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Teacher Lesson Return to "Not a Girl at All"
Not a Girl at All
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ELA Literacy & Social and Emotional Learning
When Your Parents Just Don’t Understand

Story Summary: The anonymous writer of this story is a bisexual trans boy, whose parents do not accept him. He lives as one person at home with his family and as another person at school with his friends (who are more accepting). With support from teachers and a therapist, he is on the road toward self-acceptance and learning how to manage his parents’ hostility—while still caring for and being himself.

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 (15 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. Tell them that before reading a story, you are going to do an activity that allows you to do some anonymous writing on a topic related to a story you’ll be reading together.

2. Introduce the Toss One, Take One activity by explaining they are going to do an activity that gathers everyone’s ideas and allows them to hear multiple perspectives.

3. Pass out pieces of scrap paper and pencils. Tell group members not to write their name on their paper. This is an anonymous activity.

4. Ask group members to write a response on their paper to this question:
• What does it feel like when people understand you?
• What does it feel like to be misunderstood?

5. Give group members three minutes to think and then write their responses. If some group members are struggling, ask them to write about why they find it difficult to answer the prompts.

6. Write your own responses to the prompts to model the activity.

7. After group members have written their responses, tell them to crumple them into balls and toss them into the middle of the circle, or a container you have available.

8. Model for the group how you expect them to crumple and toss their responses into the center of the circle.

9. After everyone has tossed, each group member should retrieve an anonymous response from and return to their seats. As an alternative, walk around the circle with the responses and have each group member blindly pick a paper ball. (If a group member happens to choose their own response, it’s okay because no one will know.)

10. Go around in a circle or ask for volunteers to read aloud the response from the paper.

11. Invite group members to comment on what they heard, such as similarities, differences, or personal connections to their peers’ responses.

12. Thank group members 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 story 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 identify when they have a connection to something in the story, or when they have a question. When they have a connection, students should write a “C” in the margin. When they have a question, 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 “C” or “?” next to and why. Alternately, you can pose an open question such as “What stands out to you in this section and why?”

6. When you finish the story, ask the group to discuss their reactions to the story, including the questions it raised for them. They can turn and talk to a neighbor before you discuss as a whole group.

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

1. Introduce this activity by saying to the group:
• "Now that we’ve read the story, we’re going to write a letter to Anonymous giving him advice based on our personal experiences.”
• "Your goal is to communicate your ideas and responses to the story, so don’t worry about spelling and grammar.”
• "There are no right or wrong answers, just your ideas and how the story spoke to you.”

2. Read the Dear Teen Writer guidelines aloud from the chart paper you’ve prepared:
• Greeting: Dear Anonymous, I just read your story, “Not a Girl at All.”
• What were some details of Anonymous’s experiences that resonated or stuck out to you?
• What were some connections you made with Anonymous’s experiences?
• What sort of advice would you give Anonymous on dealing with negativity?
• Closing: “Sincerely, (Your Name).”

3. Pass out journals or notebook paper and pencils.

4. Give group members about eight minutes to write their letters. Move around the room offering encouragement and support.

5. When about eight minutes are up, tell group members to finish their last thought and put their pencils down.

6. Explain to the group that they are now going to do a Pair Share. Tell them to turn to the person next to them and take turns sharing the parts of their letters that they feel comfortable sharing.

7. 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 closing the activity.

8. Time permitting, lead a discussion by asking group members to comment on what they heard, such as similarities, differences, or personal connections to their peers’ responses. They can also discuss points they agree or disagree with, new ideas they’ve been given, and questions they still have.

9. Thank group members for sharing.

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