a Documentary Novel by Avi
A Study Guide to the Novel and Related Readings
Text (novel and short pieces): Literature Connections
series, McDougal Littell, 1997
Extensions | For
the Teacher (includes Resources)
A Nice Old-Fashioned Romance,
with Love Lyrics and Everything
from Journey to Washington
Nothing But the Truth
To be completed before, during or after reading the novel
and related stories.
1. Using a Google search, your encyclopedia, or resources
found in the library, collect three interesting thoughts/facts
about one of the following to present to the class (your teacher
will assign you a topic). You will present over the next 2 weeks.
||Japan in 1939 - political and military news
||Hawaii's relationship to the USA in 1939
|the 1st Amendment
||The Call of the Wild - a novel by Jack London
||Locate and read 2 reviews of The Outsiders by S.E.
2. What is the Truth? - Your teacher
will structure this activity.
3. As a class, visit Cagle's
Editorial Cartoon Site. Your teacher
will guide you through one or two activities.
4.. Patriotism - What is it? Discuss this
with your parents, grandparents, and other adults. In your reading
journal, take notes on their points of view. Quote them if possible.
Ask them if you may post their words on the bulletin board. In
class, you will write a paragraph expressing your own opinion.
5. Create your own editorial cartoon which presents any one of
the themes or problems in Nothing But the Truth or in
your class What is theTruth? activity.
I. Read A Nice Old-Fashioned Romance,
with Love Lyrics and Everything by William Saroyan. In your
writing journal, respond to the story. Discuss the title.
Try to ask at least 2 questions that can be discussed in class.
- HW: If you were the narrator, what would you tell your
classmates after leaving Mr. Derringer's office the 2nd time?
- In class: read aloud the conversations on p. 204-206
(top) between Mr. Derringer and the narrator.
- This is a dialogue. What punctuation marks are missing?
How does the author make it possible for you to follow the
dialogue without the usual punctuation?
- What do you learn about the character traits of the narrator?
Of Mr. Derringer?
- How would the narrator's punishment be handled today, at
your school? Is the narrator's punishment fair?
- Answer either the odd or even-numbered questions on the
Romance Story worksheet
(.doc). (.pdf version)
- Discuss your answers in the assigned group - all group members
should agree on the best reply to each question. Your group
will be called upon to lead a discussion of 2 or 3 questions.
- HW: Define "impertinent" - quote at least 3 specific
examples from the story which suggest that this word applies to
the narrator. Bring these to class tomorrow. We will
make them into a paragraph.
Read the selection from Journey to Washington
and respond to the story in your writing journal. Try to ask
two questions which can be answered in class. Focus your comments
on the people in the story - how they act, why they act this way.
Compare this narrator to the narrator in Romance.
- In-class: Clarify the difference between fiction and
non-fiction. Define autobiography, 1st
person narration and motive. How does
the author make this autobiographical story interesting to the
reader? Identify the 3 main characters in the story who do something
which affects the narrator in some way.. Working with your group,
make a chart which identifies the important action of each which
affects the author/narrator, the motive for this
action and how it affects the narrator.
- HW: Study the punctuation of the dialogue on p.215. Study where
the quotation marks (" ") are placed,
where words are capitalized and not capitalized, and where the
punctuation ( , . ! ) is placed.
In the blank space on p. 210, write 3 rules for the punctuation
of dialogue. Try out your rules by putting quotation marks
around the dialogue on the top half of p. 205. Use
- HW: Select one of the following topics and prepare hand-written
notes or a writing plan to bring to class. Include main characters,
notes about the narrator's personality, a timeline of what happens.
Limit your story to no more than 3 days! We will turn your
notes into a fiction or non-fiction story. You will be writing
in the 1st person.
- A time that I told the truth and no one believed me.
- A time that I stood up for something which I believed in.
But the Truth -
As you read this book, you are to keep a journal. You must pretend
that you are a student in Harrison High, in 11th or 12th grade,
and also an ace reporter for the school newspaper. Some of your
journal entries will be diary entries and some will be news articles.
I will collect and read your journals every 3 days. After we have
finished the novel, 4 of your entries will be rewritten and posted
on the board for all to admire.
- Pages 4-9: Respond in your diary:
What type of school administrator would organize the beginning
of the day this way? How would you organize it? Comment on a memory
you have about Dr. Palleni (you have to make this up).Write about
Philip Malloy - what would you put it a news story about this
new freshman? Comment on your old teacher, Miss Narwin - looking
back on her, what was she really like (draw your information from
her letter, do not make it up). What do you think of when you
say her name? Comment on what is important to you - what
are your goals for this year? For your life? Be truthful.
- Chapters 2-4: An editorial for the school newspaper: Respectful
Write about respect as it is found in your school.
Comment on Mr. Lunser's behavior during the Anouncements, on the
general attitude of 9th grade boys toward girls, on the attitude
of students toward their exams and their teachers. You should
mention events from the reading assignment, but you should also
express your own opinion.
- Chapters 5-8: Respond in your diary:
Write about "the money crunch" - the need
for money (yours, your family's, your school's), what it is needed
for, and respond to the idea that there may not be enough of it.
Imagine something that you (as an 11th or 12th grader) want which
costs money - imagine how you will feel if the money is not available.
Then respond to a poor grade which you have gotten
on a major test.
- Chapter 9: An article for the school newspaper: Rules
In the article, give the facts and interview
the Coach, Miss Narwin and Philip. Be careful not to give your
Be prepared to discuss this question in class tomorrow:
Why does Philip not tell his father the truth about the track
team? Is he telling himself the truth? What are some strategies
you can think of to help him get along better with Miss Narwin?
- Chapter 10 to page 55 (we will read the rest aloud in class):
Respond in your diary:
You have heard about Narwin vs. Philip Malloy and
about the humming. What do you think?
Also - in play form, record a conversation you had
at the dinner table with one or both of your parents.
- Chapter 11-12 to p.83: Respond in your diary:
Pressure - what are the pressures on you? Talk about
pressures you teachers and/or parents and/or friends might be
feeling. How do these pressures affect the way you act and react?
Rewards - what has someone said or done to make you feel
good about yourself, to make you feel your efforts are worthwhile?
Be prepared in class to discuss Mr. Malloy's problems
and what "sticking up for yourself" means in these chapters.
Be prepared to discuss the relationship Mr. Malloy has with his
- p. 84-99: Write an article for the newspaper: Student
Suspended for Humming
Include in your article the facts and statements
from Philip, Miss Narwin, Dr. Palleni, Ken Barchet, and one of
Philip's parents. The point of the article is to try to
uncover and express the truth.
Be prepared to discuss in class: Why does Philip
try to stop his father from calling Ted Griffin? What happens
to the "truth" on p.96-99? How could this have been
- Chapter 13: Write a humorous article for the newspaper: 10
Rules We Should Have (but don't)
- Chapter 14: You must also either listen to 10 minutes
of a 6:30 news report or read any front page newspaper article
& bring it to class. Respond in your diary:
In English class you discussed the topic: Does the
News Media Control Our Opinions? Write your further thoughts
about the topic. Refer to the news article on p.113. Are any of
your opinions controlled by the news media - about President Clinton,
about fashion, about sports or TV shows or movies, about anything?
Also answer this question: How do the adults in your
life influence your opinions. Give at least one good example.
- We will take a pause from reading to read the Bill of
Rights in class. And we will have a test on chapters
- Chapter 15: Respond in your laptop journal/diary: Imagine
You have heard the Jack Barlow Talk Show. What do
you think of Jake and his callers? Do you agree with their points
of view? What would you write to Miss Narwin
& to Philip? (we will write those postcards and telegrams
at the very beginning of class tomorrow)
- Chapter 16: Respond in your diary to Philip Malory's motives
In class, be prepared to respond to Dr. Seymour's
- Chapter 17-18:
Respond in your diary to what Miss Narwin tells the
reporter, Mr. Duval, on p.191-2. Do you agree that people like
to hear the worst and rarely seek out or talk about the best?
Give some examples of this.
Write a short newspaper article: Students
Support Narwin, which reports on what might have happened
if a student petition had been circulated.
- Chapter 19: Respond in your diary:
What do you make of the ending of the book? What
is fair, what is not fair? You need to pretend that you, the student,
know "the whole story." It is time to present your opinion.
the Teacher -
This book is often recommended for a grade level significantly
above its reading level (5ish). The events of the last two years
have significantly increased its popularity in the classroom. Applications
to current events and to "life" abound on the Internet.
This book can be read very quickly by a 7th, 8th or 9th grade student.
Internet resources, in addition to lesson plans, make it important
to consider completing at least one of the Extension or Pre-Reading
Activities (see above and the resources
below). I suggest purchasing the McDougall
Littell edition, with stories and nonfiction readings, if possible.
I suggest (and have used in 6th grade) a 4-part study of the novel:
Extensions, a reading of two short works (A
Nice Old-Fashioned Romance, with Love Lyrics and Everything
, a short story by William Saroyan and Journey
to Washington, a nonfiction memoir by Daniel Inouye), the novel,
and a final reading of The Catbird Seat by James Thurber.
Other short fiction and non-fiction works can, of course, be substituted.
I have selected works that place a protagonist in "the horns
of a dilemna not of his/her making," that reflect cultural
preconception and/or that require the reader to make much of little
prose. I would love to extend this list - please send ideas to Least
It is, I think, appropriate to the reading of this novel that students
keep a diary or journal. This can be digital or hand-written, but
it should be strictly: private, used daily, reflective.
on the Extensions -
- #1 covers the topics that are addressed if you cover all 4
parts of the lesson as I have presented it. The topics relate
to the stories as well as to the novel.
- #2 - this would be a wonderful use of iMovie and digital imaging
or digital recording. The What
is the Truth? activity is my own. It is designed as
a simulation activity. Teacher Notes and Background Materials
- #3 is a powerful activity. At the Cagle
site you will find a link to Teacher Activities. The Middle
School and High School activities are appropriate to this novel.
I would recommend either of the first two activities, followed
by the Bingo Game (time allowing). The cartoons in the site
change frequently. However, under the Best Cartoons of the Year
xxxx, you will find a subdivision of cartoons categorized as
"Dissent and Civil Liberties" (in 2001 cartoons, it
was #3). Search for and have your students focus upon these
cartoons. I have included questions
which might be used in class or for HW in conjunction with a
cartoon that you photocopy from a local resource. You may
capture this page and use it as it, but you will need FrontPage
extensions installed on your web server. If you wish to post
to the Least Tern site, please contact
us well ahead of time.
- #4 - Another powerful use of digital recording hardware, if
it is available to you.
- #5 - this requires that you spend some time with the Cagle
site or with the newspaper. Copying and distributing cartoons
to students on paper is allowed under fair use for education,
provided you do not publish them on the Internet (or elsewhere),
cite them correctly and fully, and limit the use to a 1-time
activity. This will keep your cartoon selections current!
Two other good Extensions are available online. Find them in
Resources (selective list)
- Avi Web Site - biography,
some comment by him, his works
But the Truth Publisher's page - commercial, but good ideas
for "openers" and theme discussions
- Value discussion
guides - uses the text to focus discussions on topics such
as "value-laden words" and "fact vs. opinion"
- good Extension activities
WebQuest-like activity - focused upon developing Persuasive
Reading skills using a selected use of primary and secondary sources
- uses frames
- Novels for 6th - 7th graders that can work well with this one:
- Alice in Wonderland
- The Giver
- A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver
- Slake's Limbo