Questions are windows. Here are a few (well, a lot) to open with your students.
Comprehension Questions and Projects
I will update these prompts periodically—making corrections and adding ideas that come to me or that other educators share with me.
- What 3 adjectives describe Raul? Write everyone’s opinion on white poster board. Defend or change your choices. Try to reach a consensus as a class. When you’ve finished the book, find new adjectives to describe Raul. How has he changed? What experiences changed him? Do the same for yourself! Write out a short paragraph describing yourself. Give it to your teacher. At the end of the year, write a new paragraph about yourself. Compare it to the earlier one. What experiences changed you?
- Who is Mary Anne? How do the other characters feel about her?
- How do Raul and Mean Jack get along? What is the relationship between Raul and Sparrow?
- Why does Tuffman start picking on Raul?
- What does Dean Swift think kids really need?
- In what ways is this story realistic? What are signs (according to Raul) of ‘woods magic’? Support your opinion by citing specific passages in the text.
- What is a werewolf, according to Raul?
- Do you think animals are going to be important in this story? Why? Support your opinion by citing specific passages in the text.
- What makes Raul an outsider?
- Why does the story open with Vincent’s arrival?
Activity : Draw a map of the school and the area around it. Put a number on each place (boys’ bathroom, beach, Fort Casey, Blackout Tunnel, dining room, Animal Care room, etc.) Leave room and write in pencil so that you can add more (or revise!) later. On a separate, lined piece of paper, write down the numbers on your drawing and then describe in 1-2 complete sentences what is important about each place.
Activity : Have students act out or read aloud WITH FEELING ! the following scenes : The Animal Care Room incident (16-21), Pretty Lady gets mad at Dean Swift (31-32), and Gollum in the Dining Room (36-39). If they decide to act it out, have them come up with a script.
- Why does Tuffman wrestle Raul during PE? What does Mr. Tuffman accuse Raul of doing? Who is watching the whole terrible ordeal?
- What do windows represent in this story (so far)? Support your opinion by citing specific passages in these chapters.
- Raul often mentions things his father says. Why? And do the things his father used to say tell you anything about his dad?
- What is a snitch? What does it mean to ‘rat someone out’? Why won’t Raul tell on Tuffman? Do you think he should?
- What is ‘poetic justice’? Who administers it best? What does that tell you about this character and her role in the story?
- Why doesn’t Cook Patsy march straight to Dean Swift’s office and tell him what Tuffman did to Raul? Do you think she’s right or wrong?
- What is Raul’s problem?
- Why does Vincent think Tuffman was so hard on Raul in P.E.?
- What is mtDNA? Why is it important to Raul?
- What is Sparrow’s problem? When Raul found out about it, what did he do? What does he think he should have done?
- Why does Dean Swift tell Raul you have to forgive yourself sometimes? Have you ever made a big mistake? Was it hard to admit to it? How do you feel before you admit it? How do you feel after you say you’re sorry?
- Why is there a bike in a tree?
- How would a scientist describe willow-o’-the-wisp? How about a long time ago? How did legends explain it?
- Why does Raul say a raven is a sweet-talking trickster? Have you ever come across the figure of Raven in other stories?
- Look at the names of the kids who are with Vincent when he sees White Deer. What story do those names come from?
- Why is Vincent at One of Our Kind Boarding School?
Hey! Break out groups. Words that make pictures.
Divide into 6 groups. Each group will take one chapter and find examples of figurative language. Each student should choose their favorite and then : A). draw it! That’s a good way to understand what the image is trying to say. B). try to come up one of their own that is similar to it (see example below)
Ex. The very first paragraph. The words ‘fly’ like chickadees startled from the holly trees. To write your own metaphor, inspired by this example, start asking yourself questions. Words don’t fly-not literally anyway! How do the fly figuratively? What other verbs could describe the way words in a room come at us? Can they float like a cloud? Can they bubble up like lava? Can they bumble and stumble like bees? Then write your sentence/s. “Go away! Go away! The words strike me from every side. I can see them coming, like punches slamming into my gut.”
*this might be a fun activity to do every six chapters. You could restrict the game as you go, asking students to only find similes or only analogies or metaphors.
- What do Vincent’s and Raul’s names mean? What is the origin and meaning of your name?
- What is Mary Anne’s problem?
- What kind of father is Dean Swift? How does he treat the students? (Chapters 7 & 8)
- What led Raul to the lighthouse?
- Why do you think Raul’s dad stopped coming?
- Analyze the metaphor of dandelion fluff.
- Why does Raul say he made the magic happen? (p.91)
- What does Tuffman mean by ‘natural law’? What information does he want from Raul?
- There are a lot of different sources of light in the story. What does light represent?
- What is the ‘recipe’ Raul learns from White Deer? (Chapters 7 & 8)
- What is the difference between Raul and a werewolf?
- Who does Raul think the white wolf is? How is she hurt on this particular weekend? How does Raul interact with her? What is their relationship in the woods like?
- What does Raul learn about Tuffman when they meet by the lake?
- Why is Raul ashamed on page 111?
Activities and Projects
- Come up with some more awful recipes like the ones on page 107, or make a drawing of one of the ones Raul and his friends have imagined.
- If you could have a second skin, what would it be? Why? What do you admire about that animal? In what ways does your personality resemble that animal? Is it a resemblance based on how the animal looks? Or is it based on an intrinsic quality that you associate with that animal? (Please be aware, you cannot just write, Because it is cool.) Where would you ‘shift’? Choose a real place that you know. Is there someone in your life who would help you? Is there someone who would try to trap you? After you write it, draw it (or vice versa!)
- A follow up to this could be to make puppets, and then have kids come up (in groups of 3 to 5) with their own ‘lost scene’ to the story.
- What animal has taken up residence near Fort Casey?
- How does Raul “catch cool”? What makes Vincent cool?
- What does Raul discover in the turret? How is the discovery connected to his secret in White Deer Woods?
- How does Raul think the cougar is connected to his secret in White Deer Woods?
- Would you eat one of Raul’s mom’s recipes?
- How does Raul decide to solve his problem?
- What is Vincent’s secret? Why does it worry Raul a little? How would you feel if a friend told you they had done something like that?
- What does Tuffman get Vincent to do to Raul?
- What was the Penn Cove Massacre?
- What kind of teacher is Ms. Tern? Does she have any skills you don’t usually associate with reading teachers?
- What is the role of the lamp/light in the scene where Tuffman tells Raul how they are related?
- How are Tuffman and Raul related? Make a family tree for Raul. Make one for yourself. Does your mom have a maternal uncle?
- How many times now has Raul almost told Tuffman everything?
- Why does Vincent promise to take revenge on Tuffman for Raul?
- Does Ms. Tern like Mr. Tuffman? What does she think of Raul?
Chapters 16- 18
- How does Vincent apologize?
- Why won’t Raul make Vincent the same pole he made for Sparrow?
- What code does Raul crack?
- What happens this time as he’s running to the lighthouse?
- Look at page 187. How is Raul like a lemon meringue pie sky?
- When Raul sees White Wolf, what does he infer?
- Why do you think the reader gets to listen to Raul’s thoughts in the woods this time? How has he changed? What changed him?
- Who is Tuffman, really?
- Is it a good idea to throw rocks at wolves?
- Why does Dean Swift decide to tell Raul everything he knows? What did he find in the kitchen next to the cookbooks? Why does he take the recipe card box away?
- What happens between Vincent and Mary Anne while Raul is sick in his room?
- What does Ms. Tern tell him? What do you think it means? Did Raul just dream it?
- Why does Raul conclude that he can’t make a conclusion?
- Have you ever lost your temper? Have you ever teased or yelled at someone younger than you? How did you feel about the way you acted later? How did you make up for it?
- What scared you the most when you were little? How did you behave?
- On page 236 Raul says he can tell Sparrow is about to cry by the shape of his mouth. How can you tell someone is scared or sad? What do their eyes look like? Show your elbow partner. What does their mouth look like? How do they hold their shoulders?
- On page 241 Tuffman says, “It’s not like we’re monsters.” Is that true? What is a monster? Look up the etymology of the word online.
- What does Raul learn when he overhears the conversation between the dean and Ms. Tern? How does it make him feel?
- Who else does he find in the secret turret?
- How does Raul end up telling Vincent more than he should? How does Vincent react?
- How does Raul use the light in the turret? What genre does this scene belong to? Does it remind you of any other popular heroes and how they gain access to special powers?
- What is Cook Patsy’s favorite symbol for love? What is yours? Phrase it as a simile : Love is like…
- Describe Vincent. Do you feel sorry for him? Does he seem like someone you would want for a friend? Do you understand why he did what he did? Have you ever done something like that?
- What is Fresnel fury? Is there more than one example of it?
- Why won’t Raul hit Vincent at first? Why does he eventually?
- Is Raul changing?
- What is Tuffman’s whole story? Describe his attitude towards Raul.
- His power is your name. Can you find places in the text where Tuffman controls Raul with his name?
- What does Mary Anne mean when she says Vincent is broken? What is noblesse oblige? Do you agree with that? Think of a specific example in your life where you have to ‘be the bigger person.’
- What is Tuffman’s awful plan? How old is he really?
What is the social contract (p. 282)? Look up Jean-Jacques Rousseau online and in your library. What kind of contract binds your classroom community? What rules about civilized behavior can you all agree on?
…and on a side note, how the heck did Mary Anne get so smart?
hint : She must spend all her time R_ _ _ ING!
- Who has betrayed Raul?
- Why do the clothes go in the oven? Is there a metaphor hidden in this aspect of the recipe?
- Have you ever been in a bad situation and then found a way to be grateful for something?
- What important thing does Raul learn about the recipe for the magic in the woods?
- What old friend does he meet in the woods? What does he think he see when he looks at her? What other marvelous things does a wolf see in the woods?
- Who catches Raul and White Wolf? How does Raul act to make them realize he isn’t your average wolf? There is a deeper question in the medieval version of this story, and that is, what makes a human human and what makes an animal an animal? What makes humans different from other animals? Make a list. What aspect of being human has Raul lost when he becomes a wolf?
- Who is the ranger? How does Raul begin to recognize him—what is the first change he notices in himself? What does this tell you about how parents help their children?
- What made Raul’s dad stop coming to visit him?
- How does each friend react to Raul? What does their reaction tell you about their personality?
- Go online and find out about places near you where wolves have been reintroduced to their natural habitat. Divide your group in half. One half will look at the situation from the point of view of conservationists and those who believe wolves need to be protected. The other half will look at the situation from the point of view of farmers and ranchers. Hold a classroom debate. How have some communities resolved these challenges?
- What do Mary Anne and Mean Jack do to solve the mystery? Imagine the days after they visit the Ranger in his trailer. How do they investigate the grey wolf’s curious hatred of Vincent?
- What does Raul learn about second skins from Dean Swift? How does it help Raul put the final pieces of his puzzle together?
- Does the ranger understand why they run?
- Why is it fitting that the ranger is the dad? What do those roles have in common? In the medieval version, the ranger is played by the king. Who did the king represent in medieval society? What does that tell you about the medieval author’s idea of the king’s role in her story? Why does it make sense to have that role played by the ranger/dad in this story? In what way is Dean Swift a father figure in this story? What are these two father figures (the ranger and the dean) like? What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses. What do you think the ideal parent is like? They should have some faults, shouldn’t they? Nobody is very interesting without them. What kind of faults does that ideal parent have?
- What has Vincent been up to this summer?? Why do you think he decides to tell Jack the truth?
- Why does Dean Swift calls Vincent a traitor?
- What do we learn about the magic of White Deer Woods? Is it a unique place on earth?
- Does Dean Swift know everything? How is not knowing a theme of this book?
- What does the bike in the tree represent? Is it ironic in any way that Vincent is the one who frees the bike from the tree?
- What does Raul hope to explain to Vincent one day?
- What is special about the white animals of the woods? How are they different from other kinds of shifters?
- The new reading teacher has a very unusual diet. Do you think she might be ‘one of our kind’?
What are some of the rules and styles that govern Northwest Coast Indian art? Go to one of the websites listed in my post “TINAWS’ Easter Eggs : A Reader’s Guide” and select a work from their catalogue. Present it to the class.
Make a map of the school. What other secret rooms are in the building?
Describe the ideal boarding school. Imagine you spend a year there. What would your weekday schedule look like? What classes would you take?
Which teacher or adult in the story is your favorite? Why? Nobody is perfect. Where do these grownups leave some ‘room to grow’?
Make a map of the story–White Deer Woods, the school and the road to it, Fort Casey, the Ranger’s trailer. Make the map as detailed as possible.
Choose one of the types of trees or plants mentioned in the story and research the legends associated with it as well as its scientific properties.