by NPR Staff
We've identified these texts as great options for text pairings based on similar themes, literary devices, topic, or writing style. Supplement your lesson with one or more of these options and challenge students to compare and contrast the texts. To assign a paired text, click on the text to go to its page and click the "Assign Text" button there.
Yul Kwon, From Bullying Target to Reality TV Star
- NPR Staff
Yul Kwon’s early life was mired with a host of challenges. Born to South Korean immigrants in New York, Kwon never had a positive role model from his community. In 2006, he decided to join the cast of Survivor and make a name for himself - and other Asian Americans - in popular culture.Pair "Yul Kwon: From Bullying Target to Reality TV Star" with this NPR article and have students explore what motivates people to overcome life's hurdles.
Learning to Read
- Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Francis Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911) was the child of free African American parents. In her adult life, Harper helped slaves escape through the Underground Railroad and wrote for abolitionist newspapers. In this poem, Harper describes what it was like to have been discouraged from learning how to read.Pair “Learning to Read” with “At the Head of Her Class, and Homeless” and ask students to discuss the power of education, especially in the face of discrimination and disadvantage.
- Mark Twain
In this sketch, a prominent military man’s rise to success is retold from the perspective of a former teacher.Pair “Luck” with “At the Head of Her Class, and Homeless” to have students contrast two different perspectives on success. Why do some succeed while others – who may be more worthy – fail? What is more powerful, luck or hard work?
How Santa Claus Found the Poor-House
- Sophie Swett
In this story, two young boys living in a "poor-house" in Victorian England receive a Christmas gift like no other--a reward for their resilience and loyalty.Pair “At the Head of Her Class, and Homeless” with “How Santa Claus Found the Poor-House” and ask students to consider what character traits allow both the real Rashema and the fictional Gobaly to succeed, especially those traits that allowed them to excel in spite of their tough circumstances.
President Obama’s National Address to America’s Schoolchildren
- President Barack Obama
In “President Obama’s National Address to America’s Schoolchildren,” President Obama discusses the importance of education and the responsibility of students to commit to their education.Pair “At the Head of Her Class, and Homeless” with “President Obama’s National Address to America’s Schoolchildren” and ask students to compare the overlapping themes of the two texts. How does Rashema Melson’s difficult situation compare to the students President Obama discusses in his speech? How did these students overcome the obstacles in their lives and continue to excel in school?
The Ants and the Grasshopper
- 620-560 BCE
In this fable of Aesop, a grasshopper asks some hard-working ants for help as winter approaches.Pair “At the Head of her Class, and Homeless” with “The Ants and the Grasshopper” and ask students to compare and contrast the theme(s) in each text. What could the grasshopper learn from Rashema Nelson?
A Quick Note on Getting Better at Difficult Things
- Ta-Nehisi Coates
In “A Quick Note on Getting better at Difficult Things,” Ta-Nehisi Coates shares his own experiences struggling with a new skill and why it’s important to do so.Pair “At the Head of her Class and Homeless” with “A Quick Note on Getting Better at Difficult Things” and ask students to discuss how one overcomes difficulties. What message do these two texts share about pursuing something you’re passionate about?
The Rose That Grew from Concrete
- Tupac Shakur
In Tupac Shakur’s “The Rose That Grew from Concrete,” the speaker describes a flower that grew in an unlikely place.Pair “At the Head of Her Class, and Homeless” with “The Rose That Grew from Concrete” and ask students to discuss how both texts explore the obstacles that can make it difficult for a person to succeed. How did the rose and Rashema Melson approach these obstacles?
- Piri Thomas
In Piri Thomas’ short story “Amigo Brothers,” two best friends compete against each other in a boxing match.Pair “At the Head of Her Class, and Homeless” with “Amigo Brothers” and ask students to discuss how the two texts explore success. What does it take to be successful? What characteristics do the amigo brothers and Rashema Melson share that contribute to their success? Do you think being successful in sports and being successful in school require different traits?
A Thief Dines Out, Hoping Later to Eat In
- Rick Bragg
In The New York Times article “A Thief Dines Out, Hoping Later to Eat In,” Rick Bragg discusses a man who intentionally gets himself arrested in order to spend time in prison.Pair “A Thief Dines Out, Hoping Later to Eat In” with “At the Head of Her Class, and Homeless” and ask students to compare the experiences of Rashema Melson and Gangaram Mahes. What kind of obstacles did they encounter because of their homelessness? How did Melson and Mahes respond to these challenges presented to them? Is one more successful in overcoming obstacles? Why?
What Do Fish Have to Do with Anything?
In Avi’s short story “What Do Fish Have to Do with Anything?”, a boy hopes to learn the cure to unhappiness from a beggar he meets.Pair “At the Head of Her Class and Homeless” with “What Do Fish Have to Do with Anything?” and ask students to discuss the different ways that people treat others who are struggling or suffering. How does Rashema Melson describe people treating her when they find out she is homeless? How does this compare to how the beggar is treated in “What Do Fish Have to Do with Anything?”
How A Typical Teen Did Something Not So Typical to Help Street Kids
- Linus Unah
In the informational text “How A Typical Teen Did Something Not So Typical to Help Street Kids,” Linus Unah describes the work of one charitable teen who created a nonprofit to help street kids in southern Nigeria.Pair “At the Head of her Class, and Homeless” with “How A Typical Teen Did Something Not So Typical to Help Street Kids” and ask students to discuss the challenges that homeless kids face. What has helped Rashema Melson stay in school and succeed, despite the challenges of being homeless? How does James Okina help homeless children in Nigeria overcome obstacles to attend school?
For Teens, A Good Mood Depends on Good Sleep
- Meenaskshi Prabhune
In the informational text, “For Teens, A Good Mood Depends on Good Sleep,” Meenaskshi Prabhune discusses how many hours of sleep teenagers should be getting a night.Pair “At the Head of Her Class, and Homeless” with “For Teens A Good Mood Depends on Good Sleep” and ask students to discuss the stresses that teenagers face in school. How could not getting enough sleep make these obstacles more challenging? How is sleep necessary for a student's success? Are there things schools can do aside from changing start times to help teenagers get more sleep or feel less stressed?