The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Teacher Lesson Return to "Helped Through Homelessness"
Helped Through Homelessness
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ELA Literacy & Social and Emotional Learning
Without a Home—Not Without Hope

Story Summary: Amber is a shy girl who becomes even more withdrawn from friends and family once, at the age of 12, she and her family enter a homeless shelter. After urging from her mom, she starts seeing a counselor. The relationship they build helps her open up, recognize her strengths, and persevere through this tough time.

Lesson Objectives and Common Core Connections:
• Students make personal connections to a text and successfully participate in story-based activities and discussions.
• Students will respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives (CCLS SL.1).
• Students will read and comprehend literary nonfiction proficiently (CCLS R.10).
• Students will write routinely over extended and shorter time frames for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences (CCLS W.10).

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 who lives in a homeless shelter with her family for a few years.

2. Introduce the brainstorming activity by explaining that in the 2016-2017 school year, one in every 10 public school students in New York City was homeless at some point.

3. Ask students (or post on the board) the question, “What are some common stereotypes you’ve heard about homeless students?” Explain to students that they themselves do not have to believe these views, but just be aware that some people might have them.

4. Pass out journals or notebook paper and pencils. Give students one-two minutes to brainstorm ideas on paper independently.

5. After time is up, explain to the group that they will be doing a Pair Share. Ask them to turn to a person next to them and take turns sharing their responses to the question.

6. Each member of the pair should take about a minute to share. Cue partners to switch roles after the first minute. Use a timer or wait until the hum of conversation dies down before re-gaining students’ attention.

7. Call on each pair one to share one stereotype that they discussed. Record their ideas on chart paper or a white board. Continue asking for volunteers until you have a good list of stereotypes.

8. Lead a discussion by asking group members the following question:
• "How do you think being homeless would affect a student’s life in and out of school?”

9. Thank students for sharing.

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 group leader, 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: Ask students to read for moments in the text when the writer’s behavior or words contradict, or go against, a stereotype the class listed as being associated with youth homelessness. When this occurs in the text, students should write an (X).

5. While sitting in a circle, read the story aloud together. Stop to discuss periodically, supporting peer-to-peer talk and non-judgmental listening. To do this, ask for volunteers to share what they wrote an (X) next to 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:
• How did Amber’s story contradict some of the stereotypes about homeless students we brainstormed earlier?
• What does Amber do to get through this tough time in her life?
• Do you personally connect with Amber’s story? How?

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

1. Introduce the Dear Teen Writer activity by explaining to the group that they will write a letter to Amber that shares some of their reactions to her story.

2. Tell the group that if they want, it’ll be possible to mail in their letters to the Youth Communication office and to potentially get published in an upcoming issue in our “Letter to the Editor” section.

3. Write the Dear Teen Writer guidelines on the board, or read them to the class:
• Begin with the Greeting: “Dear Amber,”
• Describe what you learned about student homelessness from her story.
• Share any personal reactions or connections you had with her story.
• Describe the strategies that you think helped Amber get through this time, and how those strategies could help you as well.
• Ask Amber a question or two based on her story.
• End with a Closing: “Sincerely, (Your Name)”

4. Thank students for being thoughtful members of the group and working to make connections to Amber’s story, reflect on their own lives, and share with one another.
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