Grade: Senior
Subject: Language

#3218. Swallowing Stones by Joyce McDonald Unit Plan

Language, level: Senior
Posted Mon Sep 27 18:34:49 PDT 2004 by Kerry O'Banion (
Swallowing Stones Unit Plan
Starks High School , Starks , LA
Materials Required: Swallowing Stones by Joyce McDonald
Activity Time: Unit Plan of 6 block periods
Concepts Taught: Literature Elements

Swallowing Stones by Joyce McDonald
Kerry O'Banion
Starks High School

Novel Studies Unit
Objectives :
1. Students read , comprehend and respond to a range of materials , using a variety of strategies for different purposes.
Benchmarks: _____ELA-1-H1 ______1-H2 _____1-H3 _____1-H4 _____1-H5
2. Students write competently for a variety of purposes and audiences.
Benchmarks: _____ELA2-H1 _____2-H2 _____2-H3 _____2-H4 _____2-H5
3. Students communicate using standard English grammar, usage, sentence structure , punctuation, capitalization , spelling and handwriting.
Benchmarks: _____ELA3-H1 _____3-H2 _____3-H3
4. Students demonstrate competence in speaking and listening as tools for learning and communicating.
Benchmarks: _____ELA4-H1 _____4-H2 _____4-H3 _____4-H4 _____4-H5
5. Students locate , select , and synthesize information from a variety of texts , media , references, and technological sources to acquire and communication knowledge.
Benchmarks: _____ELA5-H1 _____5-H2 _____5-H3 _____5-H4 _____5-H5
6. Students read , analyze and respond to literature as a record of life experiences.
Benchmarks: _____ELA6-H1 _____6-H2 _____6-H3 _____6-H4
7. Students apply reasoning and problem solving skills to their reading, writing , speaking , listening, viewing and visually representing.
Benchmarks: _____ELA7-H1 _____7-H2 _____7-H3 _____7-H4

Day One
Journal Topic for Discussion:

What is cause and effect? How can one incident influence the lives of several people? Give an example.

Reading Assignments : Part One
Students will read "Prologue" -- Page 58

Vocabulary :

Students will define the following words for this section:
1. manslaughter
2. involuntary manslaughter
3. impede
4. ballistics
5. trajectory
6. obstinate
7. sullenness
8. assumption
9. inevitable
10. accessory

Discussion Questions :

1. This novel is unique in that it has two main characters. List the two main characters and give both physical and internal characteristics of each.
2. Give two reasons that Michael is excited about turning seventeen.
3. What is the setting of the novel? Describe the town from clues that the author gives you in this section.
4. Who is the protagonist in the story? Who is the antagonist? Remember that this novel is unique.
5. Make a list of secondary characters in the novel and give some information about each.
6. How is Joe an accessory to the crime? What plan do the two boys devise?
7. Why does Michael end up on the street where Jenna lives?
8. How does the title of the novel become significant in this section? Explain.
9. How has the shooting incident changed Michael's relationship with Darcy?
10. How does your perception of Amy change ? What causes this ?

Day Two

Journal Topic for Discussion :
How could the accidental death of Charlie Ward still be considered manslaughter?

Part One Reading Quiz : (25 pts)
1. How is Charlie Ward killed? Explain.
2. What is Michael looking forward to the day after his birthday party?
3. How does Michael learn about the shooting?
4. Who does Michael make a pact with not to tell what has happened?
5. Where does Karen MacKenzie work ?

Reading Assignments : Part Two
Students will read pages 61-92

Vocabulary Words :
Students will define the following words from this section:

1. haphazardly
2. gyroscopes
3. chaise longue
4. folklore
5. sanctuary
6. unceremoniously
7. nil
8. condolences
9. stagnant
10. impish
11. convulsive
12. conspiratorially

Discussion Questions :

1. Describe Jenna's dream about the Ghost Tree. How is this tree symbolic in the novel?
2. What does Jenna do to her room? Why do you think she does this?
3. How does Jenna escape her problems (what does she do to divert her thoughts)?
4. Why does she like doing this ?
5. Who is Jenna's best friend? Give some characteristics .
6. How has the tragedy changed Jenna and her mother's relationship?
7. What does Michael continue to do every night? Who notices ?
8. What happens when Jason tries to comfort Jenna?
9. What news does the Ward family find out about the investigation?
10. Who comes to Jenna's rescue at the movie theater?

Day Three

Journal Topic for Discussion:

Gun control is an issue that affects everyone's emotions in powerful ways. How do you stand on the issue ?

Part Two Reading Quiz :
1. Where does Andrea want Jenna to go with her the next day?
2. Where has Jenna's boyfriend , Jason , been ?
3. Who does Andrea notice and show interest in ?
4. What does Meredith Ward notice on the refrigerator that upsets her?
5. Who is Annie Rico?

Reading Assignments : Part Three
Students will read pages 95-129

Vocabulary Words :
Students will define the following words from this section:

1. cicadas
2. hypocrite
3. impose
4. wiry
5. deceit
6. audible
7. renegade
8. inconspicuous
9. circumstantial
10. preoccupation
11. allegedly
12. maneuvers

Discussion Questions :

1. Describe Michael's nightmare. How is this significant ?
2. What does Josh say that makes Michael mad?
3. How does Michael's relationship with Amy provide him comfort?
4. What happens between Michael and Darcy?
5. What happens when the police come to question the Wards?
6. How does Michael further complicate matters? Who does he involve?
7. Contrast Michael and Joe . How are they different in the way they are handling the situation?
8. Why do you suppose Michael continues to maintain his friendship with Joe ?
9. Why does Amy decide that she doesn't want to talk to Michael anymore?

Day Four
Journal Topic for Discussion :

Louisiana recently passed a bill that allows its citizens to carry a concealed weapon. Do you think this was a wise thing to do ? Why or why not?

Part Three Reading Quiz :

1. How does Michael find out that the police will be questioning his neighborhood soon?
2. What happened to Amy's mother and father?
3. Why does Darcy think Michael is breaking up with her?
4. When the police want to see the gun , where does Michael tell them it is at?
5. Where does Michael meet with Joe to tell him what happened at his house?

Reading Assignment : Part Four
Students will read pages 133 -- 184

Vocabulary Words :
Students will define the following words for this section :

1. futile
2. precariously
3. indignant
4. apprehension
5. anxiety
6. contaminate

Discussion Questions :

1. Where does Jenna suggest she and Amy go ? Why do you think she wants to go here , in spite of the bad weather?
2. What does Jenna find in the mail when she returns?
3. How do both Jenna and Amy harbor grief for accidents they aren't responsible for ?
4. Jenna dreams of the Ghost Tree once again . How is the dream different than the dreams of the tree before? Why is this significant?
5. Jenna's mother takes her outside to show her something. What has been happening around the Ward's house?
6. Why does Michael sneak around and do what he does outside the Ward's house?
7. What do the police find outside in the MacKenzie's yard?
8. How does this become important to the case?
9. Why does Mr. MacKenzie need to believe that Joe is the one who fired the gun?
10. Michael meets with Joe to tell him what has happened. How does this conversation go ?
11. What happens with the boys and Amy on the way back from the swamp?

Day Five
Journal Topic for Discussion:

What are the "stones" that Michael must swallow? Discuss what stones he must swallow in the future.

Part Four Reading Quiz :

1. What does Jenna confess to Andrea that she would like to do if the murderer is caught?
2. In the letter that Amy writes to Jenna , she tells her that she found something in her grandfather's desk . What was it ?
3. What does Jenna's mother tell her to look at outside the house?
4. Why does Andrea get mad at Jenna at the party?
5. Where does Michael run into Amy and try to talk to her?

Reading Assignment : Part Five
Students will read pages 187 -- 245

Vocabulary Words :
Students will define the following words from this section :

1. persistent
2. mausoleum
3. conspiracy
4. indication
5. furtive
6. obstruction
7. incessant
8. intuitively

Discussion Questions :

1. Jenna once again dreams of the Ghost Tree. What is different this time?
2. What memory does the Ghost Tree make Jenna recall? What does this tell us about Charlie Ward?
3. What development in the case does Jenna and her mom hear about ?
4. Jenna sneaks across town . Where does she go and why?
5. Describe Joe's demeanor in this part of the novel.
6. What does Michael learn from Joe that bothers him ?
7. When Michael visits Amy , what does she tell him ? How does this change the relationship between the two of them?
8. What does Jenna realize that she had forgotten about the day her Dad was killed? How does this upset her ?
9. Why do both Jenna and Michael end up at the Ghost Tree?
10. Did you like the ending of the novel ? Why or why not?

Day Six

Part Five Reading Quiz :

1. Where did the Ghost Tree get its nickname?
2. Jenna's mother decides to donate Charlie's clothes to charity. What does Jenna insist on keeping that belonged to her father?
3. Where do Jenna and her mother hear about Joe?
4. Why does Jenna hesitate to talk to Amy at the pool ?
5. Who does Michael find at the Ghost Tree?

Essay Topic :

After class discussion , students will compose a five-paragraph persuasive essay on the following topic :

Gun control advocates and pro-gun advocates have a very different interpretation of the Second Amendment of the Constitution . What are the issues behind this interpretation and how do you believe the Second Amendment should be interpreted?