Freak The Mighty Essay Questions

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Lesson Plan

Reading and Writing Workshop: Freak the Mighty


Grades6 – 8
Lesson Plan TypeUnit
Estimated TimeTen 50- to 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author





This unit revolves around Rodman Philbrick's Freak the Mighty. Lessons include teaching and practicing pre-, during, and after reading comprehension strategies. Before reading, students are guided to make personal connections with the story by jotting down words and phrases as they read the back cover. During reading, students make predictions about the text and skim recently read passages to find one sentence that stands out to them. After reading, student discuss why the author chose the title. Students connect the book to their own writing by focusing on the use of voice in one's writing, figurative language, vocabulary development, and word study. A multiple choice of culminating activities with an accompanying rubric is also included.

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Experienced readers use specific strategies before, during, and after reading in order to make sense of the texts that they read. In order for students to develop these strategies, they need to see the techniques modeled and they need to be urged to practice the strategies themselves. Rick VanDeWeghe writes of modeling: "teachers show how they go about the processes of reading and writing-drawing students' attention to the ways readers and writers think and the real decisions they make, especially when they themselves are challenged." This lesson makes extensive use of modeling through a series of activities related to the book Freak the Mighty.

Further Reading

VanDeWeghe, Rick. "Deep Modeling and Authentic Teaching: Challenging Students or Challenging Students?" English Journal 95.4 (March 2006): 84-88


Atwell, Nancie. 1998. In the Middle: New Understandings about Reading, Writing, and Learning. Portsmouth, N.H.: Boynton/Cook.


Robb, Laura. 2000. Teaching Reading in the Middle School: A Strategic Approach to Teaching Reading That Improves Comprehension and Thinking. New York, N.Y.: Scholastic, Inc.

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Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.



Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.



Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).



Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.



Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.



Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.



Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).


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Resources & Preparation


  • Class set of Freak the Mighty (1 for each student)

  • Dictionaries

  • General classroom materials (drawing paper, colored markers, crayons, and so forth)

  • Journals or spiral notebooks for reader responses

  • Magnetic letters or letter cards

  • Small notebooks or materials for bookmaking

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Grades   3 – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Organizing & Summarizing

Graphic Map

The Graphic Map assists teachers and students in reading and writing activities by charting the high and low points related to a particular item or group of items, such as events during a day or chapters in a book.


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  • Pre-read the novel.

  • Generate a sample list of metaphors and hyperbole appropriate for the level of your class.

  • Test the Graphic Map interactive on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

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Instructional Plan


Students will

  • make predictions based on the content that's read as a means of improving comprehension.

  • make personal connections to the text as a means of improving comprehension.

  • demonstrate comprehension of the novel.

  • choose and use appropriate voice in their writing.

  • recognize and create examples of metaphor and hyperbole.

  • increase their written and spoken vocabulary.

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Instruction and Activities

Comprehension Strategies

Before Reading Strategy
Activating Prior Knowledge/Making Connections

  1. Pass out the book, and ask students what they use the backs of books for.

  2. After students share, tell them that we're going to use the back of this book to "get our brains on the right track for this book."

  3. Give an example of a time when you've tried to solve a problem while you were thinking of something else and how, as readers, it's important to focus your thoughts. This is known as "Activating, or turning-on, your prior knowledge-what you already know about something.

  4. Model with the first sentence on the back: "I never had a brain until Freak came along...." Give an example of what this makes you think of. Then ask students if they thought of something different.

  5. Tell students that you're going to read the rest of the back aloud. You will be stopping once in the middle of the paragraph and then at the end. When you stop, students will jot down a couple words or phrases to represent what they're thinking of as they hear what's read. When you've finished reading, ask students to share their thoughts with their neighbors.

  6. After you've completed the reading, ask for a volunteer to share what he or she thought of and what made them think of this.

  7. Pair students and have them share their thoughts. The sharer should include what made him or her think of that. The listener should be listening for this support, and ask for it if it isn't given.

  8. Share as a class.

During Reading Strategy
Passage Master (Linguistic Roulette)

  1. Tell students that you'll be reading aloud the first chapter. When you finish the chapter, you'll be asking students to skim back through the chapter and find one sentence that stands out for them. It could be interesting, puzzling, important, or something they can relate to.

  2. Have students write their sentences on a slip of paper. Have them share with their neighbor along with their reasons for selecting the sentence. Then have two pairs join to share. Then share as a class.

During Reading Strategy

  1. After completing the Passage Master activity, model how to make predictions with support based on the Cover and Chapter 1.

  2. Have students come up with their own predictions and support.

  3. Assign Chapter 2 reading for homework, telling them we're looking for either more support for our current predictions or something that causes us to change our predictions.

During Reading
Additional Chapters of the Text

Alternate the Passage Master and Predict/Support activities for practice throughout the novel

Post Reading Strategy
Final Confirmation/Adjustment of Predictions with Support

Discussion or prompted response regarding the meaning of the title, where it comes from, and why it's important to the story. Ask students to brainstorm with partners other possible titles and explain why each would fit as a title.

Writing Connection


During Writer's Workshop, use the book within a minilesson about the writing trait of "voice." Compare the following basic summary of Chapter 1 to the actual chapter and discuss the differences.

I started living with my grandma and grandpa when I was in day care. Back then I went around kicking everyone so they called me "Kicker." That's when I met Freak for the first time. I remember him because of his leg braces and his crutches.

I didn't see Freak again until third grade when I saw him ride by in his bus.

My name is Maxwell, but kids at school and in my class call me many other names. I'm not too smart, and am in the LD class at school.

One night, I overheard my grandparents talking in hushed voices about how I not only look like my dad, but that I act like him too and that they better keep an eye on me because who knows what I might do.

Then for practice, provide students with a couple writing prompts to choose from like "It was the worst day ever" or "I'll never forget when..." and have students focus on including their own voice in their writing.


Choose the humorous definitions like "boats," "critters," and "zoo" as examples. Talk about how you could picture Max's feet with actual boats instead of shoes. Discuss the exaggeration of hyperbole and comparison through metaphors and provide further examples. Students then choose a word to write a humorous definition for. They then make a poster with the word, definition, and an illustration. I provide them with an example of "bags: what Mrs. Hebert gets under her eyes when she stays up late grading papers." See the Glossary of Poetry Terms for definitions of metaphor and hyperbole.

Word Study

"Freak's Dictionary" provides many opportunities for word study. A number of words provide prefix, suffix, and / or root instruction.

Letter Mover

With the following letters, students manipulate the letters to form words that fit the clues. As an extension, particularly for struggling readers, have students find other words and group by families of phonics sounds. Then have them list other words that fit with these families. This extension can be used for phonics instruction, especially for the various "y" sounds and "a" sounds.

Challenge-figure out the mystery word that's spelled using all the letters
(answer: dictionary).

letters-a, c, d, i, i, n, o, r, t, y

Word Clues 1:

  1. 3-letter word describing the time when the sun is up (day)
  2. Add two letters to make it specific to the time we're in now (today)
  3. Change the first letter of the first word to make a three-letter word meaning a part of a line that extends forever in one direction (ray)
  4. Add a letter to make the object your lunch comes on (tray)
  5. Exchange the last letter for two letters to make a 5-letter word for a type of vehicle (train)
  6. Remove a letter to get all wet (rain)
  7. Add a letter to change the noun to its adjective form (rainy)

Word Clues 2:
  1. 3-letter word for a type of transportation (car)
  2. Add a letter for a type of game (card)
  3. Replace the first letter with a different one to make a unit of measurement (yard)
  4. Replace the last letter to be able to knit (yarn)
  5. Remove the first letter and change the last letter to make a curve (arc)
  6. Change the last letter to make something beautiful (art)
  7. Change a letter to pretend to be something you aren't (act)
  8. Add a two-letter suffix to change the word from a verb to the noun, meaning a person who does this (actor)
  9. Change the suffix to a three-letter suffix to make another noun that means "the process of doing." (action)
  10. Keep the suffix and change the root to make a 5-letter synonym for "country." (nation)
  11. Change one letter to make noun meaning "a fixed amount." (ration)
Personal Dictionaries

Vocabulary Teaching with Freak the Mighty is a great way to start the school year for the purpose of establishing a vocabulary development practice to use throughout the year. After finding out about Freak's personal dictionary, have students begin their own personal dictionaries. Spiral notebooks or journals can be set up for this by labeling pages alphabetically. Dictionaries become more personalized if students make and bind their own dictionaries. Throughout the reading of Freak and continuing throughout other novels, students find new, unfamiliar words and add the words with a definition in their own words and an illustration of the word. Provide students with your expectations for the number of words. Extension activities might include students using a given number of their own vocabulary words within a piece of writing, vocabulary quizzes, creating a memory game out of the words and definitions, or other activities you've done in the past for vocabulary development.

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Stage a classroom production of the one act play Rodman Philbrick wrote, which can be downloaded at no cost from Philbrick's Website.

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  • Review all predictions and connections made during reading to determine if appropriate support is being given for predictions and that the connections are relevant to the text.

  • Comprehension Assessment

    • After completing the book, provide options for final activities:

    • Create a Life Map for Max (this is like a road map, but the landmarks along the road are important events in the life of the character) using the Graphic Map interactive.

    • Retell this story or an important scene from another character's point-of-view

    • Walk About (Choose 1)

      • Walk in a character's shoes—Imagine that, by magic, you switch places with either Freak or Maxwell. Pick an important event from the beginning, middle, and end from the story (three total) and retell each scene with yourself in the character's place (be sure to show how you would act differently and/or make different decisions.

      • A character walks in your shoes—Pick a major event in your life and imagine that either Freak or Maxwell was there instead of you. First, describe the event you experienced. Next, explain how you think it would have been different for the character and the reasons for the differences (use support from the book, for example: Max would be paralyzed and speechless because this is what happened when his father showed up.)

  • Use the Comprehension Assessment Rubric to assess students' development.

  • Compare a piece of writing after the voice lesson with pieces of writing done prior to the lesson to determine whether increased attempts are made at adding voice to the writing.

  • Create a figure of speech modeled after Freak's dictionary, showing that the concept of metaphor/hyperbole is understood. Also, provide examples and nonexamples of these figures of speech and have students identify any hyperbole and/or metaphors.

  • New personal vocabulary words are used when writing and speaking.

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Related Resources


Grades   3 – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Organizing & Summarizing

Graphic Map

The Graphic Map assists teachers and students in reading and writing activities by charting the high and low points related to a particular item or group of items, such as events during a day or chapters in a book.


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Pamela Atchison

April 24, 2014

This will be my first time using this lesson. I plan to begin using it later today. I will post my reflections after I complete the lesson.


wanted to read more comments for ideas to extend this lesson



Essay Topic 1

Compare and contrast Max and Kevin. In what ways are they similar? In what ways are they different? In what ways do their differences complement each other?

Essay Topic 2

Max is constantly speaking negatively about himself. In what ways are the things he says true? In what ways are the things that he says false? What does this say about Max's self-esteem?

Essay Topic 3

Freak the Mighty is a combination of both Max and Kevin. How does this combination make a whole person? (In what ways is Kevin disabled? Max? How does the combination of both make a "whole"?)

Essay Topic 4

Max seems to be a very good judge of character. Choose one of the subordinate characters (Loretta, Iggy, Ken Kane) and describe how Max's initial feelings about the character came to be true. Alternatively, Max ended up being wrong about two of the characters, why...

(read more Essay Topics)

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