A lesson plan based on “My quest to be a screenwriter” from the May-June 2003 issue of L.A. Youth, in which J. Isaac describes his struggle to improve his writing and learn the craft of screenwriting.

By Libby Hartigan, Managing Editor

Grades: 6-12
Subjects: Language arts, life skills
Overview of lesson plan: In this lesson, students learn how to write resumes.
Suggested time allowance: 45 min.-1 hr.

Students will:
1. Define success.
2. Analyze what makes people successful.
3. Develop their own plans to become successful people.

Resources and material:
— pens, paper
— copies of LA Youth article “My quest to be a screenwriter” (one per student)
— blackboard

1. On the board write: Define success. Ask students to write their own definitions of success down on a piece of paper. Go around the room and ask the students to read their definitions. Write some of them on the board.
     On the board write: Successful people. Ask the students to write a short statement about someone who they consider to be successful.
     What makes people successful? Go around the room and ask the student to explain who they wrote about. How did that person become successful?

2. Reading and discussion. Many youth feel they have to wait until they are in the “real world” to chase their dreams. Isaac’s story shows that high school students don’t have to wait–there’s a lot they can do NOW to the make their dreams reality. After reading J. Isaac’s article on his quest to be a screenwriter on pages 4-5 of the May-June 2003 issue of LA Youth, ask your students to develop their own ideas about why J. Isaac has been successful.

Discussion questions:
Is J. Isaac a successful person?
How does J. Isaac define success?
How did J. Isaac change?
–He stopped hanging around with the wrong crowd.
–He spent more of his time listening to music, drawing and writing.
–He started working hard in school and went to the library a lot, bringing up his grades.
What influenced him to change?
–His mom was worried about him and nagged him.
–Police officers in a juvenile diversion program made him feel he needed to change his ways. The other kids also made him worry about his future.
–He read lots of screenplays and was really excited and motivated by them.
–He won some essay contests.
–Once they saw him improve, his teachers were supportive.
–He found mentors such as his screenwriting mentor.
What obstacles has he faced along the way?
–At first, his mom didn’t think he had changed. She thought he was in a gang.
–He has given up some friends and a social life. He felt lonely sometimes. Some classmates make fun of him and think he’s weird.
–His sister calls him names and feels he has rejected his race.
–At home, his neighbors play loud music and he has nowhere to write.
–He feels out of place in the white world of Hollywood.

To change, J. Isaac needed:
People: Himself, his mom, friends, teachers, his screenwriting mentor

Confidence–don’t pay attention to people who cut me down
creativity–spend time listening to music, take notes on my crazy ideas
writing–read a lot, do all my homework, write a lot

Obstacles he faced:
People don’t believe in me–I must believe in myself. Over time, they will see the change in me and support me.
Feeling lonely–Find joy in the work I’m doing
Feeling out of place–Do my best to fit in.

Short-term goal: Complete a great screenplay before I graduate from high school.
Long-term goal: Become a professional screenwriter selling my movies in Hollywood.

3. Developing a personal plan. Ask students to write a plan for how to achieve their dream. It could be a short-term goal, like getting a job, or a long-term one, like climbing Mt. Everest. The plan should contain at least four topics: People, Skills, Obstacles and Deadlines. Under People, students should make a list of the kind of people they might need to help them reach their dream. Their list of people may include friends, family members and teachers. It should include some people that the student doesn’t know yet but would like to get to know (such as “mountain-climbing expert”).
     Under Skills, the student should make a list of the skills he or she will need to have to achieve the dream. The skills section should include ideas about how to get those skills.
     Under Obstacles, the student should anticipate all the obstacles that might get in the way of achieving the dream. Next to each obstacle, the student should write a strategy to cope with that obstacle.
     Under Deadlines, the student should set short-term and long-term deadlines for meeting helpful people, acquiring skills and overcoming obstacles.

Evaluation and assessment:
Students will be evaluated based upon their class participation and work.

Extension activity:
Have students write a letter of encouragement to a classmate, encouraging him or her to pursue his or her dreams.