Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Dreams, Stars, and Beaches

Bobbi Shapiro


In this lesson, students compare their own lives with that of a girl in a tenement building in New York City. Through reading -Tar Beach,- a story by Faith Ringgold, students better understand the hopes and dreams of the less fortunate.


The student predicts ideas or events that may take place in the text, gives rationale for predictions, and confirms and discusses predictions as the story progresses.

The student uses a prewriting strategy suitable for the task (for example, brainstorming, using a graphic organizer, listing ideas).


- Student's Writing Journals
-“The Starry Night” (Vincent Van Gogh, artist print)
- Appropriate Music on Tape or CD to Inspire Meditation and Writing (For example: -Starry, Starry Night- by Don McLean)
- CD or Tape Player
- Chart Paper
- Tape or Thumb Tacks
- Markers
- Pencils
- Notebook Paper
- Group Evaluation Sheets (see associated file)
- Grading Rubric Sheets (see associated file)
- -Tar Beach- by Faith Ringgold, 1991, New York, Crown Publishers
- Dictionary for each Group
- Overhead projector
- Grading Rubric Transparency


1. Prepare yourself by reading the story and recognizing the themes associated with the story.
2. Collect all materials needed for each day.
3. Make copies of evaluation instruments. (See attached file.)


1. Play quiet inspiring music while displaying the print of “Starry, Starry Night”. Allow 10 minutes for students to do pre-writing “mystical moment” activity in writing journals. Circulate around the room to be sure that all students are engaged appropriately in the activity. At the end of the time, allow students to share their writing or to verbalize how they felt while looking at the picture and listening to the music.

2. Get out the beach towel, sunglasses, etc. Ask the class why they think that I may be dressed in this way. Explain that the class is going to be discussing some aspects of our lifestyles and contrast and compare them with those of a young girl whose lifestyle may be different from our own. Have students discuss and define “fantasy” and “reality.”

3. Divide the class into groups of 3 to 4 students. Have each group choose a chairperson, writer, reporter, and materials manager. Ask children to share what they know about New York City. Focus on size, weather, architecture, geographical location, activity, etc. Direct the materials manager to obtain 2 sheets of chart paper and a marker for the group. Allow 5 minutes for each group to brainstorm ideas about what children much like themselves, who live in New York City, do during their vacation time. Groups are to create a graphic organizer in the form of a -T-Chart- ( a chart split down the middle with a heading at the top of each column used for comparison or contrast). Students are to contrast activities that they participate in with those that might be enjoyed in New York City. Allow the reporters to post their lists and share their group’s ideas.

4. Point out that many of the ideas will require a great deal of money, transportation, or the proximity of natural resources, such as the ocean. Ask the groups to revise their charts now, and predict what they might do when these items are not available. Again, post the lists and have reporters share their ideas, giving rationale for their choices. Elicit the idea that what one is capable of doing might be more real (reality) while the remaining activities might remain as dreams or wishes (fantasy).

5. Explain that you are going to read a story now about a girl who lives in New York City. Recommend that students listen for differences in the lifestyle of the main character (Cassie). Read orally the short story -Tar Beach- by Faith Ringgold. Upon completion allow students to verbally contrast Cassie’s lifestyle with their own, giving possible reasons for such.

6. Ask students to open their personal writing journals. Direct them to write their own paragraph contrasting two activities which they personally will be participating in during the vacation with at least two of Cassie’s. Remind students that they must support their choices with logical rationale. Allow 20 minutes for completion. If time permits, allow students to share their paragraphs aloud.

7. Display grading rubric for the assignment on the overhead projector and review orally what expectations are. Leave the rubric displayed during the writing period for student reference.

8. Pass out Group Evaluation Sheet. (See attached file.) Tell each child to complete the sheet identifying their group job and giving a brief explanation of what they did to help their group. Explain that they are to get the initials of each of their group members verifying their participation before the sheet is turned in.

9. Teacher evaluates group participation based on Group Evaluation Sheet and writing assignment based on rubric.


Students will predict ideas, give rationale for predictions and discuss predictions through production and use of a graphic organizer (-T-chart-).
Students will use of the graphic organizer to produce his or her journal entry.
Goal 3 #4 Students will be formatively assessed for analyzing, interpreting, summarizing and making appropriate connections through student journal entries.
Goal 3 #8 Students will work in cooperative groups to produce a T-chart and each group member will write a brief description of his or her job and what they did to contribute to the group.


Research the life of Faith Ringgold.
Research the lives of authors of other ethnic backgrounds.
Take a field trip to an art museum or history museum.
Create a class quilt to tell a story of what the class members do during their vacations.

Attached Files

Group Member Evaluation Sheet Grading Rubric     File Extension: pdf

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