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Class & Individual Activities

1. Organize the class into a research team (or teams) to investigate the history, structure, and operations of its community's or state's foster-care system or child-welfare system. Research might include: interviews with supervisors, case workers, foster parents, foster children, lawyers, and judges; newspaper archives; and local library resources. The class's or teams' final report(s) should include key findings as well as conclusions regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the system and recommendations for improving the system. The full report(s) might then be forwarded to the appropriate school and government authorities, as well as newspapers. 2. Throughout his book, Fisher recalls dreams and nightmares that seem significant. Assign your students to maintain dream journals, in which they record their dreams, their reactions to them, and their explanations of the dreams' importance. They should be encouraged to share their dreams and attendant thoughts and feelings with one another, but in a manner agreed upon among themselves (with your guidance). 3. Early in his book, Fisher gives us a tour of the Picketts' first house, from basement to attic. Have each of your students draw a tour-plan of the house in which she or he grew up. The drawings should include floor plans, indications of each room's or area's contents, and comments upon the feelings or memories associated with each room or area. Each student, or the class together, might then draw a tour-plan of the ideal house. If the students are willing, they should display the resulting plans. 4. Fisher repeatedly writes about the importance of music, both popular and classical, in his life. Of the playing of the Cleveland Orchestra, he writes, "This music transports me out of time and place." Ask each student to prepare a list of recordings and artists important to him or her, with explanations of why each is important or noteworthy. The class as a whole should then prepare a group play list-perhaps arranged by level of importance (resulting from a class vote)-and play the matching recordings at a class, school, or neighborhood concert, dance, or party. 5. Fisher recalls Mrs. Brenda Profit, his fourth-grade teacher, as "a teacher in the truest and best sense of the word. If there is such a thing as human beings who act as angels in our lives, Brenda Profit was that for me." Lead a class discussion of what made Brenda Profit so special to ten-year-old Fish. Next, ask each student to write or make a recording about one person-a teacher, a foster parent, a minister or priest, or a social worker, for example-who acted as an angel in her or his life. Then, lead the class in sharing their angels by collecting and photocopying all their stories, and placing the copies in binders for each student. Each story, or the entire collection, may also be sent to the angels with notes, of appreciation and thanks. 6. Young Fish's sense and knowledge of his Glenville neighborhood is very important to him throughout his years in Cleveland. Work with the class in creating a map of Glenville and neighboring areas, on the basis of Fisher's accounts. Then have the class, perhaps arranged in teams, create maps of the neighborhoods or areas of their towns or cities. The maps might be accompanied by brief histories compiled from interviews with residents and research in school and public libraries and available government archives and records. They might also be accompanied by photographs, historic and contemporary (taken by the students themselves). The resulting maps, with histories and photographs, might then be displayed in your school, neighborhood community centers and churches, and city or town halls. 7. Fisher frequently describes or explains lessons he learned at important times in his life, linking those lessons to the people or circumstances responsible. Guide your students in tracking those lessons and their circumstances. Next, guide the students in compiling individual lists of lessons that each has learned at important stages of his or her life? They might also append lessons they think they still have to learn? Finally, guide the class in combining their individual lists in a catalog of the most important life lessons, with agreed-upon explanations of why each is important. 8. In the "Foreword" to his collection of poems, Who Will Cry for the Little Boy?, Fisher writes that, in one of her lectures, Maya Angelou "spoke of poetry and its healing powers. . . . Through poetry we will discover that others

have pulled themselves from the depths of despair." Ask students to write a short essay about the ways in which Antwone Fisher's poems help them feel less alone or more able to handle specific problems in their lives. As much as possible, they should share these essays with one another in a structured class discussion or presentation. 9. Have each student select a poem from Who Will Cry for the Little Boy?. Ask students to respond to the poem by adding or changing parts so that the resulting poem reflects her or his own experience, thoughts, and feelings. Collect, photocopy, and bind the poems so that each student has a copy of the collective class work. Copies of the collected poems should also be placed in the school library. 10. Have the class discuss, on the basis of Antwone Fisher's experiences and their own, what rights should be guaranteed for every young person. Climax that discussion with a drafting of a Young People's Bill of Rights, which may then be posted in your school and distributed to other classes, to local newspapers and radio and television stations, local churches, and to various community governmental offices. The drafting of a Young People's Bill of Rights might be enhanced by research into the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and Declaration on the Rights of a Child (1959) and other statements of children's rights. (That research might involve the school library, the local public library, and the Web.)

Discussion Questions about the Film
1. How did watching the movie, Antwone Fisher, compare with the experience of reading the book, Finding Fish? Did the movie prompt feelings and thoughts similar to or different from those prompted by the book? 2. What episodes and images from the book are given heightened importance in the movie, and which are given less emphasis or omitted? Why do you think Antwone Fisher, as screenwriter, and Denzel Washington, as director, decided to present Antwone's story in this way? Do you think the movie or the book is more effective in telling Antwone Fisher's story? Why? 3. In what ways do you think the expanded importance, in the movie, of Antwone's naval psychiatrist (Dr. Davenport) and his home life add to or detract from an understanding of Antwone's story? 4. How does the sequence of events in Antwone's life as presented in the movie differ from the sequence of events in the book? Why do you think either is the more compelling or appropriate? 5. Which single element in the movie but not in the book-a character, an event, or an image, for example-do you think does the most in enhancing your understanding and appreciation of Antwone Fisher's life? Which do you think might take something away from his story?

Web Resources for Teachers
North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL), "a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to research-based expertise, resources, assistance, and professional development opportunities to educators and policymakers." Includes links to a Trip Planner Survey Tool designed to help teachers prioritize use of resources within the Pathways Web Site. Additional links take teachers to Critical Issues concerning At-Risk Students, documented class assignments and activities, and additional Internet resources. Central College, Pella, Iowa "Strategies for teaching at-risk students" is a collection, from various sources, of techniques, activities, and recommendations relating to teaching at-risk students from kindergarten through grade 12. APS News Online (American Physical Society) "Out of Africa: Using Fractals to Teach At-Risk Students" explains RIP professor Ron Eglash's documentation of

fractal patterns throughout African cultures, his focus on employing African fractal patterns in the classroom, and provides a link to Eglash's Web page. Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) is a "private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving education for all through applied research, product development, and service." http://www.mcrel.org/lessonplans/index.asp A treasury of lesson plans, projects, and resource links (not limited to at-risk students) in the following areas/courses: The Arts; Behavioral/Social Sciences; Civics; Economics; Foreign Language; Geography; Health/PE; History; Language Arts; Math; Multi/Interdisciplinary; Science; Technology. The Best on the Web for Teachers 200 links to lesson plans, projects, and other resources for teachers (not limited to resources for teaching at-risk students). Teacher Source More than 4,000 lessons and activities for classes K-12 (not limited to at-risk students). Nova More than 500 resources in a growing database, which includes Nova program descriptions, lesson plans, online activities, companion Website overviews, and more (not limited to at-risk students). University of Minnesota, College of Education & Human Development, Center for Applied Research & Educational Improvement (CAREI) Research/Practice, 5, 1 (Spring 1997), "Resiliency-a Paradigm Shift for Schools" "addresses the benefits of thinking about the resiliency of children, rather than their risk factors and draws our attention to some of the levers that schools and social agencies can affect. In addition, it reviews some proven strategies that can work in schools and communities." English Teacher Includes numerous links to exercises, discussion topics, individual and class activities, research assignments, and other issues, many of which are suitable — "Alphabetical Biography," for example — for at-risk students. The Web Resources for Teachers, Class and Individual Activities, and Discussion Questions about the Film were prepared by Hal Hager, Hal Hager & Associates, Somerville, New Jersey. He has taught literature at several colleges; has been active in editing, marketing, reviewing, and writing about books and writers for many years, and is the author of numerous teacher's guides and reading group guides.