Standards Correlations

R.1, R.2, R.3, R.4, R.6, R.7, W.3, SL.1, L.4, L.5, L.6

Learning objective

Students will analyze how a character changes as she gains—and then loses—fame.

Key Skills

inference, text features, vocabulary, character, author’s craft, point of view, compare and contrast,  figurative language, plot, interpreting text, theme, critical thinking, narrative writing

Complexity Factors

Levels of Meaning: The story explores themes of fame and friendship.

Structure: The story is told from a first-person perspective. After Part 1, events are told in chronological order.

Language: The language is conversational. Some figurative language is used.

Knowledge Demands: Some familiarity with social media will be helpful.


Guided Reading Level:

DRA Level: 40

Lesson Plan: Girl Can't Dance

Essential Questions

  • How can we learn from our mistakes?
What does it mean to be a good friend?

Literature Connection

  • Novel: Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner
Poem: “Fame is a bee.” by Emily Dickinson

1. Preparing to Read 

Making Connections  (5 minutes)

  • Either as a class or on a shared Google doc or slide, invite students to share some of their favorite YouTube and TikTok stars. Ask: What are they famous for? Do you think they deserve their fame? Why or why not?

Preview Text Features (5 minutes)

Guide students to locate the story. Then preview text features with the following prompts:

  • Read the story’s title and subtitle. What do you think Emma might give up for fame? Answers will vary. Sample answers: privacy, money, time spent on hobbies, close friendships.
  • Skim through the story and look at the side bubbles that contain questions. Read the headers, such as “Author’s Craft” and “Point of View.” Are there any skills you’re not familiar with? Answers will vary. 

Preview Vocabulary (10 minutes)

  • Direct students’ attention to the vocabulary box. Read the words (obsessed with, rendition, surpassed, sauntered, scrawled) aloud and discuss their definitions.
  • Play the Vocabulary Slideshow.

Set a Purpose for Reading

  • Before students start to read, set a purpose for reading by telling them that they will make inferences about “Girl Can’t Dance.” Explain that making an inference means figuring out something that isn’t directly stated by using clues from the text. (You may also consider showing our video “Skills in Action: What Is an Inference?”)

2. Reading and Unpacking the Text

  • Read the story aloud to the class. Stop at sentences in bold and have students answer the questions in the margins. (Sample answers are below.)
  • After each section, ask students to summarize what happened.
  • Afterward, discuss the critical-thinking questions.

Answers to the Close-Reading Questions (30 minutes)

  • Author’s Craft (p. 15) The author probably starts the story this way to grab the reader’s attention. The line makes you want to find out why the narrator was so famous that people wanted her autograph (and why she isn’t famous anymore).
  • Point of View (p. 15) Emma is sure Jackson Jax was pointing at her because she’s obsessed with him. This might be more wishful thinking than what actually happened. 
  • Compare and Contrast (p. 15) Emma cares about fame more than Aubree does. Although Emma says she would stay friends with Aubree if she were to become famous, you can tell that she cares more about getting to go on a talk show and ride in a limo.
  • Figurative Language (p. 16) Cats jerk around awkwardly when they’re trying to spit out a hairball—so this comparison tells you that Emma’s dancing looked ridiculous.
  • Inference (p. 16) Emma is having trouble speaking to Julian because she has a crush on him. Although she has practiced speaking to him in front of the mirror, when he starts talking to her, she gets nervous and only manages to make a few sounds. 
  • Plot (p. 17) Theo used his phone to secretly film Emma doing karaoke and posted the video on YouTube. Emma is embarrassed and angry that her bad dance moves and singing are online for the whole school to see.
  • Character (p. 17) Emma is enjoying her fame. When she’s on the G​ary Larry Show​, she winks at the camera, dances with Jax, and talks about herself as a star.
  • Compare and Contrast (p. 18) In the first conversation, Julian makes fun of Emma’s dancing. She is humiliated, and also surprised that Julian even knows who she is. But in this conversation, their roles are switched. Julian calls Emma “amazing” and asks for her autograph. And Emma is so caught up in her own fame that she doesn’t even recognize him.
  • Interpreting Text (p. 18) Theo means that he started something that has gotten out of his control. He meant to embarrass Emma by posting her video on YouTube, but he accidentally made her famous. Now her fame is causing her to act stuck-up and cruel to her best friend.
  • Theme (p. 19) Emma is beginning to realize that fame doesn’t always mean you’ve achieved something. People (or animals) can get famous for silly or random reasons. And this kind of fame often doesn’t last long—people quickly lose interest in one viral video and move on to the next.
  • Interpreting Text (p. 19) Andy Warhol meant that it was possible for any ordinary person to become famous briefly. For Emma, this meant having a video of her dancing go viral and, after a brief period of fame, returning to her normal status.
  • Inference (p. 19) Emma is going to apologize to Aubree for being mean and giving up their friendship. She probably also wants to tell Aubree that fame wasn’t everything she thought it would be. She has learned that friendship is much more important.

Critical-Thinking Questions (5 minutes)

Would you want to be the star of a YouTube video that goes viral? How do you think you would react? Explain using details from the story and your own experience.​ (critical thinking) ​Answers will vary.

3. Skill Building and Writing

Learn Anywhere Activity

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

Build Empathy With Improv

After you respond to the writing prompt, take your ideas further by acting out Emma’s conversation with Aubree. 

Improv is a type of acting that doesn’t involve a script. You make up your lines as you go along, based on what the other actors are saying and doing. 

Choose a partner and decide who will play Emma and who will play Aubree. Then take turns speaking as your characters. Just as you should in a real-life conversation, listen carefully to what your partner says before deciding how you’ll answer.

Things to think about:

  • How does your character feel?
  • What does your character want?
  • How does the other character feel? How can you tell?
  • What does the other character want? How can you tell?
  • What can you do or say to help the conversation end happily for both of you?

ELL Springboard

Teach contractions to make the story more accessible.

Before reading, review common contractions with your students. Tell them that a contraction is a word made by shortening one or more words and replacing the missing letters with an apostrophe.  Note that the contraction can’t in the story’s title is a shortened version of the word cannot. Ask students what contractions can be made from the first two words of each sentence below:

  • Where is Charlie? (Where’s)
  • I will be late unless I leave now. (I’ll)
  • You are a great dancer. (You’re)

After reading, review the following sentences from the story. Ask students to identify the words from which each underlined contraction is made.

  • I’m a terrible singer. (I am)
  • You’ll be sorry,” he warned. (You will)
  • “Emma, you’re famous!” said Aubree. (you are)
  • It’s me, Julian,” he said. (It is)
  • Aubree just didn’t get me. (did not)
  • I was famous for something I couldn’t do—sing or dance. (could not)
  • Fame wasn’t important to me anymore. (was not)

Looking for more ELL support? Download our full lesson plan and scroll to p. 5 to find questions that will help your ELLs respond to the text at the level that’s right for them.

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