A Lesson on Body Image, (Non-)Fiction, & Point of View

Body Image, (Non-)Fiction, & Point of View: Comparison & Contrast

Students will…

  • discuss a short story, “In the Spotlight,” and an essay, “Beautiful Trouble,” using critical reading skills, supporting their responses with in-text examples.
  • compare and contrast on several levels: a short story vs. an essay; two different perspectives on body image; unique narrative POVs (points of view), specifically the use of third and second person.
  • reflect on the role of body image in their own lives and the world around them.
  • compose their own short stories or essays using comparison and contrast, or second or third person.
  • have the option to submit their writing to YARN.  Be sure to advise them to read and observe the Submission Guidelines before submitting.

What you’ll need:

  • “Beautiful Trouble” by Catherine Price Slayden and “In the Spotlight” by Emily S. Deibel
  • A computer with Internet that can be viewed on an overhead screen.


  • Review the YARN site, including “About YARN,” “Meet the Editors,” and “Submission Guidelines.”
  • Assign “Beautiful Trouble” (BT) and “In the Spotlight” (ITS) as online reading homework, or during quiet reading time in the school computer lab.  Since this won’t be printed material that they can underline, ask them to use paper or class journals to jot down lines or ideas from the texts that jump out at them.
  • Set up computer with overhead screen in classroom.

In Class:

  1. Introduce YARN to the class, especially the “About YARN” and “Meet the Editors” pages.
  2. Open the essay and story in different tabs, or windows, on the computer screen.
  3. Ask the students to compare and contrast BT and ITS.  What did they have in common and how did they differ, especially in terms of what each had to say about body image trouble for teens?  Ask them to back up their answers with specific lines from the texts.  It’s probably worth putting their answers on the board for future reference.
  4. If it doesn’t come up organically, ask if they noticed the difference in POV (point of view), second person (you) in ITS and third person (she) in BT.  What effect did these choices have on the way students read and understood the pieces?
  5. Time out for a little literary term review:  Ask students the difference between an essay and a short story (one being fiction, the other non-fiction).  Ask them to identify BT and ITS as fiction or non-fiction.  You might encounter some surprise to these identifications that’s worth probing.
  6. So…does knowing that ITS is fiction and BT is non-fiction change their reading/understanding of either piece?  Why or why not?  Do the pieces “feel” different?  In other words, does the essay use different techniques from the story–how and how not?
  7. Bring it back around to POV:  What’s interesting about a non-fiction essay like BT being written in the third person instead of the first?  What’s interesting about a fiction piece like ITS being written in the second person?  Why would a writer make those choices?
  8. In preparation for the writing assignment, ask students to brainstorm other current personal  issues like body image that would be interesting to write about (suggestions to get them going: peer pressure, choosing to be an athlete, actor, or any other identity in high school)

NB:  Students need not come to a consensus about the issues discussed above. In fact, a lingering ambiguity might inspire more complicated pieces.

There are several possible writing assignments that could come out of your discussion of ITS and BT, the second two of which could be submitted to YARN for possible publication. (We don’t recommend they send essays that might result from the first prompt because they would likely be more academic in tone and reflection, while the second two are more creative).  Please do encourage students to revise and improve their writing further, even after the pieces have been graded, before submitting work for publication.

  • Prompt 1:  Write a short reflective essay comparing and contrasting third or second person narratives, OR an argumentative essay comparing and contrasting BT and ITS, in which students make and develop their own argument about body image as expressed in the two pieces.
  • Prompt 2:  Write an essay about an issue like body image using the third person.
  • Prompt 3:  Write a short story using the second person.

This writing portion of the lesson could be made into a take-home assignment, due several days after the in-class lesson (for classes of more advanced writers), OR it could be broken down into a longer writing lesson involving in-class and at-home brainstorming, and/or journaling, drafting, and revising (for an example of how this might break down, see the lesson on “The Weather.”)

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