A lesson plan to go with “Stepping it up” from the October 2010 issue of L.A. Youth. In this article, Anthony writes about overcoming his fear of freestyle dancing in front of others.

By Amanda Riddle, co-managing editor

Grades: 7-12
Subjects: language arts, life skills
Suggested Time Allowance: 45 minutes-1 hour

• copies of the L.A. Youth article “Stepping it up” (one per student)

• pens and paper
• white board or blackboard

Students will examine why we have fears and what helps conquer them.

Warm-up activity:
Write the word “fear” on the board and ask your students to think of a time when they were scared to do something. Maybe they were afraid to perform or speak in front of others, play in a big game, join a team or club, or talk to people they didn’t know.

Many times our fears are irrational. We worry about messing up or looking bad, but once we try something we discover that we were able to do it. Ask your students what thoughts went through their minds when they were afraid and write their responses on the board. They may say: I’ll look stupid, I might mess up, no one will be interested, I’ll get laughed at, I’m not any good, it will be too embarrassing, no one will like me. Then ask them if the experience was as bad as they expected it to be.

Have your students read Anthony’s story “Stepping it up” on page 22. After reading the story, as a discussion measuring their reading comprehension, ask students to answer the following questions about the story:

Why was Anthony afraid to freestyle dance in front of others?
• He was afraid of messing up.
• He loves to dance so if he fails it will seem like he’s wasted his time.
• He felt like he didn’t have exciting moves.
• He messed up the first time he tried, so he thought he wasn’t good at it.

What influences made him more open to freestyling in front of others?
• He met Kayla, who wasn’t afraid to dance in front of others.
• He and Kayla would practice dance moves from choreography videos.
• The Rock the Era organizers asked each person to set a goal, so he made it his goal to freestyle in front of others.

• His friends would freestyle and were having fun.
• Right before the freestyle battle, his friend Tai said “we’ve got this,” which made him feel more confident.

What did Anthony do to help himself conquer his fear?
• He meditated and told himself he could do it, which calmed him and gave him confidence.
• He decided to try freestyling at the last practice and this time it was much easier, which helped him realize he could freestyle.
• He realized that if he tried to have fun and didn’t think about what other people thought, he would do OK.
• He asked if he could perform in the freestyle battle in front of 19,000 people.

How did freestyling in front of 19,000 people at Rock the Era change Anthony?
• He has more confidence in his dancing.
• He’s trying to get better at dancing.
• He dances with his friends all the time.

After reading the story, ask your students what they think of Anthony’s fear of freestyling. Once he did it, was it as bad as he thought it would be? Was he happier after he overcame his fear? Can they relate to his experience?

Have students write an essay about a fear they overcame or want to overcome. Have them write about what negative thoughts were holding them back. If they have overcome their fear, have them write about what helped them achieve their goal, whether it was encouragement from others, their own motivation, practicing, praying, etc. What did they learn about themselves? What did they learn about how to conquer a fear? If they haven’t tried to overcome their fear yet, have them write about what they could do to try to overcome it, using Anthony’s experience as a guide. Who can help or support them? What do they need to do themselves?

Extension activity:
The words you say to yourself can be as important as how much you’ve practiced. Anthony’s friend said, “We got this guys. This isour time. Every one of those practices comes to now” and that helped him feel confident. Have your students come up with a list of things they can tell themselves when they’re feeling anxious to help them calm down and feel confident.