Talen's Got Talent

How one boy copes with stuttering--and steals the show

By Jane Bianchi

Learning Objective: Students will learn how Talen developed strategies that help him cope with his stuttering. They will synthesize his story with a sidebar about how to talk to someone who stutters.

Lexiles: 600L-700L
Guided Reading Level: N
DRA Level: 28
Slideshows (1)
Audio ()
Activities (7)
Quizzes (2)
Quizzes (2)
Answer Key (1)
Slideshows (1)
Audio ()
Activities (7) Download All Quizzes and Activities
Quizzes (2)
Quizzes (2)
Answer Key (1)
Can't-Miss Teaching Extras
SEL Alert!

This story offers an excellent opportunity to discuss stuttering with your students. Ask your class if they know anyone who stutters and how the story helped them better understand stuttering.

Even More Context!

Check out the kids of SAY (and founder Taro Alexander) in this 3.5-minute video about their summer camp. Your students will see how much they have in common with them and how their stutter is one small part of what makes them unique.

Related Content

This 5-minute Today Show clip about how a woman’s stutter affected her childhood, and how she’s found her confidence in spite of it, will help your students empathize even more with those who stutter.

More About the Article

Content-Area Connections

Science: health, biology

Social-emotional learning: self-awareness (self-confidence); social awareness (empathy, respect for others)

Key Skills

synthesizing, figurative language, cause and effect, summarizing, key detail, inference, compare and contrast, vocabulary

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan


Preview Text Features/ Set a Purpose for Reading (10 minutes)

  • Have students look at pages 10-11 and 12-13. Ask volunteers to read aloud the title and subtitle on page 10 and the title of the sidebar on page 13. Direct students to the labels on page 10 that say “Paired Texts” and “One topic, two texts.” Then ask students to identify the topic of both texts (stuttering). Ask students if they know what stuttering is. If they don’t, read aloud the third paragraph on page 10.
  • Point to the photos of Talen on page 11. Ask students to describe what Talen is doing in each one. What do these photos show about Talen’s personality?
  • Direct students to the sidebar on page 13. Read the first sentence aloud with students. Ask: Why is it written in capital letters and in a different color?

Introduce Vocabulary (15 minutes, activity sheet online)

  • We have highlighted in bold three words that may be challenging and defined them on the page. Preview these words by projecting or distributing our vocabulary activity and completing it as a class. You may also play our Vocabulary Slideshow, where images and audio help students with comprehension and fluency.
  • Highlighted words: disorder, confidence, self-conscious


Reading and Unpacking the Text

  • First read: Students should read each article one time for general comprehension.
  • Distribute Close-Reading and Critical-Thinking Questions. Preview them together. Ask students to read the article and sidebar again and answer the questions as a class or in small groups.

Close-Reading Questions (20 minutes, activity sheet online)

  • Read the first section of “Talen’s Got Talent.” What does the author mean when she writes, “Not long ago, if you had asked Talen to perform onstage, he’d have looked at you as if you’d asked him to beat Steph Curry in one-on-one"? (figurative language) The author wants the reader to know that performing onstage would have seemed impossible for Talen, but he did it. Why doesn’t the crowd know that Talen feels nervous? (cause and effect) His dance moves are natural and smooth. He looks proud and is unafraid when he introduces himself.
  • How does stuttering affect the way people speak? (summarizing) People repeat or stretch out their words. They can become silent in the middle of a sentence.
  • Read “A Puzzling Problem.” What most likely causes Talen to stutter? (key detail) It is most likely a problem with the part of his brain that controls language.
  • Why did the picture that Talen’s cousin drew hurt his feelings? (inference) The word bubble in the drawing imitated the way Talen speaks when he stutters. She was making fun of him.
  • Read “A Big Change.” How does the group SAY build kids’ confidence? (cause and effect) The group teaches the kids how to sing, dance, act, and give speeches. These are things they didn't know they could do. They feel good about what they've accomplished.
  • Read “No Longer Alone.” How has Talen’s life changed since he joined SAY? (compare and contrast) He feels less self-conscious now and he’s made lots of friends. His grades in school have improved and he speaks up more.
  • Read the text box “The Best Way to Talk to Someone Who Stutters.” Why is it important to keep eye contact and nod while the person is speaking? (key detail) By doing this, the person knows that you are paying attention.

Critical-Thinking Question (10 minutes, activity sheet online)

  • How does reading the text box on page 13 help you understand Talen’s story? (synthesizing) The information in the text box is about the best way to talk to someone who stutters. This information helps you understand how Talen probably felt when kids didn’t treat him kindly or respectfully.


Connecting Texts

Distribute our compare and contrast activity.

Discuss the task in the Think and Write box on page 13. Then have students complete the task in class or as homework.

Differentiate and Customize
For 2nd Graders

Direct students to the first paragraph on page 10. Read aloud sentences 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Help identify the subject and verb in each one. Write their answers on the board. Call on volunteers to read aloud each verb and pantomime it for the group (marches, smiles, dances, slides, spins, throws, finishes, grabs, introduces).

For Small Groups

Have students read the paired texts in small groups. Ask them to identify details in each section of the story that show how Talen’s feelings about his stuttering changed. Ask students how the paired texts helped them understand the feelings of people who stutter.

For Struggling Readers

Read the article aloud as students follow along. Help identify details about Talen’s life before joining SAY, and have them highlight those details in different colors. They can also highlight details about his life after joining SAY. Students can share the details they found with the group.

For Advanced Readers

Ask students to discuss how Talen’s life changed after he joined SAY. Have them write a poem about these changes that includes Talen’s words from the story, “I feel like a new person.” Students can share their poems in small groups.