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A Teacher’s Guide for Grades 8-10:

Street Life: Poverty, Gangs, and a Ph.D

Street Life: Poverty, Gangs, and a Ph.D. traces the true-life coming-of-age story of Dr. Victor Rios, a college professor who grew up amid poverty and violence in Oakland, CA; he demonstrates his perseverance and resilience by surmounting the incredible obstacles he faces to earn his college degrees.  We chose this novel for its insightful attention to some powerful social and emotional themes: poverty, social inequality, violence, perseverance, and resilience. Students will find themselves relating to and being inspired by Victor’s story; this curriculum will help students build connections between Victor’s moving life story and their own.

Trace the true-life story of Dr. Victor Rios, a college professor who grew up amid poverty and violence, in Oakland, California. He inspires us with his perseverance and resiliency to conquer obstacles, and his openness to accept support and guidance from others throughout his journey. Victor Rios grew up in a single parent household, in poverty and on welfare. He joined a gang at the age of thirteen and by sixteen had dropped out of school and been incarcerated several times. After witnessing the tragic murder of his best friend by gang rivals, Victor hit a critical juncture in his life. With the encouragement of educators and mentors, Victor redirected his attitude towards life, and returned to school to eventually earn a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

This book is written to speak to a young adult audience—those young people who live on the margins, who are often assigned texts that do not represent their lived reality, their struggles, or their experiences. This book naturally segues into discussions of complicated social issues like abuse, youth violence, delinquency, fatalism, opportunity, stratification, poverty, resilience, college, positive role models, healthy choices, and personal transformation.

Author:  Dr. Victor Rios

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.
  • Eight 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: 72
Dimensions: 8.5” x 11”



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