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Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Teacher Guide by Elizabeth Pedro

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Student Activities for Maniac Magee Include:

Maniac Magee, a novel by Jerry Spinelli, is about Jeffrey “Maniac” Magee, a boy who becomes an orphan when his parents die in a trolley accident. Maniac becomes a legend in Two Mills, a town with an East End for blacks and a West End for whites. Without a place to call home, Maniac bridges racial boundaries with his super athleticism, knot-tying abilities, and overall good character.

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




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A Quick Synopsis of Maniac Magee (Contains Plot Spoilers)

Maniac Magee begins by briefly introducing Jeffery's parents, before he abruptly becomes an orphan. Jeffery is “shipped off” to his impractical Aunt Dot and Uncle Dan for the next eight years; he eventually has enough and runs away.

Jeffrey runs from Hollidaysburg to Two Mills. Theories spread and questions arise about Jeffrey’s running and how he ended up in Two Mills. Mysterious encounters occur between Jeffrey and members of the Two Mills community. The first is with Amanda Beale, a black girl who reluctantly allows Jeffrey to borrow one of her books.

Later, with this book in hand, Jeffrey intercepts a football from the varsity players and punts the ball with a perfect spiral back to Hands Down, the receiver. Then, Jeffrey relaxes on the front step of 803 Oriole Street, the dreaded Finsterwald address – a place where no kid ever chased a ball or Frisbee. Jeffrey makes his next appearance at Mrs. Pickwell’s dinner table with seventeen others; he sneaks out before anyone realizes that he was an uninvited guest.

Jeffrey then finds himself at the Little League field in the park. John McNab had just struck out sixteen batters for a new record. McNab’s ego is soon deflated as Jeffrey hits each of his pitches and even a “frogball” for an inside the park homerun. Jeffrey’s appearances throughout the town earn him the name, “Maniac” Magee.

After the embarrassing incident at the baseball field, John McNab and the Cobras, a local gang, decide to get some revenge on Maniac. They chase him until Maniac crosses the boundary into the East End. Here they stop, considering Maniac a goner for going into the black side of town.

Almost immediately, Maniac gets into a confrontation with Mars Bar, another bully, like McNab. Amanda Beale comes to the rescue, and invites Maniac over. He spends the evening with her family, and attempts to hide his homelessness. When Mr. Beale realizes the truth, he insists that Maniac stay with them.

Maniac finally has an address. He loves his new life, and easily becomes part of the family. Unfortunately, not everyone likes Maniac: some are jealous of his athletic skills, knot-untying abilities, and fame. Others don’t believe that a white kid should be living in a black neighborhood. Once Maniac notices the trouble he is causing the Beale’s, he walks away – down the boundary line that separates the east from the west, ignoring the swearing and yelling coming from both sides.

Maniac begins sleeping with the buffalo at the Elmwood Park Zoo. He is discovered by Earl Grayson; an old man intrigued by Maniac’s experiences living with a black family. Grayson in turn shares many stories about his baseball career, all while setting Maniac up in a cozy baseball equipment room. Surprisingly, Grayson is unable to read and asks Maniac to teach him. Maniac does just that, and even writes and illustrates a biography about Grayson’s experience in the minor leagues. Maniac has found himself a home again.

Maniac and Grayson spend the Thanksgiving holiday together. Maniac happily paints 101 on the door marking his new home address and by Christmas, Maniac and Grayson are living together. On December 30th, Grayson passes away. Maniac cannot bear to stay in the baseball equipment room without his friend, and once again, begins running.

Maniac turns numb as he is overwhelmed by the abandonment he has experienced in his short life. He wanders to surrounding communities and spends the night in the wintery outdoors. One January day, Russell and Piper, John McNab’s younger siblings, who have run away, interrupt Maniac’s hibernation. Maniac convinces the kids to let him take them home.

After returning the children, Maniac begins staying at the McNabs – a garbage and cockroach infested home. He realizes two problems: the McNabs are preparing to fight the enemy (the East side) and the children are not being cared for. Maniac makes it his personal mission to solve these two problems. First, Maniac bribes Russell and Piper to attend school. With this bribery comes “heroic feats” that Maniac has to complete, including a dare to go to the East End. Deep in the East End, Maniac comes face to face with Mars Bar, who challenges him to a race. Not only does Maniac win the race, but he also humiliates Mars Bar by running backwards.

Somehow, Maniac convinces Mars Bar to attend a birthday party at the McNabs house; bringing a black person to the house angers George McNab, and the Cobras, making it uncomfortable for Mars Bar. The McNabs kick both Maniac and Mars Bar out, much to the embarrassment of Mars Bar and the disappointment of Maniac. Although the discrimination problem was not resolved, Maniac had blurred the boundary between black and white.


Essential Questions for Maniac Magee

  1. What character qualities make a hero?
  2. What is the meaning of “family” and “home”?
  3. Why is having an address important?
  4. What is prejudice?
  5. Is it possible for one person to make a difference?

Maniac Magee Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Plot Diagram | Maniac Magee Summary


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A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. 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.

Having students create a Maniac Magee summary will ensure they grasp important events from this story.

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 Maniac Magee Plot Diagram

Exposition

Jeffrey becomes an orphan, and is forced to live with his Aunt Dot and Uncle Dan. He can no longer stand living with them, and runs away.


Conflict

Jeffrey bounces between East End and West End, trying to find a place to call home.


Rising Action

Jeffrey performs many impressive feats and earns the name "Maniac".


Climax

Maniac blurs the lines between blacks and whites by bringing Mars Bar to the McNab's home.


Falling Action

Maniac is disappointed by the behavior in Two Mills and is upset that he can't fix the problems himself; he is alone and unsure about the future.


Resolution

Maniac befriends Mars Bar and moves back to the one place he truly feels at home - with the Beale family.



(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of Maniac Magee.


  1. Separate Maniac Magee's story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Understanding Theme in Maniac Magee


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In this activity, students will identify a theme of the novel, and support their choice with details from the text. Several themes are present in the novel, and students could also display how these are present by giving an example of each theme.

Example Maniac Magee Themes

Abandonment

Jeffrey Magee is repeatedly abandoned:

  • His parents die in a trolley accident
  • Grayson dies in his sleep
  • The East End community does not accept him

Family

Jeffrey desperately wants to be a part of a family who cares about him.


Race

Two Mills consists of the East End, for blacks, and the West End, for whites. Jeffrey does not see these color differences and embraces the individuals who are open to racial differences.


(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in Maniac Magee. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify the theme(s) from Maniac Magee you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for an example that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Cause and Effect in Maniac Magee


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In this activity students will identify the cause and effect of events in the text. At the beginning of the novel, Jeffrey is sent to live with his aunt and uncle who do not get along. He is so disturbed by this, that during a school play, he stands on the stage yelling, “TALK!” and then runs away.

Another cause and effect relationship begins when Mars Bar and his friends surround Maniac, ready to beat him up. Amanda Beale steps in, rescues him and takes him to her house. Shortly after his rescue, Maniac realizes the trouble he is causing the Beales when “FISHBELLY” is sprayed on their house. He doesn’t want to be a burden on the family, so he runs away to the West End.

The text structure of Maniac Magee is cause and effect; therefore an entire cause and effect chain can be created to show how the story progresses.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows cause and effect relationships in Maniac Magee. Each cause and effect pair will be shown in the same row.


  1. On the left side of the T-Chart, illustrate events that show cause (why).
  2. On the right side of the T-Chart, illustrate events that are the direct effect of that cause.
  3. Write a description below each cause.
  4. In the description under each effect, show how the cause and effect are related.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Character Map for Maniac Magee


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In this activity, students can display the characters in the story, paying close attention to the physical characteristics and character traits of both major and minor characters. Students should also provide detailed information regarding the challenges the character faces, the challenges the character imposes, and the impact the minor characters have on the main character.

Characters included in the example character map are:

  • Jeffrey “Maniac” Magee
  • Aunt Dot and Uncle Dan
  • Amanda Beale
  • John McNab
  • Mars Bar
  • Earl Grayson

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.


  1. Identify the major characters in Maniac Magee and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a character to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  3. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  4. Fill in the Textables for each of the characters.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Maniac Magee Figurative Language


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Maniac Magee is full of figurative language: similes, metaphors, and hyperbole.

In this activity, students can display their understanding of figurative language by identifying the examples and creating a literal and figurative portrayal of the language.

  • The sentence, “The Cobras figured that Maniac would get out of East End in about as good shape as a bare big toe in a convention of snapping turtles” shows that the Cobras believe Maniac will meet a lot of trouble in the East End.

  • The sentence, “His smile was so wide he’d have to break it into sections to fit it through a doorway”, shows that Grayson is very happy.

  • “Would Finsterwald’s long, bony hand dart out, quick as a lizard’s tongue, and snatch poor Maniac?” This sentence shows the kids are worried that the mysterious Mr. Finsterwald will kidnap Maniac.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows illustrations of figurative language from Maniac Magee.


  1. Find three examples of figurative language in the text. Type the quotes in the description boxes.
  2. Identify the type figurative language:
    • Simile
    • Metaphor
    • Personification
    • Hyperbole
  3. In each cell, show what the actual words say on one side, and what the words mean on the other.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Maniac Magee Vocabulary Lesson Plan


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In this activity, students are able to demonstrate their understanding of vocabulary words using sentences and corresponding images. Students may be provided the vocabulary words, or they can use words that they have discovered through their reading of the text. The sentences and images validate the understanding of the word and the context that it was used in the novel.


Example Maniac Magee Vocabulary Words

  • pandemonium
  • dovetailed
  • veering
  • skewered
  • blarney
  • exuberance
  • ludicrous
  • pungent
  • lambaste
  • shenanigan
  • goaded
  • commotion
  • gabble
  • beseech
  • twang
  • converge

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in Maniac Magee by creating visualizations.


  1. Choose three vocabulary words from the story and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary.
  3. Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word.
  4. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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•   (English) Maniac Magee   •   (Español) Mago Maníaco   •   (Français) Maniaque Magee   •   (Deutsch) Maniac Magee   •   (Italiana) Maniac Magee   •   (Nederlands) Maniac Magee   •   (Português) Mago Maníaco   •   (עברית) מניאק מגי   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) مهووس ماجي   •   (हिन्दी) पागल मैगी   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Маньяк Маги   •   (Dansk) Maniac Magee   •   (Svenska) Maniac Magee   •   (Suomi) Maniac Magee   •   (Norsk) Maniac Magee   •   (Türkçe) Manyak Magee   •   (Polski) Maniak Magee   •   (Româna) Maniac Magee   •   (Ceština) Maniac Magee   •   (Slovenský) Maniac Magee   •   (Magyar) Maniac Magee   •   (Hrvatski) Maniac Magee   •   (български) Маниак Магей   •   (Lietuvos) Maniakas Magee   •   (Slovenščina) Maniac Magee   •   (Latvijas) Maniac Magee   •   (eesti) Maniakk Magee