A primary theme in the novel is friendship, and the dynamics and complexities that come along with such a topic. A good introduction is to have students list the “good” and “bad” characteristics of friends, and create a common list among the class that everyone can understand. Then, have students track specific examples of whether or not Gene is a good friend throughout each chapter. By the end of the novel, students usually have strong opinions and evidence to back up their thoughts about Gene as a friend to Finny. Have students use this evidence in a six-cell storyboard to illustrate their opinion as to whether Gene is a good friend or a bad friend to Finny.
The example storyboard highlights that Gene is a good friend to Finny, along with some traits of being a good friend.
|Compassionate||Gene confesses to Finny that he knocked him out of the tree, but once he sees how badly he is hurting Finny, he takes it back. He doesn’t want to make Finny feel worse just to make himself feel better.|
|Loyal||Gene was going to enlist in the Army with Brinker, but once Finny returns to school, he decides to stay with Finny instead.|
|Cooperative||When Finny returns to school, Gene agrees to train for the 1944 Olympics to take Finny’s place since Finny can’t play sports anymore.|
|Helpful||Gene helps Finny plan and execute the Winter Carnival, a welcome distraction from the war and the winter doldrums that hit the boys around this time of year.|
|Communicative||Gene tries to apologize to Finny when he is in the Infirmary, and before he dies, he is able to tell Finny that he didn’t jounce the limb out of hatred.|
|Honesty||Gene’s friendship with Finny makes him a better person: he becomes more honest, less rigid about conforming to the world around him, and he continues to remember Finny, as evidenced by his return to the tree and the stairs 15 years later.|
Grade Level 9-10
Difficulty Level 3 (Developing to Mastery)
Type of Assignment Individual or PartnerCommon Core Standards
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