|Reading Instruction||Think Outside the Box||Show vs. Tell|
|Novel Ties||Additional Reading||Author's Note|
Decisions and consequences
Using what you’ve learned
Thinking outside the box
Making a difference with our lives
Key Point: Set up the general mood of the story by creating a classroom
experience that the students can feel a part of without giving away
Possible Ideas: (a) Have a classroom scavenger hunt with clues that the
students have to use their “out of the box” thinking skills to
figure out where the next clue is kept. (b) Make codes they have to
break. (c) Give a “Nine Dots” puzzle out to students to solve and
discuss what it takes to solve it.
Key Point: (Chapter 2 & 20) I tell my students that in a short
story, an author does not have space to waste words. If something
seems out of place, question the reason why it’s there. There has to
be a reason the author used it; you just have to figure out why. These
clues enhance our understanding of the reading selection.
Lesson: I find it easiest to write my ideas/questions and circle
things in my teacher’s copy when breaking down a story that I want
to teach, but students can’t usually write in their books. But they
need to learn to think through a story just like we do. Pass out small
sticky notes that they can write down things they have spotted or
their questions on that they can stick all over the short story. This
is a great way to break down how the story is put together and for
looking for reading clues. “Rain, Rain Go Away” by Isaac Asimov is
a perfect short story to use for this.
An author’s use of various devices can add complexity to the plot.
Example #1: Parallels between teacher and
Both fought Sayid and both stopped him from his mission. (b) both
helped the CIA. (c) Both thought outside the box. (d) How Tenepior’s
prediction that Will was just what the Red Cell needed came true. (e)
After Tenepior’s injury he was given a desk job. Where does Will end
up at the end? (f) How Will used each of Tenepior’s lessons to help
against the terrorists. Etc.
Example #2: Use of irony (a) (Prologue & Chapter 18) The irony
developed from Einstein’s wanting to “take out their legs.” (b)
Tenepior’s bulletproof jacket—removing the back plate and getting
shot in the same place. (c) How Es Sayid felt what it meant to be
terrorized at the end.
Example #3: Use of symbolism (a) How was the Ferris wheel of the Treks
commercial a circular symbol? (The terrorists were attacking the hub
of our freedom. How it went from being a target of disaster to an
object of our freedom.) (b) CIA crest: Es Sayid stood atop it when
conquering the substation. How the eagle’s beak sipped from his
defeat. (c) The fireworks were symbolic of the Cubs’ win, Will’s
stopping Es Sayid’s bombing, and his argument with Stacey. (d) The
Sears Tower was symbolic of our resolve to stand tall against
terrorism. (e) Name meanings: Will=One who desires to protect; Conlan=Hero.
Example #4: Circular nature of the story. (a)
The terrorists had come full circle with their thinking and ultimately
used “Show smoke; let the reader infer fire” against the agency
themselves. (b) (Prologue to ending) How did the events in the novel
come full circle with the events of the Prologue? (c) Tenepior gets
shot in the back; he repays Es Sayid the same favor. (d) Will wanted
to do something extraordinary and did. (e) The agency (Tenepior) saved
Will from a terrorist; Will saved the agency from a terrorist attack.
(f) Each side used media avenues against each other. Etc.
*What makes this an important organizational technique in
Building Background Knowledge
Key Point: Learn more about the Analytic Red Cell. Discuss the
implications of asking insight from teenagers.
Lesson: Read The Washington Post article in class. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A505342004Jun17.html
Pose the question, what if they asked a teenager to be a red teamer?
Is the Red Cell’s role an important one?
Key Point: It is so much more important to get students to create the
questions than for the teacher to do the asking. It’s also essential
for students to understand how often a good reader asks clarifying
Lesson: Use the questioning
sheet with chapter one to introduce how a reader’s mind should
continually be asking questions to understand the reading.
Key Point: Have the readers uses clues in the
reading to draw conclusions for better understanding. This is much the
same process that one uses with the “sticky notes” lesson
Examples: (a) (Chapter 20) At the ball game, what was their seating
arrangement? (Mr. Conlan, Stacey, Will, Ryan). (b) (Chapter 9)
“Splitting the series with Houston had not helped the situation.”
Who won the game of the night before?
Key Point: In my opinion, idea development is the single most important
concept for a young writer to develop.
Lesson: (Chapters 5 & 17) Use this as an opportunity to teach
students to concentrate on developing good thinking skills. Our
imaginations are limitless. Push students to come up with their own
ideas about what symbols mean. Work on writing skills in trying to say
things in ways never before said.
Discussion Questions: (Novel’s Epigraph) What’s the meaning involved in
the statements made about red cells? How are they symbolic of the
actual mission of the CIA’s Analytic Red Cell? (Prologue) How did
the sergeant (Mark Tenepior) think outside the box in the Prologue?
(Chapter 2) How was Will’s response to the essay question an
“outside the box” thought? How did Mr. Tenepior use the test
question to stretch his students’ minds? How did Will use it when
viewing the commercials? How did he use it to stop the attacks?
(Chapter 5) Why was it important for Mr. Tenepior to not stifle
preposterous theories? (Chapter 17) How were the students able to
build on each other’s ideas?
Key Point: (Chapter 3, 17, & 20) “Show smoke, let the reader
infer fire.” It’s important to show the character performing the
action. Concentrate on word choice by using strong action verbs to aid
Examples: (Prologue) “As
if carving a wave, the sergeant banked sharply in their direction,
chunking sand sideways as he hacked the sidewall with hard cuts.” I
needed to use verbs specific to body boarding maneuvers to carry that
visualization out fully. Words like “chunking” and “hacked”
bring stronger visuals for the reader (especially young readers) than
if I would have merely said “The sergeant slid down the slope
dodging bullets.” (Chapter 5) “‘Holy cow!’ his father called
out in his favorite Harry Caray impersonation.” Instead of telling
the reader that his father was amazed, I could better show it by his
dad verbalizing an expression that showed his surprise. (Chapter 7)
“Will fought against the lump in his pillow.” This has the
character perform the action instead of telling the reader he
Lesson: Use this as an opportunity to teach students to make their
writing show and not tell events. Telling is abstract and passive, and
rarely invites the reader to picture themselves in the character’s
shoes. It slows down pacing, takes away the true action and pulls the
reader out of the story. Showing is interactive and encourages
participation in the reading experience by letting the reader to draw
his/her own conclusions. Characters must actually perform the action.
The reader must feel as if they are actually doing what the characters
Key Point: How does the literary element of foreshadowing add to the
anticipation a reader feels? How can it create “hooks” that make
readers want to read further?
Lesson: Use this as an opportunity to teach students this concept, how to examine the reading, and how to add this into their writing or to understand it from their reading. (a) Notice almost all of the chapter endings. How do they foreshadow future events? How do they create “hooks” for the reader? (b) (Chapter 7) What was the purpose of Will throwing up? What about the missed powdered sugar flakes on his lips?
Key Point: (Chapter 5) “Voice is one’s personality put into words.”
2) Lots of examples setting up Mr. Tenepior’s sharp, pushing
attitude. (Chapter 3) Kyle’s mocking Mr. Tenepior was a way to
enhance the voice of both Mr. Tenepior (expectant and stern) and Kyle
(playful). (Chapter 4) “Yeah, I say we just write down a bunch of
crazy things like terrorists have gained psychic powers and stuff,”
shows Kyle’s attitude toward homework. When Stacey replied, “You
strike out in baseball almost as much as you strike out with the
cheerleading squad,” we see her boldness and how she’s capable of
as an opportunity to teach about developing a strong voice in writing.
Set up scenarios that the students can write to that make them
describe things from different perspectives to get them into a
character and push them to say it like that character really would.
(a) The top of a mountain before a cliff jump. (1) From the
perspective of an extreme sports enthusiast. (2) From a person
terrified of heights. (b) A mosh pit. (1) From a teenage heavy metal
fan. (2) From an eighty-year-old grandmother.
Key Point: How can a writer use to setting and plot to add to the
general mood or emotions intended for the reader to feel.
Discussion Concept: (a) (Prologue) Scorpion its way into the soldier’s den
invites us to realize the soldiers were in harm’s way; or the
serrated tire exemplifies the casualties of the battle. (b) How the
baseball games are intended to build up excitement, since something
exciting happens during each ballgame. (c)
What happens when the Cubs win? What happens when they lose? (d)
(Chapter 10) “Kicking, clawing, and scratching their way, the Cubs
managed a run off a suicide squeeze before the end of the inning.” I
gave the team feminine fighting qualities to mirror Stacey’s catch.
(e) (Chapter 11) “Staring at the sticky stain left on his shoe, he
concluded with, ‘I’m sorry Mr. Moritz for having been so much
trouble tonight.’” What was the sticky mess that had stained his
night? And why was it appropriate that the shoe was stained? (f)
“Fireworks started blazing in the now darkening sky signaling a
Cubs’ win.” How did the fireworks enhance the mood at that exact
moment? How did the Cubs truly win that night? How did they mirror the
fireworks between Stacey and Will? (g) (Chapter 18) Opening and
shutting the car door. How’s that reflect the conversation between
Mr. Tenepior and Will? (h) (Chapter 25) How was the bomb’s timer
used to slow or speed up the tempo of the story?
Key Point: Suspense can be heightened by a
deliberate shift in perspective. I used Third Person Subjective Multiple Viewpoint in several
spots by leaving Will Conlan clueless of events unfolding but allowing
the reader a hint to build his/her anticipation.
Examples: (Chapter 1) Man behind the desk reads the newspaper and
slips the article of Will into a Top Secret folder. (Chapter 9)
“Unfortunately, there were more than just sports fans who understood
this as well. There were some, in fact, who had been counting on
it.” (Chapter 13) Es Sayid waited for Will outside of his school.
(Chapter 19) The terrorists were altering their plans after seeing the
Key Point 2: When writing, point of view should
remain consistent throughout. (Although, after careful consideration, I used Subjective
Multiple Viewpoint allowing me to change perspective sparingly
to heighten suspense.) For example, if this were only written in 3rd
Person Limited, most of the phrasing would be framed like “he
thought” where the story would be channeled only through Will’s
Examples: (Chapter 15) I changed: “Once again looking through the
mirror, the driver’s eyes now locked on Mr. Tenepior asked the
question, ‘How in the world are you going to explain this one?’”
Though one can assume Will saw and interpreted the man’s eyes to say
this, it was not said through Will’s thoughts, so I changed it to:
“Through the rear-view mirror, Will saw the driver’s eyes ask Mr.
Tenepior the question, ‘How in the world are you going to explain
this one?’” (Chapter 3) “Not a single student dared to budge
until he was finished” got changed to “Although most students
began to fidget, not a single student rose from his seat until he was
finished.” I had to make it so Will could see it happen because
“dared to budge” changed the perspective to the students’
viewpoint. (Chapter 4) “Indicating that she not only knew something
about baseball, but she had marveled at his hitting ability” got
changed to “Realizing that she not only knew something about
baseball, but had marveled at his hitting ability caused a surge of
icy pinpricks to pelt his body” so that Will was the one doing the
thinking instead of Stacey.
Key Point: As with any reading, explicit vocabulary instruction is
essential. One way a reader can figure out unknown words is by
breaking them down into meaningful parts.
Examples: (Chapter 11) incredulous (in-, not; + crēdulus, believing),
terrorists (terror + -ist, performer
of), irrationally (in- not;
+ rationalis, reason), sensible (sense +
of), disbelieving (dis-, not; + believe), disdainfully (disdain, scorn + ful, full of),
Key Point: (Chapter 17) Explore media literacy. Explore how media
(whether a commercial, music video, or paper advertisement) tries to
convey a message to its viewer. What methods are used to persuade? How
can we be intelligent viewers of this information?
Lesson: Use this as an opportunity to teach students how to become
intelligent viewers of the information that passes before their eyes.
Music videos are perfect for this. (This could tie in with a
discussion about propaganda.) View examples of each of these in class.
Tie the discussion in with thinking outside the box to interpret such
messages and the methods used to convey them. One could also have
students work on writing slogans of their own.
NOVEL TIES (For
literature circles or thematic ties after reading Red Cell):
The Giver by Lois Lowry
terrorism can be defined as ‘a calculated use of fear against
civilians to reach ideological goals,’ could Jonas (the book’s
hero) have actually been a terrorist?”
Responses: How would you answer this test question? Could one
say the same thing about Will in how he fought off Es Sayid? Could
this test question have given him the idea?
Point 2: In
what ways was Mark Tenepior like the Giver and Will like Jonas?
Both Will and Jonas disobeyed their parents. (b) The lessons/memories
were to be used to guide them in the situations they encountered. (c)
Who gave the lessons and what were their motives? (d) Neither Will nor
Jonas necessarily followed the rules. (e) Will and Jonas both wanted
to save their communities. Etc.
Holes by Louis Sachar
Key point: “Filling in the holes.”
Discussion Questions: (a) (Chapter 17) Why do readers need to search for
possible answers to the questions that come to our minds when we read?
How did Mr. Tenepior try to get his students to fill in the holes? (b)
“The second Ryan had mentioned seeing the next commercial, Will
realized everyone in this class might still find out his theory was
true. He hadn’t thought of that.” This hole was not fully
explained. If another attack occurred and the students saw the
correlating commercial, they would know Will’s theory was true. (c)
What other holes are there in the novel that need to be filled? Why is
it important as readers to connect our learning to things in our
lives? Why was it important for Mr. Tenepior to have his students fill
in the holes for themselves?
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Key Point: Seeking good thought.
Lesson: (Chapter 2) Have the same drawing contest. Scan the
mechanical hounds into your computer and insert it onto a labels
document. Print, cut, and hand out when students show good thought.
Key Point 2: (Chapter 11) Woman who burned with her books. Importance of
rationalizing one’s thoughts.
Discussion Questions: What’s it mean to have a strong conviction for a
belief? Why did Will feel so strongly that he needed to do something?
How did he rationalize getting himself into these situations?
Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park
Key Point: Getting over the “if only” possibilities
Discussion Questions: (Chapter 11) Why was it important for Will to move on
and stop concentrating on all the things that had gone wrong? What
mistakes did he make because of these feelings? How do the “if onlys”
come full circle to the end? (He became Stacey’s hero)
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Key Point: “You can’t fully understand a person until you’ve
walked two moons in his moccasins.”
Discussion Questions: (Chapter 13) How is that lesson expressed in this
story? Why do we need to see things from other’s point-of-view? Why
was it important for Will to understand Mr. Tenepior’s position?
FOR ADDITIONAL READING (For students looking for similar books to read):
Trapp: The Challenge by
Rider Adventure Series) by Anthony Horowitz
The Higher Institute of Villainous Education by
Q: Independence Hall
by Roland Smith
by Joe Craig
A James Bond Adventure by
High: Mission One
by AJ Butcher
by Christine Harris
I'd Tell You I Love You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls Series) by Ally Carter
Being an English/reading teacher myself, I have often been
faced with the difficult position of choosing literature for my
students that was both appealing and teachable. This search has
particularly been tricky when searching for a whole class adventure
novel. It seems that in our standards driven educational world,
choosing a novel to teach for the simple reason that it will help
students enjoy reading is not enough—the selection needs to also be
one of rigor and substance so that curricular aims can be met.
One particular hurdle I have had to face was the assertion that
the genre of adventure does not need to be read as a classroom novel
because they are the stories students will pick up and read on their
own. But my contention is that our reluctant readers won’t, because
they don’t realize how exciting and inviting a novel can be since
their experiences with literature may have only been reading books
assigned to them that they personally found uninteresting, difficult,
or ones they couldn’t connect to. What if they encountered a book
they could read easily, were interested in, and could feel connections
with as their first
experience with classroom reading, especially at such a difficult age
to motivate? Could this possibly help encourage them to read even
more? Could simple interest in reading self-foster the encouragement
of thinking through the writing? Might they begin to value reading as
a worthwhile experience? With this in mind, I wanted to help those
same teachers who feel exactly as I do with finding a teachable
adventure story. Thus I created these possible starter lessons to
support the classroom experience of reading Red Cell.