May 22, 2006

Do I dare disturb the universe?

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:18 pm by mrsmauck

I’m loving the themes of The Chocolate War. The quote from Jerry’s locker is perfect. Peer pressure, school spirit, cliques, bullying, tons of important themes. And I think it’s all delivered in a chorus of totally realistic, engaging voices. I can see why it has been banned so many times, with all the references to jacking off, girls’ breasts, disrespect and even contempt for authority, but isn’t that totally realistic? If I taught this book and the kids didn’t get into it, I would be devasted. (Can you tell I’m going to be one of those teachers who gets totally invested in whatever she’s presenting? Is that a bad thing?)

Here are some great ideas for teaching it from McDougal Littel:

  1. Groups of kids create handbooks for dealing with peer pressure, including lists of local resources.
  2. Students create a poster a character (besides Jerry) could have hanging in their locker, using a quote and their own illustration.
  3. Individual reports on Nazi Germany, and the tactics used to keep people silent, fearful, and obedient. (Brother Leon compares one of his classes to Nazi Germany after no one speaks up when he unfairly berates–and even abuses–a student.)

And one of my own:

  1. Do you dare disturb the universe? Students write a short story about how they could disturb the universe in their school. What are the structures that need disturbance? Where would the backlash come from? How would they stand up to the pressure?

Any other ideas? What kinds of responses have you educators encountered from students on The Chocolate War or works like it?



  1. Onyx said,

    Have you read Todd Strasser’s THE WAVE? It is superb and answers the questions of how and why people kept quiet.

    I also suggest Francine Prose’s AFTER, Haddix’s AMONG THE HIDDEN series, THE BIG EMPTY (a series) and THE UGLIES series. Very powerful stuff

  2. Kim said,

    The Wave is going on my reading list. Thanks for the recs, onyx!

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