Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources :
Pre-step (using a picture book to start a discussion before sharing from the chapter book novel): Share Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! by Dr. Seuss with your students. This story explores the things that children can think of. It gives brief ideas that are meant to inspire children to imagine all of the possibilities that can exist from one, smaller idea. As you read the story, students should listen for the things Dr. Seuss encourages the reader to “think” about and record them on the idea-gathering chart Denylle has included in this lesson, but they should only fill out the first column during the story.
After you’ve finished the story, allow students to complete the second column of the chart—which encourages them to expand on the ideas in the first column. Put students into small groups. Each group should discuss the different ideas on the idea organizers. You might, also, create a whole class idea organizer for each of the ideas Dr. Seuss gives to post somewhere in your classroom. They can become great idea inspirers for future writer's workshops.
Have each group create a funny story starter for one of the ideas on their group's chart (i.e. If the idea were “cheerleaders”, a story starter could be: “As the captain of the cheerleading squad stepped forward to be crowned prom queen, her shoe got caught on the end of her dress. Then...”).
Using Dr. Seuss's story as a springboard, facilitate a class discussion about the many different ways that the same idea can be explored through writing. In your discussion, be sure to emphasize these two points: 1) students’ personal experiences and beliefs can have a tremendously powerful effect on the expansion of the ideas they present in their writing; 2) society’s ideas and expectations affect all students' process when developing ideas within their own writing, and that’s okay! You might use the example of the cheerleader/prom queen in the story starter suggestion in step 4. That story starter might satirize societal expectations of “the popular crowd” in school communities.
Have the students journal about the effects that names have on identity. Remind students to reflect on the ideas discussed in the previous step. (Some topics for students to consider-- How do names define one’s personality? Do names limit personalities, in some cases? What do names say about the people they belong to?)
Step one (sharing the published model): Share excerpts from the first 7 chapters of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. This novel is about a girl who enrolls as a new student in a high school in a small town in Arizona. However, she acts VERY differently than the “normal” students in the school. The novel describes the impact this “abnormal” behavior has on individual students and the community she lives in. The novel is narrated by a student who attends Stargirl’s high school. The first 7 chapters of this novel describe Stargirl’s unconventional behavior (i.e. she leaves little gifts for her homeroom classmates each day, she wears bizarre clothing, she plays the ukulele and sings in the cafeteria during lunch). These chapters also describes the community’s response to her; some students are intrigued, some are outraged, and others don’t know how to respond. Be sure to choose excerpts that share both Stargirl’s non-conformist actions and the response Stargirl receives from her high school community.
As you read, have students fill out the Stargirl idea organizer that Denylle has included for this lesson. Facilitate a class discussion about Stargirl’s unconventional behavior, and the specific details they remember about it. Use the ideas students wrote down on the idea organizer.