Joelito’s Big Decision, by Ann Berlak


Students will engage in a read aloud of Joelito’s Big Decision in order to consider ideas around economic justice and protest as a means to achieve change. Students will then consider ways that they can take a stand about a social issue within their own school or community that concerns them.

Common Core Learning Standards:


Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.


Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).

Anti-Bias Standard:

(From the Teaching Tolerance Anti-Bias Framework)

Action 17:

I know it’s important for me to stand up for myself and for others, and I know how to get help if I need ideas on how to do this.

Justice 14:

I know that life is easier for some people and harder for others based on who they are and where they were born.


Joelito’s Big Decision, by Ann Berlak


Picketing, manager, protest, boycott

Learning Target:

I can consider strategies activists use to stand up against injustice in order to brainstorm ways to do this in my own community.


Post an image of protesters from the Fight for $15 movement and ask student what they think they are doing. Encourage them to use I think… I notice… I wonder statements.

Direct Teach:

Explain that these are protesters. Protesters are people who disagree with an issue and they march to help people learn about what they believe in and to help people become aware of their frustration. The protesters in the image do not feel that they are being paid enough to support their families and they are not working and marching to encourage the government to change laws that will require workers to be paid 15 dollars an hour. Many people also think that others should boycott companies who don’t pay their workers enough. Boycotting means refusing to shop at a company you disagree with. As we read today I want you to think about the strategies people use when they become upset with McMann’s Burgers.

Questions you may ask as you read…

  • P 4 – Why is Alma so upset about losing her backpack?
  • P 12 – How did life change for the Thomas’ after they worked at McMann’s? Why?
  • P 16 – Brandon is upset with his friend, do you agree with Brandon?
  • P 20- What is causing the workers to get so upset with McMann?
  • P 22- How does the news reporters idea compare with Mr. Thomas’ idea about paying workers more?
  • P 26- What will Joelito’s family do instead of eating at McMann’s? Why?

After reading you may ask…

  • What impact do you think the protesters had?
  • What would you have done in Joelito’s situation?

Guided Practice:

What strategies did Joelito use to support people who experienced injustice?

Look back at pages 20, 26, 28. Consider some of the strategies Joelito and the protesters used to voice their ideas. (Protest, Boycotting, and Supporting a friend). Print copies of each page and have students re-read in groups to identify what strategy activists used to fight against something they thought wasn’t right.

Independent Practice:

Students journal about a time they have stood up for someone who experienced injustice or was treated unfairly. Draft a list with them before they go off to write. Encourage them to think about unfairness within their own classrooms, school, and then community.

Anticipated misconceptions or questions (If kids say…):

“This is confusing. Why do the TV reporters say think that increasing wages with increase the cost of burgers?” Draw a map for students showing them how the money a company makes is distributed. Use a visual and actual amounts to show them how much the worker makes, how much a burger costs, and how much the company gets when they sell the burger.

“But if he wants to eat dinner with his family, and he’s hungry, he should be able to.” Encourage them to consider that some other restaurants paid their workers fairly.

“I can’t think of anything to journal about.” Encourage them to think small, what is a time they helped a friend who was upset? Even small acts help to create a positive community.

Ideas for Modifications/Differentiation:

  • Give students a graphic organizer to chart events in the story to help them with analysis and main ideas in the text.
  • Provide students with a copy of the text to support them in more carefully considering text support.
  • For further support with vocabulary create images on a powerpoint to show students as you read.
  • Give students a bank of ideas to use as they journal to help them brainstorm.
  • Provide students with a graphic organizer to brainstorm their idea and ways this created change (cause and effect structure).


  • Have students share out what they journaled about. Record their ideas on chart paper in a web as – Suggestions for Activists in _____ (add your classroom name, school, or neighborhood).
  • Encourage students to think about ideas they haven’t tried that they might want to or share out ideas they got from other students that they want to try in their community.

Activist Extension:

  • Online research of current labor issues (Fight For $15). Think about companies that are not paying their workers a fair wage. Students can write letters of concern to local officials or directly to the company expressing their concerns and giving ideas to change it.
  • Comparing fair wages in the United States to labor issues in other countries. Students can write articles to share with the school or family members about these conditions and encouraging steps others can take to finding alternative products or companies that use fair wages.
  • Draw parallels to other major protests for workers rights such as Cesar Chavez. Reread page 24 of the book as a way to introduce the fight, and build students understanding of fair wages.