[Paleopsych] NYT: Daily Lesson Plan for "Up from the Holler"
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Daily Lesson Plan
Up From the Holler: Living in Two Worlds, at Home in Neither
By TAMAR LEWIN
Examining Social Mobility Through Personal Interviews
Michelle Sale, The New York Times Learning Network
Andrea Perelman, The Bank Street College of Education in New York
Grades: 6-8, 9-12
Subjects: Language Arts, Social Studies
Overview of Lesson Plan: In this lesson, students consider the
difficulties associated with social mobility to interview an adult and
write about his or her personal experiences.
Review the Academic Content Standards related to this lesson.
Suggested Time Allowance: 1 hour
1. Examine aspects of their own lives to develop a sense of social
class and consider their comfort levels.
2. Consider the cultural uneasiness of a woman who changed social
classes by reading and discussing the article "Up From the Holler:
Living in Two Worlds, At Home in Neither."
3. Create interview questions about social mobility.
4. Conduct an interview with an adult about his or her experiences
with class and social mobility.
Resources / Materials:
-construction paper or unlined copy paper (one sheet per student)
-markers or colored pencils (enough for students to share)
-copies of the article "Up From the Holler: Living in Two Worlds, At
Home in Neither," found online at
0friday.html (one per student)
Activities / Procedures:
1. WARM-UP/DO NOW: Students will be creating picture webs, which are
similar to word webs but using simple drawings to illustrate their
thoughts and ideas. (An example of a picture web can be found at
http://www.eduplace.com/rdg/hmsv/4/handson/page124.html.) Before class
begins, place a sheet of construction paper or unlined paper on each
student's desk. Upon entering class, students respond to the following
prompt (written on the board prior to class): "Nearly everyone has
felt like an outsider at some point. Consider various aspects of your
everyday life that are related to social class. Create a picture web
illustrating your social class by including these aspects of your
life, family and community:
-food served at family and/or social parties you attend
-newspapers and/or books you and others read
-education levels of adults in your community
-jobs held by adults in your community
-neighborhood and types of housing
-cars or types of transportation usually used"
After a few minutes, allow students to share some of their images.
Then note that for most people, these aspects of our worlds are part
of our social class "comfort zone"-allowing us to feel comfortable
when we are in familiar circumstances and, for many people,
uncomfortable when they move into a sphere dominated by another class.
Ask students: How would you feel if you were in a situation that
looked very different from the images on your picture web? Have you
ever been to a party at a friend's house, or in another situation,
where everything was very different from what you are used to? How did
you feel? How did you react?
Explain that The New York Times is currently running a series of
articles examining social class in the United States, and read this
statement, published in The Times: "A team of reporters spent more
than a year exploring ways that class - defined as a combination of
income, education, wealth and occupation - influences destiny in a
society that likes to think of itself as a land of unbounded
opportunity." Then tell them that the article they are about to read
deals with the discomfort that can be felt in moving from one social
class to another.
2. As a class, read and discuss the article "Up From the Holler:
Living in Two Worlds, At Home in Neither"
20friday.html), focusing on the following questions:
a. What clues tell the reader that Della Mae Justice grew up in a low
b. How did Ms. Justice change her social class?
c. Why is Ms. Justice uncomfortable with her new status?
d. According to Ms. Justice, what don't people with low socioeconomic
e. Why did Joe Justice rescue Ms. Justice from foster care?
f. How did the opportunities Mr. Justice provided for Ms. Justice
change her chances to become part of the middle class?
g. Why was Berea College a comfortable place for Ms. Justice to
continue her education?
h. How has her sense of family obligation affected Ms. Justice's life?
i. Why did Ms. Justice move back to Pikeville?
j. What type of law does Ms. Justice practice?
k. According to Ms. Justice, how does socioeconomic status affect how
far a person can go in life?
l. What things is Ms. Justice doing to ensure Will and Anna have
middle class childhoods?
m. What types of knowledge or experiences does Ms. Justice feel is
common for middle-class people to have?
n. According to sociologists, what distinguishes middle-class children
from working-class children?
3. Explain that for homework, students will interview the adult of
their choice to investigate his or her experiences with social
mobility and social class comfort zones. They will create their own
portrait of the person's experience with class from childhood through
adulthood, similar to how Tamar Lewin chronicled Della Mae Justice's
story in the article "Up From the Holler: Living in Two Worlds, At
Home in Neither."
Divide students into pairs. Explain that although this is an
individual activity, they may work together to brainstorm questions
for their portrait projects. Since the topic of class may be a
sensitive one, encourage students to develop tactful yet probing
questions. Suggest they analyze the article to see what types of
questions the author, Tamar Lewin, may have asked Ms. Justice.
Students should develop at least ten questions, focusing on the
experiences, opportunities and choices presented in a particular
person's life. Students should also keep in mind that aspects of class
can create a comfort zone in which to live. Additionally, students
should explore their subject's desired and real experiences with class
Encourage students to create open questions that require answers
beyond simple "yes" and "no." They should ask questions that fit into
the following categories:
-neighborhood and home life
-childhood aspirations or goals
-concepts of the American dream and class mobility
Each student should leave class with a list of questions and an idea
of who to interview.
4. WRAP-UP/HOMEWORK: Individually, students interview a chosen adult
about his or her experiences with class from childhood to adulthood
and then write a narrative portrait about the person's life seen
through the lens of social class, inspired by the Times article. In a
future class, students should share their findings and discuss the
difficulties and benefits associated with social mobility.
Further Questions for Discussion:
-Does social class define one's identity? If so, how? If not, why not?
-Why is it difficult to change social class?
-In the article, Ms. Justice mentions that not having certain types of
knowledge makes her uncomfortable in the middle class. Why does common
knowledge matter? How is the body of knowledge common in any given
social class determined?
-What role does the American dream play in achieving socioeconomic
Evaluation / Assessment:
Students will be evaluated based on completion of picture webs,
participation in class discussion, thoughtfully created interview
questions, thoroughly conducted interviews and well-written
holler, Appalachian, flank, rural, transformed, vantage, indicate,
conventional, imploded, ratcheted, contemporary, abhorrent, sundering,
octagonal, mingle, institution, pursue, fellowship, intolerable,
custody, winces, bristle, continuum, niche, affluent, ruefully, hogan,
extracurricular, negotiate, prospect, lucrative
1. There have been many different interpretations of the American
dream. Examine the Library of Congress's page about the American dream
. Do you hold an "American dream"? Create a poster illustrating your
2. Research Berea College (http://www.berea.edu) and prepare a
presentation for a high school college fair. On a poster, highlight
the notable and unique aspects of this institution and illustrate what
makes it different from other higher education institutions.
3. Read "Bloomability" by Sharon Creech or "Deliver Us From Normal" by
Kate Klise, novels which address issues of comfort and class. Then
write a book review exploring the plausibility of the plot based on
what you have learned and experienced with social class and social
class comfort zones.
4. With your classmates, use information from your interviews to
create illustrated and annotated timelines and then display them to
show the variety of paths people have traveled within and between
Journalism - Create a poll that asks members of your community about
their comfort zone. Include questions about locations where people may
feel like an insider or an outsider, as well as questions about
general knowledge people in the community have. (Consider the fact
that Ms. Justice felt left out when her contemporaries talked about
Che Guevara and Mt. Vesuvius.) Compile and analyze your findings.
Write an article for your school's newspaper.
Media Studies - Watch a movie where the main character is clearly
outside of his or her class-based comfort zone, such as "Breakfast at
Tiffany's" (1961), "My Fair Lady" (1964), "Pretty Woman" (1990) or
"The Princess Diaries" (2001). Then write a paper analyzing the main
character's comfort zone and her discomfort with a change in social
class. Did gender play any role at all in the issues as dramatized in
the film? How might the class issues play out differently if the
gender roles were reversed?
Teaching with The Times - Read the entire class series. Write a pitch
letter suggesting an article for a future article in the series that
relates to children or teenagers and social class. Include your
rationale for why such an article should be included in the series. To
order The New York Times for your classroom, click here.
Other Information on the Web
The Learning Network's Class Matters special section
provides the articles from this series, lesson plans, interactive
graphics and more for use in your classroom.
PBS sponsored a film entitled "People Like Us," which deals with
social mobility and class:
Academic Content Standards:
McREL This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards
listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A
Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 3rd and 4th
Editions and have been provided courtesy of the Mid-continent
Research for Education and Learning in Aurora, Colorado.
Behavioral Studies Standard 2 - Understands various meanings of social
group, general implications of group membership, and different ways
that groups function. Benchmark: Understands that a large society may
be made up of many groups, and these groups may contain many
distinctly different subcultures (e.g., associated with region, ethnic
origin, social class, interests, values)
Behavioral Studies Standard 4 - Understands conflict, cooperation, and
interdependence among individuals, groups, and institutions.
Benchmark: Understands how role, status, and social class may affect
interactions of individuals and social groups
Civics Standard 9 - Understands the importance of Americans sharing
and supporting certain values, beliefs, and principles of American
constitutional democracy. Benchmark: Knows how an American's identity
stems from belief in and allegiance to shared political values and
principles, and how this identity differs from that of most other
nations, which often base their identity on such things as ethnicity,
race, religion, class, language, gender, or national origin
Language Arts Standard 1 - Uses the general skills and strategies of
the writing process. Benchmarks: Uses content, style, and structure
(e.g., formal or informal language, genre, organization) appropriate
for specific audiences (e.g., public, private) and purposes (e.g., to
entertain, to influence, to inform); Writes persuasive compositions;
Writes compositions that address problems/solutions
Language Arts Standard 8 - Uses listening and speaking strategies for
different purposes. Benchmarks: Plays a variety of roles in group
discussions; Asks questions to seek elaboration and clarification of
ideas; Uses strategies to enhance listening comprehension
Behavioral Studies Standard 1 - Understands that group and cultural
influences contribute to human development, identity, and behavior.
Benchmarks: Understands that social distinctions are a part of every
culture, but they take many different forms (e.g., rigid classes based
solely on parentage, gradations based on the acquisition of skill,
wealth, and/or education); Understands that people often take
differences (e.g., in speech, dress, behavior, physical features) to
be signs of social class; Understands that the difficulty of moving
from one social class to another varies greatly with time, place, and
Civics Standard 13 - Understands the character of American political
and social conflict and factors that tend to prevent or lower its
intensity. Benchmarks: Knows how universal public education and the
existence of a popular culture that crosses class boundaries have
tended to reduce the intensity of political conflict (e.g., by
creating common ground among diverse groups)
Language Arts Standard 1 - Uses the general skills and strategies of
the writing process. Benchmarks: Uses strategies to address writing to
different audiences; Uses strategies to adapt writing for different
purposes; Writes fictional, biographical, autobiographical, and
observational narrative compositions; Writes persuasive compositions
that address problems/solutions or causes/effects; Writes reflective
Language Arts Standard 8 - Uses listening and speaking strategies for
different purposes. Benchmarks: Asks questions as a way to broaden and
enrich classroom discussions; Uses a variety of strategies to enhance
listening comprehension; Adjusts message wording and delivery to
particular audiences and for particular purposes (e.g., to defend a
position, to entertain, to inform, to persuade)
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