What Makes Charlie Awesome?
These paired texts promote kindness and acceptance
Students will identify the main idea in a nonfiction text about a boy with a hand malformation and how he copes with being different. The story also includes a sidebar of tips for dealing with kids who tease.
Main idea, compare and contrast, inference, key details, author’s craft, vocabulary, close reading, explanatory writing
This article and lesson support the following standards:
Common Core anchor standards: R.1, R.2, R.3, R.9, W.1, W.2, SL.1, L.4, L.6
TEKS: 3.2, 188.8.131.52, 3.13, 3.19, 3.20, 3.29, 3.30
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Explore Text Features/ Set a Purpose for Reading (10 minutes)
• Have students look at the images on pages 16, 18, and 19. Ask them: What words would you use to describe Charlie? Can you tell what’s different about him?
• Direct students to the titles and subheads, as well as the labels in the upper left corner of page 16 that say “Paired Texts” and “One topic, two texts.” Ask students what the one topic is. (dealing with being different)
• Call on a volunteer to read the Think and Read box on page 17 for the class.
Preview Vocabulary (15 minutes, activity sheet online)
• Project or distribute the first page of our vocabulary activity to preview the terms in bold in the feature. Complete the “before reading” section as a class or in small groups. Have students complete the second section after they’ve read the article.
• Highlighted words: progressively, disadvantages, clarify, anxiety. Point out to students that these words are Charlie’s, not the author’s. Ask students what that tells them about Charlie’s vocabulary.
Reading and Unpacking the Text
• First read: Students should read the article and sidebar through one time for general comprehension.
• Second read: Distribute the close-reading and critical-thinking questions. Preview them as a class.
• Have students read the texts again, as a class or in small groups, pausing to answer the questions.
“What Makes Charlie Awesome?” Close-Reading Questions (15 minutes, activity sheet online)
• What are some activities Charlie enjoys? (key details) He likes to play baseball and soccer and ride horses. He also likes to play piano and draw.
• How does Charlie feel about people who are uncomfortable around him? (main idea) Charlie feels it’s not his responsibility to make other people comfortable with the way his hands look. He doesn’t have to change what people think of him.
• By the end of the story, how does Charlie compare himself with his sister? (comparing) Charlie thought his sister’s allergy didn’t bother her as much as it bothered him, until he realized that she might simply be used to it. This is similar to how he feels about his hands—he’s used to the way they look.
“How to Handle Being Teased” Close-Reading Questions (15 minutes, activity sheet online)
How did people react to Ethan’s hands? How did people react to Charlie’s hands? (compare and contrast) Kids have stared at Charlie and asked him questions about his hands. Ethan was badly teased.
• Why does Ethan suggest kids “start a regular conversation” with those who ask about your differences? (inference) If you talk to kids about themselves, you get the chance to know one another better. You may also discover what you have in common.
Critical-Thinking Questions (10 minutes, activity sheet online)
• In what ways are Charlie and his brother and sister alike? In which ways are they different? (compare and contrast) Charlie and his siblings each have something about them that’s different. Charlie and Ethan have a difference you can see: their hands. Savanna has an invisible difference: her food allergy.
• Why do you think the author included tips from Ethan in “How to Handle Being Teased”? (author’s craft) The author wanted to inform readers. She wanted to give information to children who are teased about their own differences. It’s helpful to use Ethan’s advice, since he’s been through this experience.
• Distribute our main idea activity. Break students into groups to have them find the details that will help them determine the main idea of the two texts.
• Discuss the task in the Think and Write box on page 19. Give examples of things you’d like people to notice about you, or perhaps about your own family members. Then have students complete the task in class or as homework.
We knew about Charlie because Storyworks featured his big brother, Ethan, in an October 2011 story called “The Awesome Powers of Ethan Z.” You can watch the accompanying video and meet Ethan and Charlie’s amazing mom, Meg.
Charlie on the keys!
Author Kara Corridan met Charlie and his family at his New Jersey home and got a front-row seat to an impromptu piano performance by Charlie on his keyboard. We bet your students will be impressed by his skills!
Personal experiences with teasing
This story provides many opportunities for social-emotional learning. You can start by asking: Has anyone here ever been teased? Perhaps the harder question to answer: Has anyone here ever been the teaser? Consider sharing your own experiences to get the ball rolling.
Food allergy anxiety
Our story mentioned Charlie’s sister’s food allergy, but we didn’t have room for the dramatic anecdote that left Charlie feeling so worried. Any student with a connection to a food allergy will relate: Savanna had been given a small Snickers bar and started eating it in the car with a babysitter, not realizing there were peanuts in it. Charlie made her spit it out, the sitter quickly tracked down an EpiPen and administered it to Savanna, and she was okay. But the anxiety of that event—where he essentially saved his sister’s life—stays with him.
Don't Hide It, Flaunt It
Meg started an organization called “Don’t Hide It, Flaunt It,” which celebrates the visible and invisible differences that make every child unique—whether it’s having curly hair, being adopted, or having only a few fingers and toes (which Meg, like her sons, does). She wrote a post for our Ideabook encouraging you to have your students enter the writing contest connected to Charlie’s story. Check it out!