A Teacher’s Guide for Grades 8-10:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

This novel traces the story of fourteen-year-old Arnold “Junior” Spirit, and his experiences straddling two very different worlds: his home on the Spokane Indian Reservation and his place at the nearby all-white school. We chose this novel for its strong, engaging, and relatable voice, and for its powerful attention to social and emotional themes of loss, poverty, hope, perseverance, and identity. This curriculum will inspire students to build connections between Junior’s touching life story and their own.

Trace the story of Arnold “Junior” Spirit, and his experiences straddling two different worlds: his home on the Spokane Indian Reservation, where poverty and alcoholism are prevalent, and his place at the nearby all-white high school, where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, but funny, the story is based on the author’s own experiences and chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live. There are very few opportunities on the reservation and loss and grief are a regular part of life. It’s even harder for Junior who is regularly the target of bullies. At his high school, Junior must prove his worth to his teachers, the students, and himself most of all. Though he struggles with his identity, Junior begins to make friends, succeed academically, and build a community. Life seems to be improving, despite Junior’s feeling of being pulled between his two worlds. Throughout his journey, Junior grapples with questions about growing up and what constitutes one’s community and identity.

Author: Sherman Alexie

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.
  • Fourteen 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”