Activity Overview

Starting a unit or lesson with the key vocabulary terms and allusions aids in overall comprehension and retention. In this activity, students will create a storyboard that defines and illustrates terms and allusions (references to actual people, places, literature, items and events) found in the book Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick. Teachers can have students define 3-5 words of their choice per chapter or provide a list of words they may be unfamiliar with before beginning the novel or chapter.

Examples of Terms and Allusions from Freak the Mighty

The New Testaments: Biblical reference used to describe the rundown tenements where Iggy and Loretta Lee live

King Arthur: Freak often references the legendary British King and the knights of the round table

Lady Guinevere: Freak gave his mother Gwen the nickname "The Fair Gwen" after King Arthur's beloved Guinevere

Darth Vader: Freak dresses up as the villain from the Star Wars movies when he and Max go on a quest

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Max says that Freak pulls out his dictionary the same way that Arnold Schwarzenegger pulls out his weapon in a movie

abduction: the criminal act of carrying someone away by force

albino: a person with white hair, light skin, and light or pink eyes

archetype: something that serves as a model

avarice: reprehensible acquisitiveness; insatiable desire for wealth

bionics: application of biological principles to engineering systems

cretin: a person of subnormal intelligence

damsel: a young unmarried woman

distress: a state of adversity

fair: free from favoritism, bias, or deception; also as in the case of "The Fair Gwen", beautiful, lovely

fealty: the loyalty that one owes to a country, sovereign, or lord

fiend: an evil supernatural being

hulking: of great size and bulk

humanoid: an automaton that resembles a human being

ignorance: the lack of knowledge or education

illiterate: not able to read or write

injustice: the practice of being unfair

invincible: incapable of being overcome or subdued

kin: a person related to another or others

tenement a run-down apartment house

Morquio Syndrome: Morquio syndrome is a rare genetic condition that affects development of bones, spine, organs, and physical abilities of a child. Children with this condition don't produce enough enzymes that break down sugar chains our bodies naturally produce.

nanosecond: one billionth of a second; one thousandth of a microsecond

ornithopter: heavier-than-air craft that is propelled by the flapping of wings

prodigy: an unusually gifted or intelligent person

quest: the act of searching for something

seizure: the taking possession of something by legal process

sobriquet: a familiar name for a person

strut: walk in a proud, confident way

tracheotomy: an operation to allow air to flow through the windpipe

trajectory: the path followed by an object moving through space

unvanquished: not conquered

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Due Date:

Objective: Create a spider map that defines and illustrates key vocabulary from Freak the Mighty.

Student Instructions:

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. In the title boxes, identify the vocabulary terms you have chosen.
  3. In the description boxes, write the definition or description of the term.
  4. Create an illustration for each term using appropriate scenes, characters, and items.

Requirements: Must have 3 vocabulary terms, correct definitions or descriptions, and appropriate illustrations for each that demonstrate your understanding of the words.

Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/6/4] Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone
  • [ELA-Literacy/L/9-10/3] Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening
  • [ELA-Literacy/L/9-10/4] Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 9-10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies
  • [ELA-Literacy/L/9-10/6] Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression
  • [ELA-Literacy/W/6/6] Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting.


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Visual Vocabulary Assignment
Define, illustrate, and give an example sentence for any five vocabulary words.
Proficient Emerging Beginning
The definition is correct.
The definition is partially correct.
The definition is incorrect.
The storyboard cells clearly illustrate the meaning of the vocabulary words.
The storyboard cells relate to the meaning of the vocabulary words, but are difficult to understand.
The storyboard cells do not clearly relate to the meaning of the vocabulary words.

How To Teach Complex Vocabulary in Freak The Mighty to ELA Students


Recognize Proficiency Levels

With a diverse set of students in class, it is important to be aware of the proficiency levels of different students present. Teachers can take an initial assessment to recognize the level students are at currently and organize lectures and lessons based on that information. If teachers are aware of the type of difficulties each student faces while learning, they can customize their activities and lesson plans according to their understanding.


Teach Before Reading

Make a list of the major vocabulary terms that are likely to be difficult for the students before beginning the story. It will be easier for students to comprehend the story if they are aware of the key terms beforehand. Give each term a simple definition, a context-based sentence, and a picture or any other background information such as the origin of the word or if it is used in any other languages.


Encourage Journaling

Encourage your students to establish a vocabulary log or diary where they may record new terms they come across while reading. Definitions, synonyms and antonyms, word nuances or connections with the term should all be included.


Teach Application

Discuss with the class the many settings in which new terms are used once you've introduced them. Give students writing assignments where they have to use the newly learned words in context. For instance, using the words to tell a story about their life or just carry out a basic conversation with their desk mate.


Maintain Flexibility

Teachers can give the students some freedom to decide how they want to learn new things. For instance, do they want to focus more on interactive activities or planned class lessons? When students are more involved in lesson planning, they will be more motivated to learn.

Frequently Asked Questions About Vocabulary & Allusions in Freak the Mighty

What sort of complex vocabulary was used by some characters in the story, especially Kevin?

Kevin uses terms like "ornithopter," "opiate," "unvanquished," and "aesthetically" as examples of his sophisticated vocabulary. Kevin's broad vocabulary and sharp mind can be recognized because of the complex vocabulary he uses. Through this vocabulary, readers can also judge that Kevin is smart and it becomes a recognizing trait of his personality.

Any special allusions in "Freak the Mighty" that stand out in particular?

Yes, there are several substantial allusions to King Arthur, Don Quixote, and the Holy Grail quest throughout the book. These allusions emphasize the concepts of bravery, camaraderie, and setting forth on noble missions. With the help of allusions and historical references, readers and better understand the story and the characters.

This Activity is Part of Many Teacher Guides

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