Papergirl Teacher’s Guide

Literature and the Looking-Glass Self:

Reflecting on “The Paper Girl” - An Educator’s Guide

Sociologist Charles Horton Cooley developed and coined the concept of the looking-glass self. It simply states that our identity⎯or “self”⎯develops through an interaction between ourselves and how we think others perceive us. That is to say, we formulate a portrait of ourselves as a reflection of how others see us. We look into the eyes of society and it reflects our image back at us. Literature can also be viewed as a mirror reflecting our innermost thoughts and feelings back at us. As we move through a literary experience, reading a novel or poetry for example, we connect with the elements of the story (characters, theme, plot and setting) and see a new reflection of ourselves.

Our learning guide takes this idea and applies it to an in-depth study of The Paper Girl. Our hope is that the “reflective” process will guide learners toward a deeper understanding of the story and of themselves. So, let’s get started! Below you will find the flow of the study with hyperlinks to the supporting documents. There is a separate learner’s package that can be downloaded and printed off for the learners in your group.

What do we need?

  • Large paper for sketch boards
  • Sticky notes for the walkabout
  • Idea journals for each learner
  • Heavy paper for zines

Study Flow

Educators can make this study flow their own by altering the sequence to suit their particular needs. Studying literature is a process full of a variety of strategies and activities. Overwhelming learners with an overview of the entire process can detract from the experience. Keeping this in mind, we slowly introduce the learners to the project step-by-step.

Step 1


  1. Read Chapter 1 as a class. As you read, direct learners to pay attention to who is in the scene and what they are talking about.
  2. Begin a post-reading discussion with whole class:
    1. What is going on in Chapter 1?
    2. What questions do you have?
  3. Now take a tour of the photo gallery:
    1. Look through the images
    2. Help learners visualize the context of the story
      • Ask, “What would it be like to live then”?
    3. Read the backgrounder and discuss the conditions of Winnipeg as the setting of the story
      • Ask the learners to imagine the following scenario: If you were to wake up after being transported to Winnipeg at the turn of the century, what would be going through your mind?
  4. Introduce the idea journal:
    1. Direct learners to their first quick write, beginning with the sentence starter: “As I imagine myself living in Winnipeg at the turn of the century, I see myself … [describe three dominant thoughts or feelings]”
  5. Introduce the capstone project: zine blueprint.
    1. Go over the culminating project

Step 2: Introduce Character Working Group Instructions:

  1. Demonstrate what the character working group will do and how the sharing cycle works. a)You will read Chapter 2, but instead of a read-aloud you will create small groups (of 4–6) to read and go through the cycle together b) First, go over the character working group instructions c) Next, go over the sharing cycle
  2. Create the groups: a. Nominate a group leader to guide each group
  3. Circulate around the room as the groups go through the cycle.

Step 3: Introduce Plot and Setting Working Group Instructions:

  1. Repeat Step 2 with plot and setting working group instructions
  2. Repeat the sharing cycle: a)You can keep the same groups as in Step 2 or change them

Step 4: Introduce Theme Working Group Instructions:

  1. Repeat Step 3 with theme working group instructions
  2. Repeat the sharing cycle

Step 5: Pause and Reflect Instructions:

  1. At this point you can introduce the learners to the looking-glass reflections questions in the idea journal sheet. a) Have the learners create a chart and title it Looking-Glass Reflection: Chapter 4 - They will have four quick writes and one looking-glass reflection
  2. At this point you will have several sketch boards: a) Organize them into character, plot and setting and theme ⎯ learners will use them later in the study
  3. Monitor whether the learners understand the process they are going through: a) Do they see the sharing cycle pattern? (Write and display this) - Read - Quick write - Circle of voices - Sketch board - Walkabout - Reflect (looking-glass reflection)

Step 6: First Working Group Instructions:

  1. Create character, plot and setting and theme working groups. a) Depending on the number of learners you may have two or three of each group. Your groups can focus and remain in their literary element for the rest of the story or rotate to experience all three areas. Rotating spices it up and exposes learners to a variety of strategies.
  2. Assign group leaders and set time frame for completion.
  3. Reading should be a shared experience, but groups can add variety by moving between shared reading and individual silent reading.
  4. Learners should do a quick write at the end of each chapter. a) The circle of voices, sketch board, walkabout and looking-glass reflections will take place at the end of Chapter 7

Step 7: Second Working Group Instructions:

  1. Repeat Step 6. a) Groups can stay in their literary elements or rotate

Step 8: Third Working Group Instructions:

  1. Repeat Step 6.

Step 9 Instructions:

  1. Bring the story to a close. Read it together and lead a final discussion with the class: a) What was the story about? b) What did you learn about yourself? c) How have you changed? d) What ideas have emerged about changing the world?
  2. Do a final walkabout with all the sketch boards: a) Have students look over the boards for some final ideas

Step 10: Zine Production Instructions:

  1. Revisit the zine blueprint a) Create the zine with a time frame for completion

Step 11: Zine Sharing Instructions:

  1. Celebrate the process by putting out the zines and opening up a walkabout to share with each other.
  2. Have learners use sticky notes to add positive comments to others’ zines.