Imagine you are Mara at the end of the story. Write a letter to Eta, telling her why you might not see her for a while and how you feel about that.
Mara is miserable in the city—until a friend helps her discover a whole new universe.
Learning Objective: Students will identify how Mara changes when she realizes that her new city surroundings, and a new friend, offer unexpected joys
Mara’s interest in astronomy might have inspired your students to do their own star-gazing. Send them over to NASA’s Space Place, where they can learn about constellations, watch a video about exoplanets (like the one where Mara’s friend Eta might live), and more. For a deep-dive project-based learning adventure, be sure to check out the Research Kit with this issue!
Mara faces a hurdle in adjusting to her move to the city—not unlike what many children go through when they move. For kids in a similar situation, check out this KidsHealth article, “What Kids Who Are Moving Should Do.”
At the end of the story, Mara looks out on the dazzling New York skyline. What makes up this spectacular view? Your students can discover fun facts about the city’s most famous—and tallest—buildings at the site Skyscrapers of New York City.
More About the Story
How a character changes, inference about character, sensory details, perspective, plot, author’s craft, narrative writing
Levels of Meaning/Purpose
In "The Stars Below Me," a girl is unhappy with her family’s move to New York City—until a new friend helps her to change her point of view. The story’s overall message is that a fresh perspective can make an experience that seemed daunting seem exhilarating instead. Readers will need to make inferences to fully understand the story.
The story is chronological and takes place mainly over the course of two days.
The story includes a few challenging words, such as horizon, glumly, and pang. It also has rhetorical questions and other figures of speech.
The story refers to constellations, the rings of Saturn, craters on the moon, and some New York City landmarks.
1. Preparing to Read
Set a Purpose for Reading (5 minutes)
Vocabulary (10 minutes)
2. Close Reading
First Read: Get to Know the Text (20 minutes)
Second Read: Unpack the Text (30 minutes)
Answers to Close-Reading Questions
3. Skill Building
Featured Skill: How a Character Changes
Students might be confused by Mara’s friendship with Eta, an imaginary girl named after a star. To help them, read together the seventh paragraph on page 11 (starting with “On our last night at home . . .”). Point out the image of Cassiopeia in the corner, explaining that a star close to the middle is Eta. Review what Mara’s grandfather told her about it.
Have students read Wendy Mass’s novel Every Soul a Star, which has topics and themes similar to “The Stars Below Me.” Find a book review template in our Activity Library and ask students to review the novel.
Mara’s experience may reflect one that many English language learners have had: moving to a place that’s completely different and feeling unsure about fitting in. Invite students to share how they felt when they first came to the U.S., if they were old enough to remember it.
With its discussion of stars, planets, and constellations, this story provides a perfect connection with a science unit on space. Or let it inspire students to do their own research project on an astronomy topic.