Blast Off, Mae! Lesson Plan

Academic Standards


Reading Objective:

Children will analyze how Mae Jemison, a Black woman, realized her dream of becoming an astronaut.


Social Studies Focus:

Women's History Month


ELA Skills:

key details, writing, writing, vocabulary, opinion writing, using visuals


Page 4 Skill:

read a chart



curious, science fiction, encouraged



RI.2.1, RI.2.4, RI.2.7, RI.2.10, L.2.1, W.2.1, SL.2.3


Guided Reading Level:



Lexile Level:


Provide students with some background on astronauts.

Build background knowledge (10 min.)

  • Watch our video “Would You Like to Be an Astronaut?” After children have finished watching the video, discuss the following questions:
    • What does gravity do? (pulls us toward the ground; keeps us from floating away)
    • What do some astronauts do in the “vomit comet”? (throw up)
    • What everyday activity do you think would be hardest to do in space? (Answers will vary.)

Preview vocabulary (3 min.)

  • Next, play the online vocabulary slideshow. This issue’s featured words are curious, science fiction, and encouraged.

Set a purpose for reading (5 min.)

  • Pass out the issue, and discuss the cover. How do kids think Mae Jemison became the first Black woman to go to space?
  • Next, read the As You Read prompt on page 2: “Think about how being curious helped Mae.” Encourage children to think about this prompt as they read.

Read together (20 min.)

Pass out the Read and Think printable. Use it to check comprehension as you read the issue together, pausing to ask the questions. 

Assessment: Reading Checkpoint (15 min.)

  • Pass out the Reading Checkpoint to review key concepts from the issue and assess students’ proficiency on key nonfiction reading skills.
  • Use the online game show to gauge comprehension and reinforce the issue’s content. Students can play by themselves or in teams. For each question they answer correctly, they win a point.

You can use our printable worksheets to focus on important ELA skills. Here’s how.

ELA Focus: Vocabulary (15 min.)

  • Use the Word Work printable to deepen students’ understanding of the words curious, science fiction, and encouraged.

Editor’s Pick: Character Traits (15 min.)

  • The What Is Mae Jemison Like? skill sheets are perfect for teaching character traits. In Part 1, students choose three words from the sheet that describe Mae, or write their own. In Part 2, they write about Mae using those words, backing up what they write with reasons.

ELA Focus: Reading a Diagram (15 min.)

  • The Diagram of a Spacesuit skill sheet helps students glean information from visuals, an important skill for reading nonfiction. Plus, they get to learn some cool facts about spacesuits!

 Here are two past issues you can use to extend your lesson:

  • A Math Star, March 2019. This issue tells the story of Katherine Johnson, one of the mathematicians who helped send astronauts into space—the first time!
  • What Happened to Amelia Earhart?, March 2018. This issue tells the story of the incredibly daring female pilot who is still famous for her adventures.

You can find a higher-Lexile-level and a lower-Lexile-level version of the article online here:

  • Higher-Lexile level: 590L
  • Lower-Lexile level: 470L