Standards Correlations

R.1, R.3, R.4, R.7, R.9, W.2, SL.1, L.4, L.6

Learning Objective

Students will compare and contrast the stories of two young pop stars.

Key Skills

compare and contrast, text features, vocabulary, cause and effect, inference, synthesizing, interpreting text, critical thinking, informational writing

Complexity Factors

Purpose: The first article describes Billie Eilish’s rise to stardom. The second describes Lil Nas X’s. 

Structure: Both articles are informational and include cause-and-effect structures. 

Language: The language is conversational.

Knowledge Demands: Readers are expected to know what a record company is. Also, Spotify is mentioned. 


Lexile Level: 600L-700L

Guided Reading Level: T

DRA Level: 50

Lesson Plan: Young & Famous

Essential Questions

  • What does it take to make a dream come true?
  • How does our upbringing shape who we are?

Literature Connection

Novel: After Tupac & D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson
Novel: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

1. Preparing to Read 

Preview Text Features (10 minutes)

Have students open their magazines to page 26. Preview the text features by asking the following questions:

  • Read the titles and subtitles on pages 26-28. What do you already know about Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X? What do you think you’ll learn about them in the articles? Answers will vary for the first question. For the second, students may say they’ll learn about how these two musicians became stars and what makes them special.
  • Look at the photos of the two stars across pages 26-29. Think about what the artists are wearing. How would you describe their style? Why do you think they dress this way? Both musicians dress in a way that’s unusual and eye-catching. Maybe they want to stand out from other celebrities, or maybe they simply feel those clothes represent them best.
  • Now read the captions of the photos on pages 26 and 29. What did you learn about the artists’ styles? Was your original guess correct? Billie dresses the way she does because she likes to be in control of how she looks. Lil Nas X’s style represents the many types of music he loves.

Preview Vocabulary (10 minutes)

  • Point out the vocabulary box on page 26 and go over the words (depression, melody, distractions, suburbs) and their definitions together.
  • Play the Vocabulary Slideshow.

Make a Plan for Reading (5 minutes)

Before students start to read, walk them through a reading plan: 

  • Set a purpose for reading by telling students they’ll find out how Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X became stars.
  • Tell students that after they read, they’ll complete the Compare and Contrast Skill Builder with information from the two articles.

2. Reading and Unpacking the Text

Guide students to read the article. Once they understand it well, discuss the following close-reading and critical-thinking questions.

Close-Reading Questions (20 minutes)

  • What was unusual about Billie Eilish’s childhood? How did this contribute to her becoming a world-famous musician? (cause and effect) Unlike most kids, Eilish was homeschooled and had a lot of freedom at home. Her parents wanted her and her brother to be creative, so they let the kids stay up late to play music if they wanted to. From a young age, Eilish was able to focus on making music, writing songs with her brother, and performing on stage.
  • The author writes that “even as a big star, [Eilish] stays true to herself.” How does Eilish stay true to herself? Why do you think it might be hard to do so as a famous person? (inference) Eilish stays true to herself by wearing baggy clothes, dyeing her hair different colors, and recording her songs at home. She also speaks out on important issues. As a famous person, it might be tempting to do what’s “normal” so as not to risk losing fans. Eilish clearly isn’t afraid to be herself, even if it means some people won’t like her.
  • What was Lil Nas X’s goal in writing “Old Town Road”? How did he achieve it? (cause and effect) Lil Nas X’s goal in writing “Old Town Road” was to have it go viral. To make this happen, he chose a cowboy theme (since country music is popular), he found a catchy hip-hop tune, and he wrote a simple melody. Then he posted the videos for the song online—again and again. 
  • What role did social media play in the two musicians’ rise to stardom? (synthesizing) Both musicians got their big break when their songs went viral on social media. For Eilish, it was “Ocean Eyes.” For Lil Nas X, it was “Old Town Road.” Lil Nas X’s Twitter followers also helped make his song famous.  

Critical-Thinking Questions (10 minutes)

  • Lil Nas X says about being famous: “On the outside, everybody loves you. But on the inside, everything [feels] the same.” What do you think he means? (interpreting text) Sample answer: Maybe he means that while he gets much more attention than he used to, he’s still the same person inside. His life has changed in a big way since his song became a hit—he has his own line of clothing, he’s in a commercial, and he makes appearances on TV—but still, he’s the same person he was before.
  • What do you think it takes to become a famous musician? How much of it is luck and how much is hard work? Use examples from the two articles in your answer. (critical thinking) Sample answer: Becoming famous probably takes both luck and hard work. Billie Eilish worked hard—she sang and wrote songs from a very early age. Lil Nas X also worked hard. Though he had little experience as a musician, he was smart about gathering followers and designing a song he thought would be catchy. Luck probably also played a role in both artists’ rise to stardom. Plenty of people post good, catchy songs online that simply don’t get the same kind of attention.

3. Skill Building

  • Have students work in pairs to complete the Compare and Contrast Skill Builder. 
  • Writing Prompt: Would you change your style if you became famous or continue to dress the way you do now? Explain your answer, describing what your clothes say about you now and what you’d want them to say about you if you were famous.

Learn-Anywhere Activity

An enrichment activity to extend the learning journey at home or in the classroom

Conduct an Interview

Everyone who works has a story about how they got their job and why they chose it. Not everyone is famous like Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X, but many people have interesting tales to tell. Choose a person you know whose work interests you. Interview that person on video about their job. (For inspiration, check out the Mini Read found on page 2 of every issue of Action!) Questions you might ask include:

  • What made you want to do this kind of work?
  • What kind of training or education do you need to do this kind of work?
  • How did you start out in this line of work? 
  • What parts of your job are difficult?
  • What parts of your job are fun?

ELL Springboard

Use a Timeline to Record Sequential Events. 

These articles describe the paths that Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X took toward their stardom. After reading the articles, ask students to choose one of the artists and create a timeline of his or her life, marking the milestones mentioned in the article (e.g., for Eilish: age 4, wrote her first song; age 7, performed a Beatles tune in a talent show). 

Ask students with higher English proficiency to create their own imagined path toward a future they desire. They can begin by making a realistic guess as to when they will have reached their goal (e.g., age 25, opened a bakery) and working backward to mark the hypothetical milestones along the way. They should also mark milestones that have already happened (e.g., baked her first cookie).

Looking for more ELL support? Download our full lesson plan and scroll to p. 4 to find questions that will help your ELLs respond to the text at the level that’s right for them.

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