Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli is one of the best books I've ever taught my fifth graders. There are themes of friendship, family, racism, courage and love. At the beginning of the book, readers are introduced to Jeffery Magee, an orphan made to live with his aunt and uncle who hate each other. They fight about everything, even Jeffery! One day, Jeffery, also known as Maniac has had enough and runs away to the other side of town. The side where no one from his side goes. There, he is faced with many different challenges and adventures.
Because of the way the book is written, setting and characters play a big part. This hands-on and engaging activity is brilliant because it asks students to think deeply about how setting is important to the story as well as the different characters whom Maniac meets along the way.
When thinking about setting, students choose a place Maniac went to and describe why it is important to the story and how the story might change if that place didn't exist.
When thinking about the characters in the story, students are asked to choose 3 important characters and tell their character traits and why he/she was important to the story and how he/she changed during the story. Finally, students draw how they visualized the characters while reading,
There is a separate page dedicated to Maniac Magee and it is a character map that gets pasted on the side of the soda carrier. Students also label the soda carrier with the theme of the story, their rating of the story and a picture and explanation of their favorite part.
Teachers can decide whether this is an on-going activity that students complete while reading Maniac Magee or something that is done after students have finished reading the book.
I would love to hear your feedback if you choose to use this activity in your classroom!