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Historical Voices

Movie Stars:

A short story: A 10 year-old boy goes with his mother to Detroit

by Jim Daniels, a Michigan writer.

Lesson Objectives:By the end of the lesson students should be able to:

  • Name one physical problem the narrator has in the story.
  • State two or more family problems the narrator faces in the story
  • State one similar fantasy the narrator and his mother share
  • Compare one event in the story with an event in their own lives

Activity One: Connecting from previous reading & Demonstration pair

Tell the students that they are going to listen to a writer from Michigan read a short story. They should pay attention to the things the narrator is observing, and so before they listen to the story, they should share with one another an important thing they remember from a book or story they read the previous day, week, month, etc. Give them a demonstration by asking one of the students to come to the front and demonstrate with you how to ask questions about a story.


Teacher: Erica, I saw you reading a book about Ruby Bridges yesterday. Tell me one interesting thing you found about Ruby Bridges in the book.

Erica: I read that Erica went to a school where black students were not wanted, in the 1960s. She had to be escorted by marshals. Now you tell me something interesting in a book you read recently.

Teacher: I read about Elijah McCoy and how he invented a lubricator for steam engines. The lubricator allowed steam engines to be lubricated while still in motion.

Activity Two: Pair work

Now tell the students to get into pairs and take turns asking each other similar questions or other relevant questions they would like.

Activity Three: Pair presentations

Ask three or four pairs to come to the front and demonstrate what they did to the whole class.

Activity Four: i) Previewing vocabulary

Preview some of the difficult or new vocabulary words and phrases students will encounter in the story. Go over the words, explaining meanings in sentences to students. Give a chance to students who might already know the words to explain to the others.

Vocabulary:lingered; inflict; peripheral; beach; glamorous; vinyl seat; escalators; insight; butterball; memorable; divorce; smoothie; time on his hands

Activity Four: ii) Pre-questions and Grading criteria

  1. Tell students to listen to particular details, which they will discuss afterwards. Tell them to listen for answers to the following questions:
    • Whatís the name of the boy in the story?
    • How old is he in the story?
    • Where did his father work?
    • What fantasies did the boy have?
    • What physical problems did he have? Give examples.
    • What family problems did he have? Give examples.
    • How many miles was it by bus to Detroit?
    • What similarly interesting things have happened in your lives? Traveling by bus; eating at a restaurant; having physical problems; Dad working in a car factory, having five brothers and sisters, etc
  2. Tell students that they will grade each other on how well they present their answers or journals. Ask them to suggest important things to look for in grading:

Activity Five: Journal writing/finishing drawing

After listening to the story, ask students to get into groups of three or four to answer and write down in their journals the answers to some or all of the questions in Activity Four. Some may choose to complete their drawings.

Activity Six: Evaluation/Assessment and Conclusion

Ask students to share their journals or drawings either with a different group, or with the whole class. Let the class grade each group/individual: Excellent, Good, Fair, Needs improvement.

Extra Resources

Authorís biographical note at

On-line resource from the National Gallery of the Spoken Word project.

The MSU Vincent Voice Library has made available to the Gallery a rich on-line resource where you and your students can listen to one of seventeen writers who were born, or live and work, in Michigan. The URL is:

All writers were recorded while reading their works here at MSU in the ongoing Michigan Writers Series. The site is categorized into three parts: Spring 1999, Fall 1999 and Spring 2000. The 1999 category is conveniently chunked into shorter episodes such as an introduction, responses to specific questions, interviews, reading from particular works, etc. They range in length from 1 minute to 20 minutes and longer.

Michigan State standards for Language Arts and Literature in Early and Later Elementary:

  1. Select, read, listen to, view, and respond thoughtfully to both classic and contemporary texts recognized
  2. Describe and discuss the shared human experiences depicted in literature and other texts from around the world. Examples include birth, death, heroism, and love.
  3. Demonstrate awareness that characters and communities in literature and other texts reflect life by portraying both positive and negative images.
  4. Describe how various cultures and our common heritage are represented in literature and other texts.
  5. Describe how characters in literature and other texts form opinions about one another in ways that can be fair and unfair.

Part of the vision statement for the Language Arts standards:

A literate individual:

  • communicates skillfully and effectively through printed, visual, auditory, and technological media in the home, school, community, and workplace;
  • thinks analytically and creatively about important themes, concepts, and ideas;
  • uses the English language arts to identify and solve problems;
  • uses the English language arts to understand and appreciate the commonalities and differences within social, cultural, and linguistic communities;
  • understands and appreciates the aesthetic elements of oral, visual, and written texts;
  • uses the English language arts to develop insights about human experiences;
  • uses the English language arts to develop the characteristics of lifelong learners and workers, such as curiosity, persistence, flexibility, and reflection;
  • connects knowledge from all curriculum areas to enhance understanding of the world.

The sample lesson plan has relevant links which you can adapt and use as you find convenient. Some of the activities, such as students drawing or writing into T-columns while they are listening so as not to lose interest have been tried with remarkable success by Ms Jamie Bidlack, an MSU intern at Post Oak Elementary. She has tried them in book-reading lessons, and we are hoping that similar or other techniques may work with listening.

We would appreciate your comments on how the lesson can be improved.

Thanks in advance and enjoy the Michigan writers.

More information on Academic Standards for different content areas and different States can be found from the sites below:

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning in Aurora, Colorado, is a site that provides K-12 academic curriculum content standards.

Achieve is a site that contains the academic state standards for over 40 states. These state standards are from Achieve's National Standards Clearinghouse and have been provided courtesy of Achieve, Inc. in Cambridge Massachusetts and Washington, DC.