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                                                                                                1st Chapter       Teaser

Reading Instruction Think Outside the Box Show vs. Tell
Foreshadowing Voice Imagery
Perspective Vocabulary Slogans
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 the story.

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.

Key Point 2: An author’s use of various devices can add complexity to the plot.

Example #1: Parallels between teacher and student. (a) 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 writing?

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. Pose the question, what if they asked a teenager to be a red teamer? Is the Red Cell’s role an important one?

            Questioning Skills

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 questions.

Lesson: Use the questioning sheet with chapter one to introduce how a reader’s mind should continually be asking questions to understand the reading.

            Drawing Conclusions

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 mentioned before.

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?


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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 in showing.

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 couldn’t sleep.

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 are.


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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.”

Examples: (Chapter 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 handling herself.

Lesson: Use this 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.


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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 news program.

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 head.

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.


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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 + -ible, capable of), disbelieving (dis-, not; + believe), disdainfully (disdain, scorn + ful, full of), etc.



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.


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NOVEL TIES (For literature circles or thematic ties after reading Red Cell):

          The Giver by Lois Lowry

Key Point: If 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?”

Discussion 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?

Key Point 2: In what ways was Mark Tenepior like the Giver and Will like Jonas?

Discussion Responses: (a) 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 in life.

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?


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FOR ADDITIONAL READING (For students looking for similar books to read):

Steel Trapp: The Challenge by Ridley Pearson

Stormbreaker (Alex Rider Adventure Series) by Anthony Horowitz

The Lab by Jack Heath

H.I.V.E.: The Higher Institute of Villainous Education by Mark Walden

I, Q: Independence Hall by Roland Smith

Jimmy Coates: Target by Joe Craig

Silverfin: A James Bond Adventure by Charlie Higson

Spi High: Mission One by AJ Butcher

Sure Fire by Jack Higgins

Undercover Girl: Secrets 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.


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