Fitting In and Acceptance
Stephanie S. Tolan's Surviving the Applewhites is a novel that has themes with which most middle school students can identify — fitting in and acceptance. The crazy family and Jake Semple all have wild quirks. They all must work together and get along, much like middle school students.
From E.D. to Jake, this book has many characters. Sometimes, it is difficult for students to deal with all of them. Assign the Surviving the Applewhites Character Identity Poster activity to help students keep all the characters straight.
Making the Posters
Students will need colored pencils, markers and copy paper to complete this activity.
Step 1 — Each student needs to select a character. If the class is small, each student can choose one character. If the class is large, just make sure that every character is chosen, even family pets/animals.
Step 2 — Ask the students to find a quote from the novel that shows the character's personality. The quote needs to be copied exactly and the page number should be noted.
Step 3 — Tell the students to put the character's name in large letters on the top of the copy paper.
Step 4 — Direct the students to draw the character from description in the novel. Underneath the picture, the student needs to write the quote neatly.
Assess this activity using a rubric. Criteria for the rubric can be choice of quote, neatness, use of color, and creativity. Students should share their character identity posters with the class when they are complete.
Class Discussion of Theme
Middle school is a difficult time for many students as they try to fit in and become popular. This book offers a chance to discuss "what is normal," fitting in, and how being different or unusual can sometimes be beneficial.
Once students can identify all of the characters, discuss the characters' quirky and unusual personalities. Some students will find this family to be quite different from their families. However, it is interesting to discuss how their families all do things differently, such as how they prepare breakfast in the morning. What is normal to one student will be unusual to another. The Surviving the Applewhites Character Identity Poster activity discussion should end with an attitude of tolerance.