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Teacher Lesson Return to "Learning to Breathe Again"
Learning to Breathe Again
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ELA Literacy & Social and Emotional Learning
Holding On

Story Summary: As the writer grows up, she witnesses her father’s abuse of her mother. After intervening in one of their fights, her father moves out and she learns more about abuse prevention through a job. She struggles with her feelings about her father, whom she still loves.

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).

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. Introduce Concentric Circle activity by explaining to the group they will be doing an activity where they will share and hear different perspectives on a topic.

2. While the group is still seated, review the activity procedure. Tell the group:
• "We will form two standing circles, one inside the other.”
• "Each person will be facing a partner.”
• "I will read questions aloud and everyone will have a chance to respond while their partner listens.”

3. Divide the group into two. One way to do this is to have group members count off 1-2 (If you don’t have two equal groups, you can join one).

4. Have the 1s stand and move into a circle facing outward.

5. Have the 2s stand and form a second circle around the first one, facing inward.

6. Then explain to the group that the person they’re facing will be their first partner.

7. Review the specific steps of the activity with the group. Tell them:
• "Partners will take turns responding to a question that I ask.”
• "When one person speaks, the other listens.”
• "When I say, ‘Switch,’ speaker and listener will switch roles.”
• "When time is up, I will ask one circle to rotate and everyone will have a new partner.”

8. Pose this question to the group:
• What can cause abusive relationships?

9. After both partners have answered the question, ask the inside circle to move two spaces to the right while the outside circle stands still.

10. Repeat the process using these other questions:
• If you were to see two dating friends get into a fight, is it your responsibility to step in and do something? Why or why not?
• Is it possible to love someone even if they’ve hurt another person you care about?

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 notice moments in the text that raise a question for them about the writer’s experiences or relationships. When this occurs in the text, students should write a “?” in the margin.

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 a “?” next to and why. Alternately, you can pose an open question such as “What stands out to you in this section and 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 Table Talk activity by explaining to the group that they will do an activity where they move around and share their thinking about parts of the story in a small group.

2. Tell students to locate the following four quotes in their copy of the story and underline them:
• Quote 1: “I couldn’t understand how our happy family could be shattered completely and then be put together easily in just a few hours.”
• Quote 2: “Even though I have witnessed the fighting and arguing most of my life, it never felt normal. I never got used to it. It felt like a bad dream that I couldn’t wake from.”
• Quote 3: “An abuser seeks power and control over their partner because they often feel powerless in other aspects of their lives.”
• Quote 4: “I love a monster/One that isn’t under my bed/But in the flesh/Waiting to explode”

3. Give students 60 seconds to decide on their own which quote out of the four is the most thought-provoking or stands out to them the most.

4. Direct students to move to different parts of the room based on their choice (for example, students who chose quote 1 could come to the front of the room, etc.).

5. Once they have gathered at each spot, ask group members to face the people around them and share their thinking about why their chose this quote.

6. Debrief by having someone from each group briefly share a few highlights from their discussion and one new thing they learned about someone else in their group from their conversations.

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