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Grade: Middle

#3310. Novel Guide THE END OF THE LINE

Reading/Writing, level: Middle
Posted Thu Dec 15 11:41:59 PST 2011 by Angela Cerrito (Angela Cerrito).
Author, Atlanta, USA
Materials Required: Novel, Teacher's Guide
Activity Time: varies
Concepts Taught: Reading Standards

Teacher's Guide for THE END OF THE LINE by Angela Cerrito

Created by Natalie Lorenzi

A thought-provoking look at culpability and grief. ~ Kirkus Reviews
Robbie's story has the potential to make young people think, care, and possibly change. ~VOYA(Voice of Youth Advocates)

Robbie is locked in a room with nothing but a desk, a chair, a stack of paper and pencil. No belt, no shoes, no socks. Hes starving, but all they give him is water. Robbie has reached The End of the Line, aka Great Oaks School, and at Great Oaks theres no time off for good behavior. All good behavior will get you are points. Enough points and you get something to eat, a bed, bathroom privileges. Thirteen-year-old Robbies first-person account of his struggles at the schoolat times horrifying, at times hilariousalternates with flashbacks to the events that led to his incarceration. If Robbie is to survive The End of the Line, he must confront the truth: He is a murderer.

1. Pre-Reading Activities
Activities and discussion starters to activate students prior knowledge.
2. Chapter Guides
Chapter guides may be used to encourage whole class discussions, lead teacher-guided reading groups, or to provide structure for students working either in cooperative small groups or independently. The guide is not meant to be assigned to students in its entirety.
Each chapter guide includes:
► Vocabulary that might be new for your students. Choose a few words from each list and guide students in using context clues to infer meanings.
► Discussion Starters inspired by Blooms Taxonomy that lead students from basic comprehension to higher level thinking skills.
► Predicting where students are invited to make predictions based on their analysis of the characters traits in the story.
The chapter guides address the following curriculum standards:

Students will:
use prior knowledge and experience to comprehend text.
use context (within a sentence and in larger sections of text) to determine or clarify the meaning of unfamiliar or ambiguous words.
use questioning to enhance comprehension before, during, and after reading.
respond actively to texts in both aesthetic and critical ways.
respond to text through discussion, journal writing, performance, and visual representation.
support responses by using prior knowledge and experience and/or citing textual evidence which may consist of a direct quotation, paraphrase, or specific synopsis.
use appropriate verbal and nonverbal communication skills in interpersonal situations.
use reflective empathic listening skills to respond appropriately in interpersonal situations.
explain the influence of the setting on plot development.
analyze the development of the plot through the internal and external responses of the characters, including their motivations and conflicts.
determine the figurative meaning of phrases and analyze how an author's use of language suggests mood.
analyze, make inferences and draw conclusions about the author's purpose in contemporary contexts and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding.
synthesize and make logical connections between ideas within a text and support those findings with textual evidence.
express their ideas and feelings about real or imagined people, events, and ideas.
write about their own experiences.
write responses to literary texts.

3. Culminating Activities
Following the chapter guides, youll find suggested culminating projects that address the eight multiple intelligences identified by Dr. Howard Gardner: Bodily-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Logical-Mathematical, Musical, Naturalistic, Verbal-Linguistic and Visual-Spatial. Consider having students choose a culminating activity that best matches their learning styles.

4. Author Interview with ANGELA CERRITO

1. Before looking at the book, take out a piece of paper, put your name at the top, and follow these directions from Mr. Lester: Write me a list. Tell me who you are. Put the list away until youve finished reading the book.

2. Look at the front cover. What does the title mean? Where is the hallway shown in the photo? Who is standing behind the door? Tell how you would feel if you were standing in this hallway.

3. Read the books cover blurb. What is this story about? Make a t-chart like the one below listing the background knowledge youll bring to the story and questions you have before reading:

4. On the front cover, there is a quote that says, Ryan was dead. And I was a murderer. How does this make you feel about Robbie? Will he be sympathetic? Why or why not? How do you think youll feel about Ryan?

5. Tell or write about a time when you made a mistake that you wished you could reverse. Did you do to try and make up for it? If so, how? If not, why not?

Word study: Swipes / Coax
Discussion Starters
1. What does Mr. Lester ask Robbie to do? (knowledge)
2. What is the time line for these first two chapters? How does verb tense reflect this timeline? (comprehension)
3. When Robbie joins in the teasing, he thinks, Its easy to do what everyone else is doing even when it doesnt exactly feel right. Do you agree?
Think about the last time you saw a group of kids teasing someone. Were you a witness? A participant? The target? Jot down your experiencewhat happened and how you felton an index card. Without putting your name on the card, put it in a box along with your classmates cards. In small groups, read some of the cards and discuss how you might handle the situation. (application)
4. How does Robbie react when Mr. Lester enters the room? Why? (analysis)
5. What kind of a list do you think Mr. Lester wants from Robbie? Write a list about yourself that would satisfy Mr. Lester. If you already wrote your list (as a pre-reading activity), take a look at the list again. What would Mr. Lester say? (synthesis)
6. When the clank of the metal door confirms that Robbie is in some sort of jail, he thinks Its about time. Why does he think this? Do you think he deserves to be there? Why or why not? (evaluation)

How did Robbie end up at the Great Oaks School Prison? Will he make a list that will satisfy Mr. Lester? Will he ever go back to his school in River Falls?

Word Study: trekking / glared / fiance

Discussion Starters
1. Why isnt there a bed in Robbies room? (knowledge)
2. Why does Robbie only get a cup of water for his lunch? (comprehension)
3. How does Robbies mom feel as she gets dinner ready? List text clues that show how emotion can be inferred through action (see examples below). (application)
Action (from the text) Emotion
Mom glared at me. anger
She zipped across the kitchen with choppy steps. nervous
Mom turned from the counter with a handful of silverware and shook it at me like jingle bells. Robbie, please. Just set the table. exasperated
4. On the walk home from school, Robbie tells Ryan, Kids at school arent usually like that. Youre justno one knows you yet, thats all. What do you think Robbie started to say? Why did he say something else? (analysis)
5. Write a list that Robbie might make to describe himself in River Falls. (synthesis)
6. How does Robbie feel about Ryan following him home? How does he deal with it? How would you deal with a similar situation? Evaluate Robbies character as shown in this scene. (evaluation)

What will be discussed at the family meeting? How will Ryans grandparents react when Mrs. Thompson calls?
PAGES 10-15
Word Study: straining
sliver of light
cross training

Discussion Starters
1. Where is Uncle Grant going? (knowledge)
2. Why does Robbie make a new list for Mr. Lester? (comprehension)
3. Robbie thinks of eight foods he wishes he could eat. Make a list of eight foods you would crave if you were in Robbies situation. (application)
4. Describe the way Ryan eats. Why do you think he does this? (analysis)
5. Read the list of things Uncle Grant wants Robbie to send him in Iraq. Make a list of what Robbie would say he needs at Great Oaks. How do the lists compare in terms of needs vs. wants? (synthesis)
6. Evaluate Robbies new list. Why does he replace the word killer with murderer? How is this list different than his first? Why did Mr. Lester give him a bologna sandwich instead of a cup of water? (evaluation)

Knowing how Robbies dad feels about guns and fighting, how do you think hell react to Grant going to war? How will Grants deployment affect Robbie?


PAGES 206-212
Word Study: reeks / biathlon

Discussion Starters
1. When will Robbie see Mr. Lester again? (knowledge)
2. What surprise does Uncle Grant have for Robbie? What surprise does Robbies dad have? (comprehension)
3. When Robbie walks around River Falls and his house, he says, The thing that is most Tell or write about a time when you revisited a place or person you knew a long time ago. How did you feel? Who had changed the mostthe person or place you visited, or you? (application)
4. Analyze the change in Robbies dad and his relationship with Robbie from the beginning of the book to the end. How will their relationship be from here on out? (analysis)
5. When Robbie is leaving Ryans house, the grandfather tells him, There are some things you just cant change. And then again, theres other things you can. What does he mean? Do you think Ryan shared this philosophy? Use evidence from the text to support your answer. What will Robbie do with this advice from here on out? (synthesis)
6. When he goes to the house on Howell Street, what does Robbie learn about Ryans family? How do you feel about Ryans grandparents? (evaluation)

Will Robbie be able to forgive himself? What will life be like for him when he returns to school?

The following projects incorporate Dr. Howard Gardners theory of multiple
intelligences. Consider having students choose a culminating project that best
matches their learning styles.

Making a List, Checking It Twice
(Verbal-Linguistic, Intrapersonal)
Now that students have read the novel, ask them to make a new list following the directions Mr. Lester first gave to Robbie: Write me a list. Tell me who you are.

Take out the lists they made before reading the novel and let them compare the two lists. What are the similarities and differences? Students can enter their lists on author Angela Cerritos website:

Once the lists are complete, go to to create a class wordle. Each student can cut and paste their lists into one wordle, where font size is relative to the number of times a word is entered. What stands out about your class?


(Naturalistic, Visual-Spatial)
Robbie and Uncle Grant created an imaginary town in their basement. Do an Internet image search for Minibyen, a model of a town in Denmark built one-tenth the size of the real town as it existed in 1860.
Create a miniature model of a townthis might be your actual town, an imaginary one like Grantville, or River Falls as it is described in the novel. Include natural features of the land.
To make the model, students can make 3-dimensional figures from clay or other materials such as boxes or cans. For a two-dimensional alternative, students can create a mural.

Reaching Out
(Bodily-Kinesthetic, Intrapersonal, Interpersonal)

Like Robbies Uncle Grant, many soldiers return home as amputees. In the novel, Grant is learning to adjust to daily life without full use of an arm and leg. Ask students to wear one arm in a sling for 24 hours and try not to use that arm or hand for as long as they can. Have them record their before and after thoughts on a class chart like the one below:

What I think will be challenging: (During)
Number of hours that passed before I used my hand:
Unexpected challenges:

The Disabled American Veterans is an organization that helps members of the military, like Uncle Grant, who have been disabled in battle. Visit for local volunteer opportunities. (Click on the Jesse Brown Scholarship link for information on scholarships awarded to volunteers under the age of 21.)

Plan a class trip to volunteer for a few hours. Beforehand, have students fill out a chart like the one on the following page. Have students list their thoughts in the first two columns before they go, and their reflections in the last column once they return.

What Im looking forward to:
Things Im nervous about:
Reflections on my experience:

Purple Heart
(Verbal-Linguistic, Visual-Spatial)

Learn more about the Military Order of the Purple Heart medal that Uncle Grant was awarded: Click on About the Purple Heart and then History of the Medal to see who created this award and why.

Have students design and create their own awards for valor to give to someone else. Put them on display with a written or oral explanation of the award (symbolism of the design, criteria for the award, a likely recipient, etc.).

Songs of War and Peace

Songs about war have been written and sung for centuries, including songs from the Revolutionary War ( and the Civil War ( Lyrics range from patriotic to critical.

Create an annotated playlist of songs (historical or modern) that represent how different characters in the novel feel about war, including Grandma, Robbie, Grant and Ryan.

Mr. Lesters List
Each time Robbie writes something at Great Oaks, Mr. Lester gives him a grade. What do you suppose Mr. Lesters criteria are? How does he calculate Robbies grade? Use a chart like the one on the following page to create a rubric that Mr. Lester might use. Label the criteria categories across the top, then fill in the parameters below for each set of percentage points.

Mr. Lesters List









< 40%

How did you get the idea for The End of the Line?
It was really two thoughts that came together. One was a story idea about a boy filled with guilt over his role in the death of his friend. The other idea was how he would get over his guilt.

Once the idea came to you, what happened next?
The first thing I did was write the prologue. Then everything had to simmer. I had a pretty good idea about the main character, Robbie, but I couldnt figure out Cor even think of a name forthe friend who died. It was a couple of months before I met Ryan and knew his part of the story. Then I started writing every day.

What do you mean, you met Ryan?
It was months after I wrote that prologue and I still hadnt written Robbies story because I still didnt know anything about the boy who died. I couldnt get a picture of him.

One day I heard about a boy who was taking care of his infant sister because his mother couldnt get out of bed and his father didnt live at home. The boy was only eight years old and he was doing everything for the babyfeeding her, changing her diapers and trying to get his mother to eat and get out of bed. No one knew about the situation until the boy started having problems at school. That very same day, I also heard about another boy who hadnt had a meal on a plate his family just heated up cans and ate the food out of the cans. I couldnt get these two boys out of my mind. They helped me learn about Ryan.

What were the most challenging and rewarding parts of writing this book?
The most challenging part of the story was writing about Ryans death. The most rewarding was writing about Robbies family.

Are any of the characters, places or experiences in the story modeled after real people or places?
All of the characters and places are fictional. But two situations grew out of experiences in my life.

When I was in college, I had an internship at a private medical center that specialized in treating children and adults with behavior problems. Each client in the facility had several behavior plans. These are written instructions for the staff about how to react to certain behaviors. It wasnt unusual for some behavior plans to include the type of timed restraint used with The Beef in the novel. Though at the medical center often only two people were needed and the clients heads were never restrained. So the hold down for The Beef was much more intense.

Also, when I was a freshman in college I was fortunate to take Sociology 101 with the amazing Professor Steiger. One of our in-class assignments was to make a list of who we were. This experience stayed with me. Number one on my list was I am Kelli Cerritos sister. Im pretty sure I put my name as one of the items on my list too.

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I started writing poems and stories when I was very young. I never pursued writing for publication until 2003. At the time I was living in Italy, didnt have a job and both of my kids were in school. That year I sold a few stories, poems and nonfiction articles to a company that creates standardized tests for schools in the USA.

Whats the best piece of writing advice youve ever received?
Play with words. Have fun writing. Make stuff up. From an SCBWI writers workshop with Markus Zusak in Munich, Germany.

When you are writing, never ask yourself what happens next. Instead, ask your character what he or she would do next. From Kathleen Duey at an SCBWI Conference in Bologna, Italy.

So what? From Natascha Biebow when she was an editor at Random House. She said that is the question the marketing department asks with every proposal. So the writer should know the answer to this before submitting work.

Can you expand a bit on Ms. Biebows advice? When she said So what? do you think she was referring to the challenges (or what is at stake) for the character in the book?
During my critique (of a picture book manuscript) she offered advice about growing challenges (and increasing tension) for the main character. But the specific advice: So what? was focused on a larger scale. Why is this book important? Why would a parent buy it for their child? For picture booksis this the kind of book a parent will read 100 times (or more) to their children? Why should the publisher invest in this book?
You wrote THE END OF THE LINE in two timelinesdid you write them in short chapters, as they appear in the book, or did you write several scenes/chapters from the same timeline and separate them later?
I wrote the first draft in alternating time lines, in short chunks as you see in the book. It was really an interesting experience for me because I didnt have an outline. A lot of things just fell into place. For example, I knew Robbie and Anna Beths names, but I didnt even think about the letter order until Mr. Michaels became part of the story.
When I revised, I printed out the story and put everything in chronological order. During revision a lot of things changedscenes were added, cut or split into two sections.
Near the end of the revisions, I mentioned to my editor (Julie Amper at Holiday House) that I was sick of the chapter titles. She suggested we do away with the chapter titles and even the chapter numbers. I loved the idea!
What advice do you have for young writers?
If you love to write, write. And know that it is okay to use words (and create sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and poetry) in your own way.

Do you have a writing routine?
Yes, I like to write longhand in a notebook. The routine that works best for me is to wake up early and write before work and then type my morning work on the computer in the evening. Most evenings I will add a bit more to the novel. I always end with ideas about what to write next (instructions for myself). I usually dont revise until Ive finished the first draft.
When you arent writing, what are some of your favorite things to do?
My most favorite thing to do is hang out with my family. It doesnt really matter what we do; I love spending time with them. We are animal lovers and share our home with an African Grey Parrot, a black cat and are in the process of adopting a rescue dog. In the past our family has included a big dog, guinea pigs, bunnies, dwarf hamsters, a variety of cats and even stick bugs.

Angela is available for free Skype visits with classrooms, book clubs and homeschool groups