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Teacher Lesson Return to "The Cost of Being Popular"
The Cost of Being Popular
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ELA Literacy & Social and Emotional Learning
To Be or Not To Be… Popular

Story Summary: After entering high school, a freshman joins up with a new clique of girls in her quest for popularity. While she enjoys the newfound attention, she also encounters the dark side and faces resistance from her family and her boyfriend, who miss the studious, responsible girl she was in middle school. After a conversation with her brother, she decides to revert back to her old lifestyle and ends her membership in the popular crowd.

Lesson Objectives and Common Core Connections
• Students make personal connections to a text and successfully participate in story-based activities and discussions.
• Students increase empathy with other youths’ experiences.
• Students will initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1).
• Students will produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4).

Before Reading the Story (10 min)
This opening activity will activate background knowledge to boost reading comprehension and set the emotional tone for the story.

1. Welcome students to the group. Introduce the lesson by telling them you will be reading a true story by a teen whose newfound popularity is not what she imagined it would be like.

2. After reviewing the agenda, tell the group that they are going to do an opinion continuum activity where they move around while learning more about what they and their peers think about a topic.

3. While the group is seated, review the directions for the opinion continuum. Tell them:
a. "On either end of the room, there are signs that read ‘agree’ and ‘disagree’ ”
(be sure to post these signs on blank paper before the activity begins).
b. "I will read a statement and you will decide whether it’s true for you (agree) or not (disagree). Then you will move somewhere in between the two signs that reflects your opinion. So, if you’re unsure, you should stand somewhere in the middle.”
c. "Once everyone has moved, I will invite volunteers to share why they chose to stand where they are.”

4. Next, ask the group to stand up and move to the center of the open space you’ve prepared.

5. Read the first statement and ask group members to move to a spot between the two signs:
a. "Life is usually better for popular people.”

6. Once all group members have moved, ask them to notice where others are standing.

7. Ask for volunteers to share why they are standing where they are. You might want to ask at least one group member from each side of the continuum. Tell participants they may change their position if they are influenced by another’s opinion.

8. Have everyone return to the middle.

9. Repeat for the following statements:

a. "Being popular is more important than doing well in school.”
b. "Popular people are usually cruel to others.”
c. "It’s OK to ditch old friends for new ones to become more popular.”
d. "It’s sometimes worth it to lie or steal if it will help your popularity.”

10. Thank participants for sharing their opinions.

During Reading (20 min)
By practicing active reading strategies while reading aloud and discussing as a group, students build comprehension and support fluency.

1. Introduce the story (see the summary above).

2. Share the expectations for a group read-aloud; volunteers take turns reading aloud as much or as little as they would like. As the teacher, you may stop periodically to discuss or check in on active reading by asking students to share their responses to the story.

3. Tell students they will practice an active reading strategy called reading for a purpose. This will help them read for a purpose and be prepared to use the text in later activities.

4. Reading for a purpose directions: When you notice the author mentioning a benefit of popularity, put a “+” in the margin of the story. When you notice the author mentioning a cost or the negative side of popularity, put a “-” in the margin of the story.

5. While sitting in a circle, read the story aloud together. Periodically, stop to discuss and support peer-to-peer talk and non-judgmental listening. To do this, ask for volunteers to share when they wrote + or - next to the text and why. Alternately, you can pose an open question such as “What stands out to you in this section and why?”

6. Next, ask the group to further consider these questions:

• Why would Hande want to be popular despite all of the consequences?
• Does anyone connect with Hande’s story? Why?

After Reading the Story (15 min)
During this post-reading activity, students will make connections, build understanding, and rehearse positive behaviors.

1. Introduce the Journal Jot and Pair-Share activity by explaining to the group they will be writing for 5 minutes in response to a prompt, then sharing their writing with a peer and the rest of the group.

2. Write prompt on the board: Is popularity a blessing or a curse?

3. Ask students to get out their journal or a piece of paper and use it to write their response. After 5 minutes of silent writing, ask for writers to Pair-Share by turning to a partner and sharing out what they wrote.

4. Large group debrief: Bring pairs back into the large group and ask the following questions:

• What did you discover about yourself and/or your partner(s) during the activity?
• What are some benefits of being popular?
• What’s the dark side of popularity?
• Do you think being popular is worth the cost? What costs are too great?

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