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Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Teacher Guide by Becky Harvey

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Student Activities for Out of My Mind Include:

Melody is a brilliant girl with an almost photographic memory. She has amazing thoughts and ideas, but she’s never shared them with anyone. In fact, she’s never spoken a word. Melody lives with cerebral palsy, and people don’t realize that she is gifted, because she can’t control her body. She’s never been able to communicate, and she is extremely frustrated. When her school starts using an inclusion model, Melody is given the opportunity to be around “normal” kids. With the help of her neighbor, Ms. Valencia, who believes Melody can do amazing things, her new aid, Catherine, and a computerized speaking device, Melody finally finds her voice. She surprises everyone with how much intelligence hides inside her afflicted body.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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A Quick Synopsis of Out of My Mind (Contains Plot Spoilers)

Melody is incredibly smart and has an impressive memory. She can remember every song, every person, and every fact she ever comes across. She has a million things to say. Unfortunately, she’s never been able to say anything or communicate in any truly meaningful way; she was born with cerebral palsy and can’t control her body, including her vocal chords. Up until this point, she has been an only child. Her parents give her all the love in the world, but they don’t always understand her, because she can only communicate through grunts and small movements with one arm.

Melody’s neighbor, a sweet woman named Violet Valencia, takes care of her often, when Melody’s parents are working. Ms. V has so much faith in Melody and has never allowed her to use her disability as an excuse. Ms. V knows how smart Melody is, and she wants Melody to make everyone else understand that as fact. She pushes Melody to learn and even teaches her to read. Melody’s own doctors have never thought she was capable of learning, but Ms. V puts them in their place by teaching her to read. She even sets up a communication board to let Melody tell people how she’s feeling and what she needs. It’s not fancy, but Melody can point to the word hungry or bathroom and people can know what she needs. She no longer feels like she is trapped.

When Melody’s mom becomes pregnant, Melody and her parents worry that the baby might also have cerebral palsy. Penny, the new baby, has no issues at all. In addition to a new baby sister, Melody also finds out that she will able to go to school as a fifth-grader in an inclusion-model school setting. This means that she will be able to participate in regular classes with “normal” kids. Melody will finally have the opportunity to feel like a (somewhat) normal kid and make friends her own age.

Once school starts, Melody gets a one-on-one aide, Catherine. Catherine is very nice and very helpful. She treats Melody like a real person, not just a challenged kid. She helps Melody take full advantage of the classes in which she participates. She even helps Melody to acquire a fancy, new computer that helps Melody to really communicate with the people around her and show how intelligent she really is.

Within months of getting her new communication computer, Melody is winning competitions at school and becoming a team-member of the school’s prestigious quiz show team. Melody’s one new friend, Rose, is also on the team. Unfortunately, a bully named Claire is on the team as well. Rose is Melody’s cheerleader, while Claire constantly puts Melody down. She even accuses Melody of cheating. The team’s teacher/advisor, Mr. Dimmings, is reluctant to believe that Melody is capable enough to be on the team, but admits he is wrong when Melody is the only person to score perfectly on the tryout test. Ms. V and Melody’s parents are proud of her for making the team. Melody and Ms. V study industriously for weeks, preparing for the regional quiz show, which will be televised. Though Melody is nervous, she is excited.

Melody helps lead her team to victory, and they earn a trip to the national quiz show in Washington DC. The team celebrates by going to dinner and Melody has a hard time getting into the restaurant and eating. (It’s not handicap accessible and she has a very hard time eating anyway.) Claire throws up at the table. The festivities end, and Melody feels like even though Claire was the one who made a scene, Melody was the one who was being looked at. The local media goes berserk and the local newspaper runs a story about the team winning, but the focus is on Melody and her handicap. The team is unhappy that Melody is getting all the attention. Melody and her teammates practice everyday after school for two weeks.

Finally, when the big day comes, Melody and her mom drive to the airport only to learn that there is a huge weather system that has made the airlines cancel all flights. To make matters worse, Melody’s team had met for breakfast, not invited her, and arrived at the airport early. This gave them the opportunity to catch an earlier flight when the airlines started cancelling. Nobody called Melody to tell her.

The team loses without Melody. Her mother says she ought to stay home from school. It’s a miserable rainy day, and her mom thinks she’d be better off not seeing the team on the first day back. Melody insists on going. While they are backing out of the driveway, Penny runs behind the car and is hit. Melody had tried to warn her mom, but was unable. She was helpless. She feels like she had the day her goldfish had jumped out of its bowl. Melody is frantic that Penny will have brain damage and wind up like her, in a wheelchair, unable to communicate. She feels like it is her fault for insisting on going to school.

Penny is fine. Melody returns to school and her teammates are guilt-ridden for leaving her behind, as well as depressed for having lost. They try to give her their tacky, tiny participation trophy, but she smashes it. She thinks they deserve it. Mr. Dimmings apologizes to Melody for underestimating her. Melody leaves her inclusion classroom.


Essential Questions for Out of My Mind

  1. How important is the ability to communicate?
  2. How can appearances be deceiving?
  3. What sort of impact does our behavior towards others truly have?

Out of My Mind Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Plot Diagram | Out of My Mind Summary


Copy Assignment



Have students create a plot diagram of the events from the Out of My Mind book. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures. Sometimes students will really have to think carefully about which events are major turning points in the plot.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the story in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.


Example Out of My Mind Plot Diagram

Exposition

Melody is a very intelligent eleven year-old girl. She is wheelchair-bound because her cerebral palsy makes it difficult for her to control her muscles. Melody is also unable to speak. Her parents and Ms. V take care of her.


Conflict

Melody enters an inclusion classroom. She gets the chance to interact with "normal" kids. Not all teachers and students welcome her into the school or treat her like everyone else.


Rising Action

Melody joins the the school's quiz team. She becomes the best on the team, despite what Mr. D and other students thought at first.


Climax

The Whiz Kids plan to travel to the national competition. When Melody arrives at the airport with her mother, she finds that flights have been cancelled because of bad weather. The other team members took an earlier flight and never called her. The quiz team loses without Melody.


Falling Action

When Melody is going to school, Penny runs out because she loves riding in the car. Her mother hits Penny. Melody tried to warn her mother, but could not communicate it. Melody fears Penny will also get brain damage and end up like her.


Resolution

While Penny does get injured, she is fine. When Melody goes to school, the other students on the quiz team give Melody the plastic 9th-place trophy. Melody breaks it and leaves the inclusion classroom.


Out of My Mind Plot Diagram
Create your own at Storyboard That Image Attributions: best of country music (https://www.flickr.com/photos/cdrummbks/6029701101/) - cdrummbks - License: Attribution (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/) EXPOSITION CONFLICT RISING ACTION CLIMAX FALLING ACTION RESOLUTION Melody is a very intelligent eleven year-old girl. She is wheelchair-bound because her cerebral palsy makes it difficult for her to control her muscles. Melody is also unable to speak. Her parents and Mrs. V take care of her. Melody enters an inclusion classroom. She gets the chance to interact with "normal" kids. Not all teachers and students welcome her into the school or treat her well. Melody joins the the school's quiz team. She becomes the best on the team, despite what Mr. D and other students thought at first. The Whiz Kids plan to travel to a national competition. When Melody arrives at the airport with her mother, flights have been cancelled because of bad weather. The other team members took an earlier flight & never called her. The quiz team loses without Melody. When Melody is going to school, Penny runs out because she loves riding in the car. Her mother hits Penny. Melody tried to warn her mother, but could not communicate. Melody fears Penny will also get brain damage and end up like her. While Penny does get injured, she is fine. When Melody goes to school, the other students on the quiz team give Melody the plastic 9th-place trophy. Melody breaks it and leaves the inclusion classroom.