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Teacher Lesson Return to "Wisdom from Older Strangers"
Wisdom from Older Strangers
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ELA Literacy & Social and Emotional Learning
Wisdom from Older Strangers

Story Summary: Melvin doesn’t feel ready for college, so he decides to get a job. He hopes he will gain the experience and confidence he needs to follow his dreams. Working at CityMeals-on-Wheels, he delivers meals to seniors who give him invaluable advice and the encouragement to pursue his love of acting.

Lesson Objectives and Common Core Connections
• Students make personal connections to a text and successfully participate in story-based activities and discussions.
• Students have an opportunity to build social awareness and empathy by taking the perspective of others from diverse backgrounds.
• 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 (10 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. Introduce the lesson by telling them you will be reading a true story by a teen who gets a job helping the elderly and learns a lot through this experience.

2. Introduce the toss one, take one activity by explaining that they will have an opportunity to hear multiple perspectives in the room.

3. Share 1. the following quote, lifted from Melvin Pichardo’s story:
“They helped push me through a dark moment in my life in a way my family and other people I love couldn’t.”

4. Then, read aloud these questions and ask students to write a response on their paper:
• Think about people who aren’t your family who have, or could, support you through hard times in your life. Who would this person or these people be? How could they help?

5. Give students think time and then have them write their responses. If some students are struggling, ask them to write down why they found it difficult to answer the questions.

6. After group members have written their responses, tell them to crumple them into paper balls and toss them into a large container. Then tell them that they should each retrieve an anonymous response from the container and return to their seats. As an alternative, walk around the circle with the container and have each group member blindly pick a paper ball. (If a group member happens to choose their own response, it’s OK because no one will know.)

7. Either going around in a circle, or by asking for volunteers, each group member reads the response on their paper. Invite group members to make observations about what they heard, such as similarities, differences, or personal connections they had to their peers’ responses.

8. Thank students for sharing their thoughts.

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 teacher, 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 read for moments in the text when Melvin has a positive interaction with a senior. When this occurs in the text, students should draw a smiley face in the margins of the story. Then ask them to put an “M” if they think Melvin is helped the most or an “S” if they think the senior is helped the most during this interaction.

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 smiley face next to and why. Alternately, you can pose an open question such as “What stands out to you in this section and why?”

6. Next, ask the group to further consider these questions:
• What did Melvin learn about himself by working at Citymeals-on-Wheels?
• How did the people he served change his attitude toward his future?
• Do you personally connect with Melvin’s story? How?

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

1. Introduce the journal writing activity by explaining to the group that they will be taking the perspective of one of the elderly people that Melvin helps in his story.

2. Read the following prompt to the group: “I think many of the seniors I delivered to feel like they’ve been thrown to the dumps and are no longer worthy. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. If you listen closely, they’ve got a lot to say that is valuable.”

3. Journal writing directions:
• After reading this quote, explain to the group that they’re going to put themselves in the shoes of the seniors to think about what they might have thought about Melvin, at first, and what they learned from him. Melvin helped the seniors, but they gave a lot to him in return.
Read aloud and have students respond to this prompt:
Select one senior from the story that Melvin helped. Using the parts of the story where you put a smiley face to help you, write a diary entry as if you were him/her and include:
— Details about your daily life
— What you think about Melvin when he delivers food on his first day
— How you feel about Melvin after you get to know him better
— What Melvin has taught you or given you
— Why or how you want to help Melvin

4. After students have completed the journaling activity, transition to a pair share. Students should select a partner or turn to the person next to them.

5. Pair share directions: Facing each other, and practicing active listening, partners should each take a turn sharing their responses. Each speaker will have two minutes to talk and is in charge of what they choose to share from their writing. The listener does not need to respond. You can use a timer or wait until the hum of conversation dies down before closing the activity.

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