1) Based on the title, what do readers expect from the book? Will be a mystery? Will it be funny or more serious? Discuss why the different emojis might be masking the students’ faces on the cover. What do readers think they might mean?
2) Read the book’s cover blurb to the class then ask, what do readers think? Do they have a different opinion of what the various emojis might mean? Do they want to guess who’s lying when they say “It wasn’t me”?
Discuss the format of the book, how most of it is told in Theo’s voice, but that there are written assessments that the five other characters answer each day. What might be the reason for including those sections? What can the author use them to tell us?
Connecting to Readers’ Lives
Discuss readers’ past experiences. Have they ever had something happen where no one was willing to come forward? How was it handled? How did everyone feel afterwards? How do you think an incident like this would be handled at your school?
Analyzing the Day 1 Assessments
Based on the Day 1 assessments at the very beginning of the book, create an identity web for each of the main characters, including what’s important to them and what they are worried about.
Tracking the Five Days of the Justice Circle
The book takes place over five days, and each day starts with the five suspects filling out an assessment of what happened the day Theo’s photos were vandalized. Using the Reader’s Assessment handout provided, have readers fill out their own assessment after they read the events of each of the five days of the Justice Circle. Who do they suspect? What are their opinions of the five characters? What evidence do they have to support their suspicions? How do their opinions change as they read further? By the 3 end of the book, how do their earlier opinions of the characters shift? Discuss how viewing each character from Theo’s biased perspective impacts how readers see the characters.
Analyzing the Power of Perspective
Have readers work in pairs to write a short school newspaper article about the vandalism of Theo’s photos with as little bias as possible. Then, have them choose one of the characters and rewrite the newspaper article from that character’s perspective. Have them share with the rest of the group their revised article and have the group guess which character’s perspective it is. How could they tell?
Have readers keep a list of interesting and unfamiliar words they come across in the text. They should include the page number and their best guess on the word’s meaning, based on the context in the book. Then have them look up the words and compare the dictionary meaning to what they hypothesized. Have them discuss why an author might choose one specific word rather than another with a similar meaning. Does it reveal anything about the character who used it?
RL 5.4, 6.4, 7.4; RF 5.4; SL 5.1, 6.1, 7.1; L 5.4, 5.5, 6.4, 6.5, 7.4, 7.5
There are several different ways an author tells readers about a character
• the physical description • what the character says
• how the character acts • what others say about the character
Use pages 13-14 as one example. How does each character respond to Mrs. Lewiston’s request to move their desks into a circle. What does that say about each of them?
Have the readers work together to illustrate how the author portrays Theo. Using each of the four elements above, have readers list what they know about him. How do others view Theo? How does he view himself? What do his clothing or style choices tell us? How do his actions match up with these other elements?
Understanding The Other Characters
Once the class has worked together on this, have readers work individually to create character studies of one of the other characters. Which of the four elements provides the most information about the character? Does the format of the book — being mostly in Theo’s voice — make it harder or easier to develop character studies of his classmates?
RL 5.1, 5.3, 6.1, 7.1; W 5.4, 6.4, 7.4; SL 5.1, 6.1, 7.1
It Wasn’t Me is mostly written in the first person, with Theo telling his own story. Can readers think of other books told in this point-of-view? As a class, discuss the benefits and challenges of telling a story this way. What do they like about first-person stories? What would be different if this was told from a third-person point of view?
First Person Perspective Vs. Third Person Perspective
Have each reader choose a short selection from the book and rewrite it in the thirdperson. Ask them to think about what would be different. Working as a class or in small groups, have the readers compare their versions with the original. How does this shift in perspective change the story?
Comparing the Perspective of Two Different Characters
Now have each reader rewrite the same selection in the first-person point of view of a different character. What’s going on, compared to how Theo describes it? Would s/he use different words or phrases? What different assumptions would s/he make about the other characters? Working in pairs or small groups, have readers share and revise based on peer feedback. As they share their work with the class, ask readers to explain, using evidence from the text, why they made the choices they did around word choices, perspective, and character development.
RL 5.1, 5.5, 5.6, 6.1, 6.5, 6.6, 7.1, 7.3, 7.6; W 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 5.6, 5.10, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, 6.6, 6.10, 7.3, 7.4, 7.5, 7.6, 7.10; SL 5.1, 6.1, 7.1
Have a class discussion about what some of the main themes of It Wasn’t Me might be. How does the plot underscore those themes? How do the characters’ actions express them? Have readers identify what they believe is one of the most important themes of the book, then explore that theme using the graphic organizer provided. Readers can use examples from the text to illustrate how the authors uses plot, character development, and description to show the importance of this theme. Consider having readers use the graphic organizer to write an essay further exploring the theme and discussing what the author might be trying to say about it. Working in pairs or small groups, have readers share their work and revise based on peer feedback.