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A Teacher’s Guide for Grades 4-6:

Front Desk

Meet Mia Tang, a strong, resilient ten-year-old girl who uses her intelligence, determination, and heart to manage the challenges that come her way as a young immigrant working the front desk at her parents’ motel. We chose this book for its powerful exploration of important social and emotional themes: injustice, racism, poverty, belonging, activism, family, and love. Students will find themselves relating to and being inspired by the story’s characters; this guide will help students make connections between Mia’s quest for social justice and the causes that inspire action in their own lives.

Front Desk tells the story of ten-year-old Mia Tang, and follows a year of her life as she and her family settle into their new home, running the Calivista Motel. The Tangs have lived in the United States for two years, after immigrating from China in search of opportunity. While they initially thought that life in America would be full of dreams and adventures, their two years in the US have instead been marked by hunger, homelessness, and the many challenges and injustices faced by recent immigrants. When Mia’s parents get the job running the Calivista Motel, she and her family finally have stable work and housing, a new community of friends in the Calivista “weeklies,” and the opportunity to support other immigrants by providing them housing and support in desperate moments. Mia steps up as a leader at the Calivista, managing the front desk of the motel while her parents take care of all the other duties—dealing with their mean boss Mr. Yao, cleaning the rooms, and doing constant mountains of laundry. Mia has big dreams for her life—she loves English, especially writing, and works hard to improve her writing, even though English isn’t her native language. As Mia witnesses injustice in her community, she turns her love for writing into a tool for activism, writing letters to people who have power to make change. Throughout the story, Mia’s kindness, compassion, empathy, and determination lead her to step forward to make her community a more fair and just place, showing how solidarity and action around injustice—even from a ten-year-old!—truly can make a difference.

Author: Kelly Yang

Our Reading with Relevance teacher’s guide breaks the novel into a series of thoughtful lesson plans. Each lesson is designed to support you to meaningfully explore the social and emotional themes of the day’s reading with your students, inspiring them to read deeply, think critically, talk openly, and write reflectively about topics that matter.

This teacher’s guide includes:

  • A facilitator’s guide with tips and resources for implementing the curriculum.
  • A map of Common Core Standards addressed through this program.
  • 14 individual lesson plans, including vocabulary, discussion questions, journal prompts, extension activities, and all handouts.
  • Two assessments to monitor student progress throughout the program.
  • Regular checkpoints to help teachers assess their students’ progress on ELA standards.
  • A culminating essay-writing unit.
  • An appendix with additional teaching resources and activities to continue exploring this novel.

Pages: 100
Dimensions: 8.5” x 11”


Companion Student Workbook:


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