A Reading and Writing Lesson Plan That Will Inspire Your Whole Class

Tracy Potash

Editor’s note: In the April 2017 issue of Choices, we told the story of Lexi Brock, a multiracial teen who discovered a new sense of purpose while working on a school assignment. Tracy Potash—one of our fantastic teacher advisers and a language arts intervention teacher from Pennington, New Jersey—shares how she used the article to inspire her own students. 


Have you ever had an “Aha!" moment that was so powerful it touched your very soul, turned your world upside down, and propelled you into action? That is exactly what happened to 18-year-old Lexi Brock, who's featured in the Choices article, What Are You?

My middle school students and I were inspired by this young lady’s spirit. As an English teacher, I was elated that my students connected with the article and wanted to search for quotes that reflected who they are, just like Lexi did. So I developed the following lesson, which includes a modified version of the assignment given to Lexi as a tenth grade student.


Common Core standards:

RI.7.1, RI.7.2, RI.7.3, RI.7.4


The Steps:

Step 1: Student participated in the pre-reading activity Skim – Scan – Preview, which is a quick and effective method for increasing comprehension. First, they complete a visual scan of all the graphic information presented, including photographs, headings, subheadings, graphs/tables, and attention-grabbing fonts. Next, they'll scan and find specific information, such as boldface words, subheadings, numbers, maps, timelines, and specific facts. And finally, they'll read the first sentence or two of each section to grasp the overall picture of the piece.

For another pre-reading strategy: Why You Should Try Text Mapping With Your Class


Step 2: After the pre-reading activity, we read the article together. While we read, I asked them to consider: What are the big ideas in the article?


Step 3: Students considered the following prompt:

What is the topic(s) of the article? Think of it as the Author’s Purpose for writing the article. What are the big ideas that stand out?

Possible answers:

  • Racial discrimination
  • Experiences being multiracial in the USA
  • Your worth is not determined by the color of your skin
  • When bad things happen, you rise above it and turn it into a positive


Step 4: Now for the inspiring part! Students were given the task to find a quote that in some way represented them or that they felt a connection to. Then, they had to write a five to eight sentence paragraph about why they choose it. I shared a quote of my own with the students as an example.



Step 5: Students perused the gallery of inspirational quotes chosen by their peers. As they focused on the quotes/paragraphs, they were instructed to comment in writing on as many as possible, using a friendly letter format. Believe it or not, there was not one duplicate quote!


Conclusion: In all my years of teaching, I’ve never before had my students write for an entire period without complaining, but my students were mesmerized by the gallery. In fact, this activity was so enjoyable, they actually requested to continue reading and responding for another class period! Plus, they developed stronger connections to their classmates and learned things about them that they did not know beforehand. What a moving experience!

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