sharing their alternatives
and their recommendations. As we hear the groups, we will discuss the competing values
that are at work in the various alternatives. After all the groups report, students will hear
the rest of the story, comparing their recommendation to the author’s choice of action.
These questions will be among those that are used for student response in their reading
What choice or dilemma does the protagonist face in this novel? How did
she/he get into this situation?
What are some of the competing values that are pulling on this character?
What do his/her choices reveal about his/her values?
Compare this character to yourself. What would you do in this situation?
Why? What does that choice reveal about your values?
What are the consequences of the character’s decisions for him/herself?
For other people around him/her? Do you agree with the character’s
Does this novel have any themes that relate to ethical decision-making?
What are they? How do you know?