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Lesson Plan

Unit 4 Maniac Magee, Jerry Spinelli


Standards to be covered during Reading Mini-Lesson: 

  • RC 2.4 draw inferences, conclusions, or generalizations about text and support them with textual evidence and prior knowledge (5)
  • LRA 3.5 describe the function and effect of common literary devices (e.g., imagery, metaphor, symbolism) (2)
  • WA 1.5understand and explain the figurative and metaphorical use of words in context (4 questions)
  • LRA 3.3 contrast the actions, motives (loyalty, selfishness, conscientiousness), and appearances of characters in a work of fiction and discuss the importance of the contrasts to the plot or theme (2)
  • LRA 3.7 Evaluate the author's use of various techniques (e.g., appeal of characters in a picture book, logic and credibility of plots and settings, use of figurative language) to influence readers' perspectives. (2)


Sample Questions:

  • RC 2.4

-Based on the passage, why were some Native American trails built in a snake-like way?

-In this non-fiction passage, the author mainly… (generalization)

  • LRA 3.3

-What do Jamal’s parents have in common with Billy Hawkins?

-In paragraph 13, why are Rebeccah’s hands “trembling”?

  • LRA 3.5

-For Jamal, the baseball at the end of the story will most likely be a symbol of…

-When the music box plays again, it is a symbol of

  • LRA 3.7

-The author uses details like “creaky stairs” to show that the house…

-In P.3, why does the author tell about Mr. Toga’s false teeth?

Reading standards to be covered during Vocab Chat:

  • WA 1.2 use word origins to determine the meaning of unknown words (2)
  • WA 1.4 know abstract, derived roots and affixes from Greek and Latin, and use this knowledge to analyze the meaning of complex words (e.g., controversial) (3)


Sample Questions:

  • WA 1.2

-Read this sentence from passage 1… The origin of the word astronomer is the Greek word astro meaning…

  • WA 1.4

-In which word does able mean the same as it does in the word memorable?

-In this sentence, what does extraordinary mean?

-The word donated contains the Latin root don, meaning…

-The word distracted, is derived from the Latin root track, meaning “to draw.” Based on this information, the reader can tell the literal meaning of  to distract is..

-The prefix fore- in the word fortelling means…


  • End of week standards quiz?
  • Introduce each skill with a direct instruction lesson to define, guide practice, but then spiral all skills.
  • Students writing more.
  • Copy selections of text for practice underlining (or have students identifying page and paragraph #)
  • Book on cd: have lowest readers listen to it the day before



Lessons Ideas

Reading Journal

Week 19

Jan. 10-13


“Before the Story”- Chapter 6

Pages 1-27

T– Myths & Legends about Maniac: Before the Story-Ch. 2

Students will add 3 facts about “Maniac Magee’s” life to our t-chart of myth and reality.



Intro: myths, legends, rumors have similar meanings. Look at 3 different definitions. Book uses them interchangeably. This story is about a boy named Jeffery, who starts off with the life of a normal kid, but one day starts a series of events that start rumors about him and begin the legend of “Maniac Magee.” Create T-chart: myth/reality

Read aloud: “Before the story”

T-Chart: What are some of the legends about Maniac Magee?

(Born in a dump, has pet cockroach on a leash, rats guarded him while sleeping, salt made him run slower)

Teacher What make them myths/legends? What parts do you think are rooted in fact?  What parts sound exaggerated?

Students respond

Read Aloud: first 2 chapters. Students following along, looking for the truth about Maniac Magee

Ind. Work: Students add 3-4 facts to t-chart

T: explain fig. language “when something snowballs”


Explain this line from p. 2: But that’s okay, because the history of a kid is one part fact, two parts legend, and three parts snowball.

W –Timeline: Chapters 3-4


Prep by stringing yarn across white board, use large index cards/half sheets of cardstock and paperclips to add events

Recap: One of the things that makes Maniac a legend is how far he ran during “The Lost Year.” What caused Maniac Magee to start running?

T: focuses on one year full of action and significant events. Start a timeline of events to keep track. “The Lost Year”

-What’s the first event? (Fled class play, ran) T. writes this one, volunteers write the rest.

-What happened before that? These events took place before “The Lost Year” which the book focuses on. (parents died in car crash, moves in with aunt and uncle who argue) Add setting when possible to each card

Read: Chapters 3 & 4. Listening for what we will add

Partners: Discuss what we should add next. How many cards?

Class: add a card for day 1 w/main events that happened on that day (won’t know all yet)

Why is Amanda distrustful of Jeffery at first? Why is Maniac drawn to Amanda?

Th – Context Clues: Chapters 5-6

Students will use context clues to try and define at least 3 words from a chapter of Maniac Magee read aloud.

Recap: The start of ch. 4 says “Jeffery made three other appearances that day.” That means he was seen 4 times the first day after he ran away. Where the first two places he was seen that day?

Read: Chapter 5

Model: Volunteer student reads: The kids knew Arnold had a case of the finsterwallies because his teeth were chattering and his body was shaking.

T:What might the underlined word mean?”  After a correct response (some sort of condition/disease by which the victim shakes and chatters his teeth), teacher says, “It’s a made-up word, so there’s no way you could have known what it meant before now. How were you able to figure out what it meant?”

Notes: make poster with steps. Students copy notes as well. (students copy bold words?)

Independent work: Students try process for words in 5 & 6 (worksheet)

Wrap-Up: Read ch. 6 together and confirm/adjust definitions.

Add cards to story sequence

What do we know about Maniac Magee so far? How would you describe him?

Week 20

Jan. 17-20


Chapters 7-


T – Author’s Techniques & Literary Devices: Chapters 7-8

Students will answer 8 short answer and mpc questions about figurative language in chapters 2-7 of the book including questions that identify type of figurative language and author’s purpose in using that phrase. Students should correctly answer at least 6/8 questions.

Recap: volunteer read our sequence of “The Lost Year” so far. Predictions? Questions?

T: This book includes lots of figurative language. Need to slow down sometimes to figure out what the author is trying to tell you. Might use a metaphor or simile to show you how a character is feeling or acting. Might write that someone is “shaking like a leaf” instead of saying “they were scared.” As we read, listen for figurative language and give a thumbs up if you hear an example. Before we read, let’s review different types of figurative language. List student responses (idiom, hyperbole, metaphor, simile, personification)

Read: chapters 7 & 8

Guided Practice: Go through “gang plank” example on handout demo. Short answer and mpc response.

Independent Work: Complete the handout. If students finish early, reread chapters 7 & 8 and tally how many of each type of figurative language is used.

Wrap-Up: Correct together. Add events to time line

The last sentence of ch. 8 is an example of foreshadowing. It means the author is hinting at what’s to come. What do you predict might happen next?

This is what he was doing when his life, as it often seemed to do, took an unexpected turn.

W – Character Analysis:  Chapters 9-10 (11 if time)

Students will participate in the “write and pass” shared inquiry protocol to respond to 4 different questions about character motivations and respond to other students’ answers to those same questions.

Recap: Turn and talk: Why is Jeffery known as “Maniac Magee?”

T: Things characters say and do tell us about their personality. As we read we think about a character’s motivations—meaning why they do the things they do and what it tells us about their personality. As we read today, focus on the characters: Jeffery, John McNab and Amanda.

Read aloud: Chapters 9-11

Model: “Write and Pass” shared inquiry protocol. Groups of 4. First person responds. Focus on role of following students. “I agree because” or “I also think that…”

What did it mean when Spinelli wrote that “The Cobras were laughing because they figured the dumb, scraggly runt would get out of the East End in about as good shape as a bare big toe in a convention of snapping turtles?

Th – Oral Reading Fluency:

Chapters 12-13

Students will practice reading a text at their level aloud (to a buddy) with expression.

T: Readers of all levels need to work on oral reading fluency including expression. Here are some types of punctuation to look out for because they tell you how to read something aloud. Distribute p. 22 Fluency Lessons for the Overhead: Punctuation & Signals Poster + add apostrophe indicates you don’t say that missing letter/syllable

Student Volunteers: Reread ch. 11.

Read aloud: Chapters 12-13

Wrap-Up: Anything to add to timeline? Try with buddy reading after recess for JR book

How can you tell that Jeffery is happy to be staying at the Beales’ house?

Week 21

Jan. 23-27


Chapters 1


M – Word Parts

Students will use their knowledge of three prefixes to guess the meaning of 3 vocabulary words in our reading today.

Chapters 14-16

Intro word parts that will help us unlock bigger words that we might not know. If we see words with these roots and affixes this week, we will write them on an index card and add to our chart.

Prefix: con/com-together, with (converge), p. 51

Fore-before (foretelling at end of each chapter) forefront

Dis-not (dislike, people dislike that maniac is so different) end of ch. 17

1. Why is Jeffery afraid of losing his name?

2. In chapter 15, both Jeffery and Mrs. Beale do something they regret. Explain.

3. What changes for Maniac at the end of this chapter?

Tu – Oral Reading Fluency:

Students will practice reading the text aloud (to a buddy) with expression.

Read: Chapters 17-18

Practice with student volunteers: 1) I can handle that? 2) I can handle that? 3) I can handle that? 4) I can handle that! (write one at a time on projector, discuss implied meaning with each change)

Students practice reading chapter 18 aloud. Switch every paragraph. (Every indent!)


Why do Jeffery and Amanda get in an argument?

W – Character Motivations

Students will respond to the following question in their reading notebooks with at least 5 sentences:

Why does Jeffery decide to leave the Beale home?

Read: chapters 19-21

How did Amanda get the idea that Jeffery should try to untangle Cobbler’s knot?

Why did Jeffery take on the challenge of untangling Cobbler’s knot?

List: Pros and cons of leaving Beale home

Turn & Talk: What should he have done? Did he make the right decision?

How do you think Amanda is going to feel when she finds out Jeffery is gone?

Why does Jeffery decide to leave the Beale home?

Th – Main Idea

Students will summarize the most important events in chapters 22 and 23 in a one paragraph summary no longer than 7 sentences.

Read: chapters 22-23

Why did the author decide to start “Part 2” right here? How has the story shifted?

What are the main events of these chapters? Who are the most important characters?

Partner talk: summarize each paragraph

Reading journals: write a summary. Use names instead of pronouns.

Do you think Amanda will pop up in the story again?

What might this idea be that Greyson has?

Week 22

Jan. 30-Feb. 3


Chapters 26-35

M – Word Parts

 On Friday, students will be able to give the meaning and an example word for each of this week’s 2 affixes and 1 root.

Chs 26-28

Introduce word study: give students prefix/suffix/root and students brainstorm words on their whiteboards to determine meaning of each affix/root

Prefix: Pre

Root: Kind

Affix: Er

Start list in notebooks with 3 columns

What kind of habits did Maniac pick up with the Beales that he still has?

T – Figurative Language

Students will add 3 examples of different types of figurative language to a table.


Read 29-31 Keep your eye out for figurative language

Create a table: Similes, Metaphors, Idioms, Hyperboles

Add an example or two to the table

Students reread chapters with a partner and add at least 3 examples

Regroup, share results, add to one big chart

Students pick one to explain

Explain what the first paragraph of chapter 29 means


Why did Maniac give an address to the band shell?


W – Character Motivations

Students will participate in the “write and pass” shared inquiry protocol to respond to 4 different questions about character motivations and respond to other students’ answers to those same questions.

32-33 “Write and Pass” shared inquiry protocol. Groups of 4. First person responds. Focus on role of following students.

-        Why did Maniac read all the books Greyson had learned to read after finding Greyson dead? (ch.32)

-        Why does Maniac run away from Greyson’s funeral? (ch. 33)

-        Why does Maniac move out of the band shell? (ch. 33)

-        On page 123, what does it mean when Maniac thinks, “No one else would orphan him?” (ch.33)

Before today’s reading: Reread the end of ch. 31 & make a prediction: How will Maniac’s life change now?

Th – Summarize

Students will give a chapter title to today’s two chapters that best represents the main events of each chapter.

Read: 34-35

Name the chapters activity: before reading, go back and name chapters 32 & 33 (model and add with main events to chapter summary page)

After reading, students work independently to do the same for chapters 32 & 33

Challenge: go back and do chapters 26-33



Week 23

Feb. 6-10


Graphic timeline of the story

M – Word Parts

On Friday, students will be able to give the meaning and an example word for each of this week’s 2 affixes and 1 root.


Students will form groups to work with for the timeline activity, assign jobs.

Introduce word study: give students prefix/suffix/root and students brainstorm words on their whiteboards to determine meaning of each affix/root

Prefix: Un

Root: Test

Suffix: Less

Start list in notebooks with 3 columns


We will finish Maniac Magee this week. The plot will come to a climax and several of the characters we already met will return to the story. You will see Maniac meet some new challenges and you will see something that Maniac isn’t able to do.  We will also find out where Maniac makes a home.

Chapters: 36-37


Explain group timeline project and assign roles.

36: How does Maniac’s reputation help him control Russell and Piper?

37: What is a heroic feat? What heroic feats does he accomplish in chapter 37?

Vocab: perilousà Do you think Maniac thinks it is a perilous challenge to go to the East End?

Why the asterisk on page 142? Explain the reference.

T –  Group Timeline

The class will order the setting changes throughout the books and add to their timeline drafts.



Chapters 38-40

 Often when studying a person’s life, we look at where they were living at the time since it may be significant to what’s going on in their life. When Ms. Schmid lived in Seattle, it was because she was in college. When she moved to Europe, she was studying architecture. Today we are going to outline the places that Maniac lived and put the different setting changes in sequential order.

Focus on ordering the major sections/setting changes of the book. Write each on a piece of paper (volunteers tell where and with who) and then class will work to order the locations.

  1. West End, living in the zoo
  2. East End, living with the Beales
  3. West End, living with Greyson
  4. West End, Valley Forge
  5. West End, living with the McNabs
  6. Homeless, wanders

East End, living with the Beales

40: Why is Maniac so concerned about Russell and Piper?

W – Group Timeline

Groups will add at least 8 major events to their time line drafts.

Chapters 41-43

Add the most important events to the timeline:

  1. As a class, add one or two: Grayson’s death, Leaving home),
  2. In groups, brainstorm at least 8 more, may include Maniac’s heroic feats. Include character names!


In Chapter 41, it says about the West and East Enders, “the less they knew about each other, the more they invented.” What does this mean? Do you have any examples from the book?

Th – Group Timeline Final Draft

Groups will work together to create their final drafts illustrated timelines. (Finish on Friday if necessary)

Chapters 44-46

Discussion: How would the story have changed if Maniac had saved Russell? Will the Beales have trouble again about having Maniac on the East End? Why or why not?


Add the last events to your draft; begin final timeline that will be posted in the class/school.

How is race a major theme of this book? What do you think the author wants us to learn from this fictional novel?

Lesson Resources



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