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SEL with ALM: We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly

Posted by Anna-Lisa Mackey, PATHS Program CEO on Nov 7, 2022 9:25:43 PM
Anna-Lisa Mackey, PATHS Program CEO

Erin Entrada Kelly is a Newbery Medalist and New York Times bestselling author. Her book, Hello, Universe won the Newbery Medal. She is the winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature several times over, A Cybils finalist, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and numerous other prestigious awards. Our Socratic Seminar Review selection, We Dream of Space, is a Newbery Honor Award-winning novel.


Families are complicated things, which is true of the Nelson Thomas family—the three children, Cash (the oldest and in danger of failing school a second time), Fitch (a video-game aficionado who has a fiery temper), and Bird (Fitch's twin sister, who dreams of going to space) and their parents Tammy and Michael. The story takes us to January 1986 and the days leading up to the Challenger space launch, that tragic day, and several days following.

We see this month through the eyes of Cash, Fitch, and Bird as they try to negotiate their relationships with each other, their parents, their classmates, and their teachers. The SEL themes to draw out are most definitely relationships of all kinds—sibling, parent, friends, romantic, teacher/student—it runs the gamut of relationship issues. There are also themes of self-awareness, self-management, decision-making, tenacity, creativity, acceptance, and loss.

This author packs in a lot into the space of one month! It is an easy read, but don't let that fool you! The themes are heavy and important. Our fun fact for this novel is that from 1981 to 2011, there have been 135 space shuttle missions flown on five Space Shuttles: Challenger, Columbia, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavor. Of the five Shuttles, 2 were destroyed. Challenger disintegrated after launch on January 28, 1986, and Columbia was destroyed during reentry on January 16, 2003. All 14 astronauts were lost during these disasters. There have been a total of 306 men and 49 women who have flown aboard the shuttles from 16 different countries.

Socratic Seminar Questions

  • "As soon as Fitch realized this, something sparked inside him. Something ugly and familiar." (p1)
    • What was the emotion that Fitch was experiencing?
    • How does this emotion feel for you?
    • What do you do to calm down when you feel this way?
  • "Bird had misjudged the house's personality. She'd been tricked once again by her parents' low voices." (p. 9)
    • What does Bird mean by a house's personality? What contributes to this "personality"?
  • Bird's mother and father argue throughout this story.
    • How does their discord affect the family?
    • How do they appear to solve problems as a family?
    • What advice would you give them?
  • "As Ms. Salonga explained the process of sound and molecules, Bird snapped a picture together in her head, like a puzzle. Then she imagined her brothers and parents inside a spaceship. And her: outside, floating. In silence." (p.13) 
    • How do you think Bird is affected by her parents' arguing?
    • Do you think that it's right for parents to argue in front of their children? Why or why not?
  • "Brant and Kenny ragged on him any chance they got for failing seventh grade, but it's not like they were geniuses." (p. 16)
    • Why do the boys tease Cash, making him feel bad? Do you think they intend to hurt his feelings? If not, why do you think they do this

Emozi® Lesson Connections

Grade 6 

Unit 1

  • Lesson 2: Understanding and Building Self-confidence and Self-esteem
  • Lesson 7: Facing Failure
  • Lesson 8: Growth Mindset
  • Lesson 9: Teamwork and Collaboration
  • Lesson 10: Decision-making
  • Lesson 12: Responsibility and Accountability
Unit 2
  • Lesson 1: Self-perception
  • Lesson 3: Optimism
  • Lesson 4: Identity
  • Lesson 7: Perspective taking
  • Lesson 8: Healthy and Unhealthy relationships
  • Lesson 9: Making and maintaining friendships

Unit 3

  • Lesson 1: Resilience
  • Lesson 9: Go for Your Goals
  • Lesson 12: Perseverance and Hope

Grade 7

Unit 1 

  • Lesson 2: Character Traits
  • Lesson 3: Strengths and Weaknesses
  • Lesson 5: Flexible Thinking
  • Lesson 8: Teamwork and Collaboration
  • Lesson 11: Conflict
  • Lesson 12: Self-perception

Unit 2 

  • Lesson 1: Showing Respect
  • Lesson 7: Overcoming Obstacles
  • Lesson 10: Perspective

Unit 3

  • Lesson 1: Dealing with Disappointment
  • Lesson 5: It's Okay to Fail
  • Lesson 6: Relationships
  • Lesson 7: Resilience
  • Lesson 9: Being Responsible

Grade 8

Unit 1 

  • Lesson 2: Identifying Strengths and Interests
  • Lesson 4: Problem-solving
  • Lesson 7: Belonging and Rejection
  • Lesson 9: Identifying Mentors
  • Lesson 11: Goal Setting

Unit 2

  • Lesson 7: Perspective Taking
  • Lesson 8: Relationships
  • Lesson 9: Conflict
  • Lesson 12: Loss

Unit 3 

  • Lesson 3: Healthy Relationships
  • Lesson 11: Standing Up for Yourself

Topics: middle school, Emozi® Middle School, Anna-Lisa Mackey, M.Ed., SEL and Literature, Socratic Seminar, SEL with ALM