Loser by Jerry Spinelli: A Literature Study Unit (editable)

Loser by Jerry Spinelli: A Literature Study Unit (editable)
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About this Unit

This is a Common Core-aligned literature study unit for use with the novel, Loser, by Newberry award-winner, Jerry Spinelli. The lessons and activities here are designed for a variety of age groups and disciplines. Curricular areas covered include literacy development, vocabulary building, literary analysis, creative writing, argument building/persuasive writing and socio-emotional development. Prompts appear in order of complexity, and simplified language appears in parentheses (delete or modify as needed). Pick and choose which unit elements and prompts will work best for your own class.

NOTE: This unit does NOT include an answer key. Though some questions here are designed to assess comprehension, the overall objective is to promote discussion, critical inquiry and the development of argument-building skills. Most prompts here are open-ended so a variety of responses will be "correct," depending on how well-supported they are. If you are looking for a unit with multiple choice or fill-in-the-blanks questions you can quickly match against an answer key, this is not the right unit for you.

From Publisher’s Weekly: Donald Zinkoff is a generally happy, spirited and clumsy boy known to his classmates and neighbor kids as the biggest loser around. Though he has no real friends, can't seem to do anything right and is often misunderstood or even disliked by his teachers, Zinkoff never loses his positive outlook on life. By creating such an unusually good-natured protagonist, Spinelli can show the ugly, cruel behavior of other children without making Zinkoff into a pathetic victim. This tack may well encourage listeners to consider how they treat their friends, classmates and teammates.

Unit Components & Features


A set of 8-12 prompts for each chapter of the novel. The questions are grouped for differentiated instruction into Comprehending, Analyzing, and Connecting sections. Since this unit is editable, you can choose the prompts that best fit your needs and/or break the class into groups and assign different prompts to each group. The comprehension questions are appropriate for younger students and English language learners. The questions that involve analysis ask students to think critically and to support their conclusions with textual evidence. The Connecting questions ask students to draw connections between the reading and their own lives. Several of the questions can also be used as prompts for longer writing assignments. The novel raises some tough and complicated questions about bullying, and the literature response prompts ask students to grapple with and reflect on personal experience with themes the reading raises.


Designed to integrate into a writing workshop and built around a specific revision strategy, each mentor text exercise asks students to read as writers—to pay close attention to elements of craft—and apply the mentor author’s writing techniques to their own works in progress. Most exercises include links to student writing samples that model approaches to applying the mentor author techniques under consideration. Passages from Loser serve as springboards for these exercises. Though the instructions here are addressed to students, most will need some teacher guidance around the terms and concepts introduced.


Writing Injury & Illness
Writing the Future
Growing Up & Growing Out
Writing Friendship & Bullying
Point of View & Narrative Distance in Literature & Video Games

Designed to spark and scaffold new creative writing projects, each mini-unit is a detailed, 1-2 week-long lesson plan that includes introductions to each day’s reading, discussion and/or writing session; excerpts of the mentor texts under consideration; questions to guide discussions; prompts, graphic organizers and word banks to get students started writing pieces of their own; and resources to guide the revision process. Along with excerpts from Loser, these mini-units also include the work of several student authors that model the approaches under consideration.


A printable vocabulary quiz for each chapter
2 printable vocabulary practice crossword puzzles & solutions
Links to vocabulary practice games for each chapter’s words on KAHOOT!
Link to vocabulary word list on QUIZLET, where you can access & assign as flashcards or games
Printable vocabulary study sheet with words & definitions


This is a Google document, so you can easily modify anything here to fit your own class’s needs. Any updates will automatically load each time you click the link provided with purchase. If you are new to Google docs, check the quick tips included


For a guide to creating and publishing graphic stories, poems and essays with your class like the ones excerpted in mentor text lessons here, check out the Comics in the Classroom guide in Ghosts: A Literature Study Unit for Use with the Graphic Novel by Raina Telgemeier..
Total Pages
163 pages
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