The Great Gilly Hopkins & Locomotion Literature Study Unit (editable)

The Great Gilly Hopkins & Locomotion Literature Study Unit (editable)
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This is a 134-page, Common Core-aligned literature study unit for use with the novel, The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Newbery award-winner, Katherine Paterson, and the poetry collection (“novel-in-poems”), Locomotion, by Newbery award-winner, Jacqueline Woodson. Though settings differ, I teach the books together because the works explore similar themes and both feature foster child protagonists struggling to find a sense of family. The unit covers each chapter of Gilly, and a few poems from Locomotion, particularly those that illustrate approaches to craft highlighted in the mentor text exercises.

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.

About the Literary Works

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). The unit is editable so you can pick and choose which unit elements and prompts will work best for you.


From GoodReads: Watch out world! The Great Gilly Hopkins is looking for a home. She's a foster kid who's been angry, lonely, and hurting for so long that's she's always ready for a fight. Be on the lookout for her best barracuda smile, the one she saves for well-meaning social workers. Watch out for her most fearful look, a cross between Dracula and Godzilla, used especially to scare shy foster brothers. Don't be fooled by her "Who me?" expression, guaranteed to trick foster parents, teachers, and anyone who gets in her way.

It's Gilly Hopkins vs. the world! And so far, Gilly seems to be winning. But what she doesn't realize is that every time she wins, she really loses, until she discovers a love as formidable as any enemy she's ever known.


From GoodReads: When Lonnie Collins Motion "Locomotion" was seven years old, his life changed forever. Now he's eleven, and his life is about to change again. His teacher, Ms. Marcus, is showing him ways to put his jumbled feelings on paper. And suddenly, Lonnie has a whole new way to tell the world about his life, his friends, his little sister Lili, and even his foster mom, Miss Edna, who started out crabby but isn’t so bad after all. Jacqueline Woodson’s novel-in-poems is humorous, heartbreaking . . . a triumph.



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 race, bullying and family, chronicling Gilly’s transformation from a racist, hate-filled bully into a character capable of love and acceptance. The literature response prompts ask students to grapple with and reflect on personal experience with themes the reading raises.


For use with the 2016 film adaptation of the novel, directed by Stephen Herek, these questions explore themes unique to the film version of the story and ask for a comparative analysis of the two works.


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 Gilly and Locomotion 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 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 Gilly and Locomotion, these mini-units also include the work of several student authors that model the approaches under consideration.


A printable vocabulary quiz for each chapter
Links to editable vocabulary practice games for each chapter’s words on KAHOOT!
Link to editable vocabulary word list on QUIZLET, accessible 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 with the unit.
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134 pages
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