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Teacher Lesson Return to "Penguin in the Sahara"
Penguin in the Sahara
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Peer Pressure

Activity: Guided Reading & Discussion

Goal: Students will recognize that peer pressure stems from insecurity. They will see specific steps that the author took to feel more secure in who she was, and how that made her a stronger, more independent person.

You will read this story in segments with students. You’ll ask questions and facilitate discussion at each stage. Before you begin, number the paragraphs to help you follow this lesson. (Students don’t need to number their paragraphs unless you want them to. You can just tell them to read the “next” paragraph.)

Read paragraphs 1 and 2: Ask the students: “Do you think Sayda is going to be susceptible to peer pressure in this new school? Why?” [They should pick up on the fact that she’s going to feel insecure and want to fit in.]

Read paragraph 3: Ask the students: “What challenge is Sayda going to face?” [She tells them…it’s understanding who she is as a Latina.] Ask the students to speculate about what that will involve.

Read paragraphs 4-12: Ask the students: “What does Sayda do that shows her insecurity?” [She dances hip hop for them, when she has no idea what she’s doing.]
How does she feel about it? Why? [She feels ashamed that she’s letting them define who she is instead of asserting herself.]

Read paragraphs 13-22: Ask the students: “How does Sayda become more secure and confident in who she is?” [She does a lot of things, including examining the food she eats, the music she listens to. She joins two groups that promote “minority” culture. She works to educate classmates.]

What impact does that have? How does she feel about herself? Do you think she would have felt better if she had just tried to fit in? Does everyone like the fact that she’s more outspoken and assertive about being her own person? [No. Some people think she has an “attitude.”]

Closing question: Ask each person in the room to characterize Sayda in one or two words. (They can’t repeat words.).

Where in the story do students first realize that Sayda is going to face pressure? [In the first two paragraphs she describes going to a new school, and a new school with kids who are very different from her.]

Ask students how that will affect the pressure she feels. [Help them to express the connection between feeling insecure and caving into peer pressure.]

Optional writing activity
Have students think of a time when they caved in to peer pressure. Did they continue to cave in, or did they find a way to strengthen their confidence and resist the pressure? How do they feel about the situation now?
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