Double Life in the Muck: "Hollywood and the Pits" (Day 1 of 2)

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SWBAT explain, by reading and active annotations, how point of view shifts reinforce the themes of stagnation and transformation in this coming of age story.

Big Idea

Ya ever feel stuck? This lesson explores the theme while referring to family pressure, science, the La Brea Tar Pits, Shirley Temple, and more!

Pre-Reading for "Hollywood and the Pits"

5 minutes

The students will have been prepared for the challenging scientific descriptions in this story by reading the Nacirema yesterday, and the thematic thrust of this story is captured rather well in "Two Kinds," a story that we read earlier in the school year.. 

That said, undertsanding the world of a child star (actress) who is now stuck in the pits of her life might be a stretch for some of my students, so I plan to ask the following questions:

1.) Have you ever been stuck in your life?

2.) What types of pressure are unhealthy?

3.) Structurally, have you ever read a story that switches abruptly from first person to 3rd person point of view?  What might be the effects?  The benefits?


There are many copies of the story online.  Here is one from a textbook with images (link) that you can take a look at as you think about this lesson. 









Photo elicitation

8 minutes

Photo hook.  I will foreground several key points in the story with this image.  The story is set in modern-day Los Angeles, featuring a girl who is no longer the childhood  movie star she once was.  She has taken up a job working in what is now a natural history site for the study of dinosaur bones, the La Brea tar pits (link).   Metaphorically, she is stuck in these tar pits herself, not moving forward in life.  However, she comes to accept herself and her situation and can now grow from there.  Incidentally, this theme of self-acceptance figures prominently in two others of my units, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and American Born Chinese.  

I will ask:

1.) What seems to be the status of neighborliness in this image (bad: they are all ready to eat or kill each other)?  How is life like that sometimes?

2.) What is a tar pit, and how might this scene be preserved and viewed by later scientists?

3.) As you get older, how does your life change?  Think of child actors (I can only think of McCauly Caulkin and Miley Cyrus for some reason), what happens to them as they get older?  Why is this transition a challenge for many of them.

Structural Choices (Point of view shifts)

Finally, it is important to note that the story shifts abruptly from first person personal styled narration to 3rd person, scientific style, but both of these approaches parallel and reinforce each other (RL.9-10.5).  So if the main story is referring to excess competition, the scientific vignettes describe competition among animals for food.  I will let this aspect of the story unfold and point it out as needed.  I am sure that the students have not read anything quite like this, so the experience should be pretty broadening, but I want to make sure that they are tracking with the basic gist of the story and drawing evidence for discussion (RL.9-10.1).  Unlike the "Nacirema" from the last lesson, I see no need to preserve the surprise here, so I plan to let the students know what the intent and structure of the story are as we begin. 




** image credit:

Rancho la Brea Tar Pool. Restoration by Charles. R. Knight for Amer. Mus. (N.Y.) mural decorations 9' by 12' in hall of the Age of Man. One sloth (Mylodon, now Paramylodon) trapped, two guarding against Sabre Tooth (Smilodon). Condors (unidentified further, likely Teratornis) waiting on McNabb's cypress. In the rear of pool which has yeilded much elephant material. San Gabriel range with Mt. Lowe center and Mt. Wilson at right of erect sloth. Old Baldy at right.

Charles R. Knight through the Jesse Earl Hyde Collection, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) Department of Geological Sciences

This media file is in the public domain in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often because its firstpublication occurred prior to January 1, 1923. See this page for further explanation.


Reading "Hollywood and the Pits

30 minutes

Students have base groups that have been established in order to be reading clubs and writing workshops.  They will get into these groups to read and annotate the story, finishing it for homework.  We have already worked on writing inferential questions about character motives and feelings (RL.9-10.3), so I will expect some questions about those.  I will also ask them to star the places in which they detect a parallel in meaning or idea (RL.9-10.2) between the two narrative voices, and I will encourage them NOT to simply skip those parts!

Finally, as I move from group to group, I will be monitoring the students reading of this very challenging text (RL.9-10.10), and a possible scaffold would be for me to read some of the scientific excerpts aloud  to them so that I can help facilitate their ability to connect themes and ideas across the two voices present in the story. 

NOTE: We will address structural issues in the story (RL.9-10.5)in tomorrow's follow-up lesson! 




There are many copies of the story online.  Here is one from a textbook with images (link) that you can take a look at as you think about this lesson.