Crash by Jerry Spinelli is one of my favorite novels to teach in middle school, especially at the 5th and 6th grade levels. If you are teaching this book to your class, here are a few activities to include in your Crash novel study that will help your students connect with the characters and storyline.
Crash is a great book to start the school year with since the characters are beginning their school year as well. The story begins with the narrator, John Coogan, explaining through flashback how he got his nickname, Crash. He then goes on to share how another major character, Penn Webb, came into his life.
Flash forward to the first day of seventh grade, and the story takes off for student readers. While I love this book as a read-aloud, it is also a perfect literature circle text. Chapters are short, holding student attention, and each chapter ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, begging for readers to continue on. If you do read aloud a chapter or two, your students will be cheering, “ONE MORE PAGE!” Yes,it is that good.
LESSON PLAN BASICS
I use a fairly consistent lesson plan structure for all of the novels we read together in class. As you can see in the notes below, I lead off each day with a discussion around the assigned reading selection. This is also the point where I might read a chapter aloud to help students visualize the characters in a different voice.
Beginning classroom discussions around the setting of our reading selection is a great way to kick things off. Another idea is to discuss how events within the reading selection relate to students’ personal experiences. These types of open-ended topics not only give you an assessment of comprehension, but they also help students hear how their peers interpret events in the book.
After our daily discussion, I give students time in class to work on their assignments for each chapter. This includes the reading comprehension questions, context clue worksheets, and character analysis work in my novel study units.
Over the years, I have utilized many of the same questions to check for reading comprehension. I created these questions with the idea that students would read them before reading the text, list page numbers where they could go into the text to find their answers, and respond in complete sentences with correct capitalization, grammar, and punctuation. In addition, I want my students to answer both literal, inferential, short answer, and extended response questions.
Free Character Analysis PDF
The relationship between Crash and Penn is perfect for introducing more in-depth character analysis themes to your students. Books with friendship themes are essential for any middle school library because navigating friendships is a big part of adolescence.
Click on the image below to download my Crash vs. Penn character analysis PDF to use with your students. It is also included in the bundle featured at the bottom of this page.
If you are looking for a complete guide to teaching this book with common core questions that go chapter by chapter, check out this Crash novel study unit in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
This resource includes both my teacher lesson plans and the student worksheets with answer keys. You can literally download the printable PDF and get started tomorrow. You may not even need to read the book!😉
Includes the following:
- 15-pages of chapter-by-chapter reader response questions
- Context clue worksheets by chapter
- Novel setting activities
- Character analysis worksheets
- Plot structure and story map diagrams
- Main idea chapter title activity
- Daily lesson plans and discussion topics for easy implementation
Reader’s Theater Companion Activity
Reader’s theater is one of my favorite teaching tools. A few years ago, I decided to blend both of these ELA favorites and create a Crash Reader’s Theater script. Crash chapters are short enough that you could probably have students read them aloud to practice fluency, but I promise my reader’s theater scripts are more fun!
Includes the following…
- 8-character reader’s theater script
- Context clue worksheets by chapter
- Compare and contrast printable
- Reading comprehension questions
Test and Review
If you are using this book for whole-class instruction, then you will probably finish your unit with a test or final. For my class, I wanted to create my own test that not only measured the recollection of events within the book but also connected the character analysis and friendship themes beyond the text. The result is this 25-question assessment that combines both multiple-choice and short answer formats.
This end of novel assessment includes:
- directions and ideas for use
- 16 multiple-choice questions
- 9 short-answer questions
- an answer document for test-taking practice
- an answer key for easy teacher-use
A Comprehensive Crash Novel Study Unit
I’m not sure how many hours I’ve spent lesson planning for Crash over the years, but somewhere along the way I finally reached that “print-and-go” utopia where I can teach this novel with minimal planning time. If you are considering Crash as a whole-class novel study, check out this special bundle I’ve put together. It includes all of the resources I mentioned in this post, along with a test review challenge your students will love!
The bottom line is that there are dozens of unique ways to teach the novel Crash. Regardless of what activities you choose, your middle school students will love this book. This is one of those “easy wins” for reading teachers where students connect with the characters, which gives us the opportunity to dig deeper into literature concepts. When our students love the books they read, it becomes easier to motivate their learning!