Learning Differently: Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key

Lesson 18


Unit 5

4th Grade

Lesson 18 of 23


Explain how Joey changed and what he learned about himself and life.

Readings and Materials

  • Book: Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos  — Ch. 14-15

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Target Task

Discussion Prompt

How has Joey changed? What has he learned about himself? 

Sample Response

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Key Questions

  • Both Joey and his mom had positive but slightly different reactions to the meeting with Special Ed and the doctor. How did they both react? Why?
  • Special Ed reminded Joey that not all of his problems were from being hyper. What else did he say Joey needed to think about? Why?
  • How did getting a dog help Joey? Why?
  • Special Ed told Joey, "'You gotta face the hand you're dealt and deal with it, and make your problems be the smallest part of who you are.'" How did these words influence Joey?
  • How does Joey feel when he returns to the special education room? Why?




the scientific study of the nervous system and the diseases that affect it


It is incredibly important to emphasize that the medication is only PART of what helped Joey. Joey also worked on changing his attitude, reflecting on his behavior, and working through his perceptions of himself. Students should understand that medicine alone is not always the answer.

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Common Core Standards

  • RL.4.2 — Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.
  • RL.4.3 — Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character's thoughts, words, or actions).

Supporting Standards

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