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A Teacher’s Guide for Grades 9-12:

With the Fire on High

Told through the eyes of Emoni Santiago, a passionate cook who always puts a little magic in her food, this novel explores the challenges young people face as they inhabit the space between childhood and adulthood: from navigating complex relationships, to balancing the demands of family, school, and a part-time job, to making decisions about life after high school. We chose this book for its thoughtful exploration of important social and emotional themes: identity, family, love, teen parenthood, judgements, perseverance, and resilience. This curriculum will inspire students to connect Emoni’s story to their own experiences—reflecting on their relationships, considering the significant decisions that lie before them, and navigating their own path into adulthood.

With the Fire on High is a young adult novel, written from the perspective of Emoni Santiago, a senior at Schomburg Charter School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While many aspects of Emoni’s story will resonate with any teen reader navigating their way toward adulthood, the novel also shines a light on the particular challenges facing teen parents. Emoni’s two-year-old daughter Emma is a driving force in her life, motivating her to balance her many responsibilities and figure out her path after high school. Although Emoni’s passion is cooking and her dream is to one day be a chef, she isn’t sure if this is a practical path; when her school offers a culinary arts course with a culminating trip to Spain, Emoni finds herself unexpectedly exploring the opportunities available down this career path. As she plans for adulthood, Emoni’s decisions are complicated by her responsibilities: caring for her daughter, supporting her grandmother, trying to finish high school, working a part-time job, and navigating teenage romance. When in doubt, Emoni seeks refuge in her kitchen, where she can let go of her troubles and follow her intuition. The result is always a dish that has magic-like powers over the people who are fortunate enough to taste it.

Author: Elizabeth Acevado

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.
  • 15 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: 100
Dimensions: 8.5” x 11”



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