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 "Not a Stretch"
Not a Stretch
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ELA Literacy & Social and Emotional Learning
Finding Your Own Way

Story Summary: EEliza’s parents moved to the U.S. from Poland partly so their children could go to college, but that’s not what Eliza wants for herself. She navigates around her parents’ wishes and finds a career path that feels right.

Lesson Objectives and Common Core Connections
• Students make personal connections to a text and successfully participate in story-based activities and discussions.
• Students are willing to reflect on their sense of self and identity.
• Students will read and comprehend literary nonfiction proficiently (CCLS R.10).
• Students will write routinely for a range of tasks (CCLS W.10).
• Students practice participating in a discussion and responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives (CCLS SL. 1.c).

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 the Opinion Continuum by explaining that it is an activity about sharing, and listening to, diverse perspectives from your peers on a common question. All viewpoints are welcome.

2. Opinion Continuum directions: Clear a large area in the center of the room. On one end post a sign that reads “Having a job where you earn good money is most important.” On the other end post a sign that reads “Having a meaningful job that makes you happy is most important.” Have students gather in the center of the room and follow these steps:
• “Thinking about what success means to you and the values you personally hold for your future, decide which statement is most true for you.”
• Read the statements out loud
• "Move along the continuum based on where you stand in relationship to the sign. If you strongly agree, stand next to the sign. Stand closer to the middle if you are unsure or neutral."
• Invite students to volunteer share their reasons for why they are standing where they are on the continuum. Remind students the purpose is to listen to different perspectives, not to debate. There is no right answer.
• "Now, think about how your parents would respond and move towards the sign that reflects their perspective.”
• Invite students to share and discuss similarities and differences between their values and their parents’ values on the topic.

During Reading (10 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. While still sitting in a circle, have volunteers read aloud.

4. Ask the group to further consider the differences between Eliza’s expectations for her future and her dad’s. What role does their different experiences as an immigrant (dad) and a first generation American (Eliza) play? Invite students to share personal connections to the dilemma Eliza faces.

After Reading the Story (20 min)
During this post-reading activity students will make connections, build understanding, and rehearse positive behaviors.

1. Introduce the activity by reading aloud the following quote from the middle of Eliza’s story (posted up): “I don’t know what I’m interested in or who I am. I want a meaningful life.” Invite students to think about what this quote means for them.

2. Freewrite/draw directions: On a blank piece of paper ask students to represent in writing or drawing these three things:
• Who I am.
• What I’m interested in.
• What a meaningful life means to me.

3. Support students in getting creative and encourage them to capture the questions they have about things they are unsure of, like Eliza. This activity lends itself well to poetry and art. Close the lesson by having students share their work. Listen to what new things you can learn about your students in this activity. Follow-up by finding connections to students’ interests, questions, and passions.

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