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A Teacher’s Guide for Grades 5-7:

Harbor Me

Meet Haley, Holly, Esteban, Tiago, Amari, and Ashton — six students who are given a space to talk each week without adults in the room. Listen in as these young people open up about their experiences of hardship, marginalization, and identity, developing greater compassion for and understanding of each other, and themselves, through their storytelling. We chose this book for its thoughtful attention to some powerful social and emotional themes: empathy and friendship, grief and loss, immigration and deportation, and racial identity and privilege. Students will find themselves relating to and being inspired by the stories of these students; this curriculum will help students build connections between the six students’ experiences and their own.

Harbor Me explores the story of six fifth- and sixth-grade students who are brought together, each with a story to tell. While these students come from diverse backgrounds and struggle with different issues, they learn through their storytelling that they actually share many of the same feelings, values, hopes, and fears. Haley, the narrator, is an 11-year old girl living with her uncle in Brooklyn, New York. She and five classmates meet in a class for students with learning differences. One day their teacher, Ms. Laverne, takes them to the former art room and explains that every Friday afternoon they will have a space to talk with each other—without teachers or adults around. The students decide to call this new space the ARTT room, because it provides them “A Room to Talk.” At first, Haley and the other students—Holly, Esteban, Tiago, Amari, and Ashton—are hesitant to share with each other. But when Holly brings in a recorder to document their stories, they each become inspired to open up about their lives and struggles—from immigration status, to racial injustice, to navigating the “American dream,” to grief and loss. Each student’s life and story is unique to their experience, but through sharing, they build empathy and connection across their differences, coming to care for each other deeply.

Author: Jaqueline Woodson

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.
  • 10 individual lesson plans, including vocabulary, discussion questions, journal prompts, extension activities, and all handouts.
  • Two assessments to monitor student progress.
  • 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: 78
Dimensions: 8.5” x 11”


Companion Student Workbook:


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