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Create a Unit on Maniac Magee

written by: Patricia Gable • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 4/5/2012

Maniac Magee is a perfect choice for middle school readers when you are studying issues like racial tension, diversity or themes about making a difference in the world. The main character influences many people by his nonjudgmental actions as he searches for a home in a small town.

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    Written as a folk tale, Maniac Magee is the story of a twelve year old homeless boy who wants to live in Two Mills. He soon discovers33344557.JPG that the town is racially divided but he doesn’t understand why this is true. As he tries to fit in, his actions change the lives of many in the town. Use the Maniac Magee unit lessons to help you get the most out of this book.

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    Unit Objectives

    1. To acquire new vocabulary and be able to use the words appropriately in writing.

    2. To understand and express story details

    3. To describe book characters with list of adjectives

    4. To complete a related creative writing assignment

    5. To be able to find examples of similes and metaphors

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    Acquisition of New Vocabulary


    1. Kaboodle-page 5; the whole amount of people or things

    2. emanations-page 18; something abstract that originates from a source

    3. poleax-page 54; a short handled ax with a spike at the back

    4. pickpocket-page 69; someone who steals from another person’s pockets

    5. pandemonium-page 25; wild and noisy uproar

    6. legend-page 8; unverified historical tale or a famous/infamous person

    7. repertoire-page 97; a group of skills or behaviors that a person often uses

    8. replica-page 123; an exact copy

    9. ecstatic-page 149; overwhelmingly happy or excited

    10. gabble-page 164; talking rapidly with meaningless sounds

    11. seething- page 165; bubbling up; unexpressed angry

    12. gauntlet- page 165; a challenge or punishment of running between two lines of enemies

    13. trestle -page 168; supporting framework of a bridge

    14. maniac -page 28; a person with wild behavior

    15. dovetailed -page 171; fits together easily

    Activities for vocabulary words:

    a. Put words in alphabetical order.

    b. Use a dictionary and context clues from the book (provide page numbers of where the words are found) to write the meaning of each word.

    c. Write sentences using each vocabulary word.

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    Short Answer Questions

    Answer the questions below in complete sentences with proper punctuation.

    1.When he lived at the Beales, “sometimes Maniac just sat at the front window, being on the inside." Why is this a meaningful statement? (He savored the security and joy of being in a family.)

    2. “Maniac was blind. Sort of." are the first two statements of chapter sixteen. What couldn’t he see? (The difference between white and black and why it mattered to some people.)

    3. In chapter seventeen, a man yells at Maniac, “Black is black! White is white! The sheep lie not with the lion." What does he mean? ( Like a sheep and a lion, black and white should stay apart. The lion(white) will devour the sheep(black).

    Maniac Magee

    4. How does the reader know that Mars Bar Thompson changed after his experiences with Maniac.(He wanted him to live on the black end of town. He rescued the McNab boys.)

    5. Why couldn’t Maniac save the children who were stuck on the trestle? His parents had died there and the thought of it made him unable to help the children.

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    Literary Devices

    Maniac Magee is sprinkled with literary devices. If you have multiple copies of the book, break up into small groups and assign chapters from the book to each group. Instruct students to scan the text in the chapters to find examples of similes and metaphors.

    Metaphor- comparing things by saying one thing is another

    Describing Arnold:“He’s paralyzed, a mouse in front of the yawning maw of a python."

    Simile- comparing two unlike things using the words like, as or as though

    page 18 “ Arnold Jones’s teeth are chattering like snare drums."

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    Maniac Magee is a Newbery award winner that deals with the issue of racial tension. Use Maniac Magee unit lessons to help you get the most out of this book. Continue to the next article for more ideas. If you need to provide students with a study guide, use this link:

Maniac Magee Study Guide

Use this series of articles to assist you with a unit on Maniac Magee. Included are vocabulary words, short answer questions, character analysis activity, additional books with common theme and a classroom activity.
  1. Create a Unit on Maniac Magee
  2. Activities and Games with Maniac Magee
  3. Lesson Plan for Maniac Magee