Writing Answers

Writing Answers to Short Answer/Essay Questions

  1. Answers must be COMPLETE. All parts of the question must be addressed.
  2. Answers must be FULLY EXPLAINED. Do not assume the reader understands things you have not explained. There must not be any gaps in your reasoning or explanation. Explanations must be clear and logically organized.
  3. Answers must be PROVEN AND DEFENDED. You must give evidence for your answer including SPECIFIC DETAILS AND EXAMPLES from the reading. Imagine you are trying to convince a jury your answer is right – prove it!
  4. When requested examples may need to include exact QUOTES from the text, and CITATIONS of the page number where the quotation was found in the text. Quotes must directly relate to the question and directly support your answer.



Reason  Explanation  Examples   Details


EXPLANATION – Explain your answer and your reasoning. Your answer should include some kind of “because” statement. This statement will transition you from explanation to examples by giving a reason for your answer. “Johnny is an admirable character in the story because he makes personal sacrifices to make his friends’ lives easier.”

EXAMPLES – Examples should be specific and include facts and details from the story. You should have a “for example” statement in your answer. “For example Johnny gave half of his lunch to Stewart when Stewart could not afford to buy his own.” Additional examples strengthen your case and your answer. “Johnny also gave up going to the baseball game with his father so he could help Ralph clean out his garage.”

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie – Handout One

Question One:

Steven loves his little brother and feels like his protector. But he is also annoyed by Jeffrey. He describes Jeffrey as “the most annoying thing in the world” in his journal assignment. Jeffrey follows him around and destroys his stuff. For example Jeffrey used Steven’s special autographed drum sticks to make the “dangerous pie”. He says Jeffrey is “an unrelenting nightmare”.

Question Two:

Jeffrey worships and idolizes his big brother. He follows him around like he’s Elvis according to Steven. And Jeffrey tells Renee that Steven is a “rock star”.

Question Three:

When Steven finds how Jeffrey has leukemia the first thing he feels is relief. Because he realized he wasn’t in trouble for Jeffrey’s nosebleed. He regrets this feeling a lot almost immediately, because he was worried more about himself than Jeffrey. Steven isn’t a bad person, because he realized it was wrong to feel relieved.

Question Four:

Steven deals with worrying about Jeffrey by focusing on other things like playing the drums, a complicated math problem about tic-tacs, and Renee. Even Steven’s humor and sarcasm are a way of coping.

Handout 2

Question 2

The protagonist is Steven. The antagonist is Jeffrey’s cancer (leukemia). The conflict is person vs. nature because Steven is struggling to deal with Jeffrey’s illness. Another conflict is person vs. self because Steven is torn between worrying about himself or worrying about Jeffrey (selfishness vs. compassion).

Question 3

The tone of the story is humorous. Steven makes sarcastic jokes while telling the story. It is funny. The plot is sad however. The story is about his little brother battling a deadly disease. Not everyone feels it’s appropriate to make jokes about something so serious.

Question 4

Steven deals with his stress by playing the drums, writing in his journal, making up math problems, making jokes, and even pretending Jeffrey’s cancer isn’t real (denial). He also directs his anger against everyone, even Jeffrey.

Question 5

Renee is more attractive, popular, fashionable, and confident. Annette is more awkward and unsure. She is only confident when she plays the piano. But Annette is the more caring and compassionate person, and so she is the more likable character. Renee is self-centered. Annette listens to Steven’s problems when Renee won’t.


Obligatory – Things you are required to do.

Tethered – Tied to something.

Unrelenting – Never stops or gives up.

Repertoire – A collection of performances.

Interrogation – Harsh intimidating questioning.

Technique – Method of doing somethings.

Sashay – To walk with confidence and motion.


Handout 4

Question 1

Steven’s dad didn’t want to attend the concert, because he is a proud man who was embarrassed to accept charity. He felt that he should be able to take care of his family. He didn’t want pity. But he realizes it’s OK to accept help when you need it.

Question 2

The two wise characters in the story are Mrs. Galley and Samantha. Mrs. Galley tells Steven to focus on things that he can change, not to agonize over things he can’t.  Samantha tells him to always be there for his brother.

Question 3

Sonnenblick includes Samantha in a subplot of the story as a cautionary tale. She shows what can go wrong. Samantha shows us that leukemia is deadly, and that it is worse when family members turn their back on you.

Question 4

The key message of “Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie” is the advice from Mrs. Galley. Focus on the things you can change. Don’t agonize over things you can’t change. Steven can’t cure Jeffrey’s cancer, but he can be there when Jeffrey needs him. The message is repeated so many times that Steven knows it by heart.

Maniac Magee – Handout 1

Question 1

The introduction foreshadows that Maniac will become a legend. He will have an adventure with a clump of string. But most importantly he will bring the East Side and the West Side together, so that the girls from each side sometimes jump rope together.

Question 2

Jeffrey runs away because after his parents are killed in a trolley accident, he must live with his aunt and uncle. They don’t like each other and never speak. Jeffrey gets so tired of their fighting that he runs away from the choir concert.

Question 3

Amanda is surprised to see Jeffrey in her neighborhood because he is a white kid. She lives in a black neighborhood on the East Side. White kids always stay on the West Side.

Question 4

Maniac is an amazing athlete who runs incredibly fast. He can even balance as he’s running on the rails of the tracks. But what makes Maniac really special is that he does not notice or care about race or color. He sees and treats all people the same – with compassion.

Question 5

Maniac intercepted the pass from the high school quarterback Brian Denehy with one hand while holding a book. He hit both McNab’s fast ball and his “frog ball”. And he saved a kid named Arnold Jones from Finsterwald’s feared back yard.

Maniac Magee – Handout 2

Question 1

Point of View is who tells the story and their relationship with the story. It’s what they can see, and how they feel about it. The Point of View in the story is 3rd Person Limited.

Question 2

The Protagonist is the main character. It is who the story is about. The Protagonist in the story is Maniac Magee.

Question 3

The Antagonist is the person or thing ,that opposes ,or causes trouble for the Protagonist. It is the problem in the story. In Maniac Magee the problem is Racism.

Question 4

The Conflict is the battle or struggle between the Antagonist and the Protagonist. In the story the conflict is Person versus Society.

Question 5

The Beale and the Pickwell families are both kind and generous. They help people in need like Maniac. They are from opposite sides of town. The author is showing us there are good people on both sides.

Question 6 

Mars Bar and McNab are both bullies. They are angry haters who pick on Maniac. The author is telling us there are mean people on both sides. It’s the character of the person that matters, not their race.

Maniac Magee – Handout 3

  1. Grayson asks about the East Side because he has never been there. He doesn’t know any black people. He finds out that they are not as different as he thought. The author is showing us that we are more alike than we think. And that you should not assume things about a group of people until you get to know them.
  2. Grayson never learns to read because his parents didn’t pay much attention to him. His teacher wasn’t very good and told the principal that the class “would never learn to read a stop sign.” Grayson was discouraged and quit. He ran away from home and school when he was 15.
  3. Grayson’s first proudest moment was when he played AAA minor league baseball and struck out Willie Mays on 3 pitches. His second was when he learned to read from Maniac.

Maniac Magee – Handout 4

  1. The key lesson in the story was not to judge people or treat them differently based on their race. The author shows us that there are kind people on both sides of Hector Street. The Beales are a very kind and generous black family, and the Pickwells are a very caring and friendly white family. Spinelli shows us that people need to know and understand each other before they judge. Mars Bar (who hated white people) is treated well by the Pickwells, and Piper (who hated black people) is saved by Mars Bar. Each side helps the other when they get to know each other. Racial hatred comes from ignorance.

3. Maniac brings the east and west sides together by being a good model for each side. He does not care about race and treats everyone the same. He is a hero so they respect him and learn from him. He also introduces each side to the other. He takes Mars Bar to the Pickwells, and he lets Mars Bar save Piper. The two sides learn to know and trust each other.

The Giver – Handout 1

  1. Jonas’ world has very strict rules and everyone follows them obediently and instantly. People are not allowed to be rude or mean. People are not even allowed to get angry. All of their decisions, including who they marry, their jobs, and which children they are assigned, are made for them. His world is very structured and very boring compared to ours.
  2. His world does have advantages however. It is safer. People are protected from themselves and each other by the rules. Everyone is given what they need to survive like food and shelter and jobs. There is no crime or violence or poverty.
  3. Jonas’ world is boring. People have no privacy. They are monitored constantly through evening and morning rituals. There is no sadness or anger, but there is also no real joy or love. There is no individuality. Everyone must dress and act the same. They don’t even have their own birthday. And there is no freedom to make your own decisions about your life.
  4. At the Evening Ritual they must share what happened during the day and anything that is troubling them. It is good because they share feelings and comfort each other. It is bad because they are forced to share. They surrender their privacy as well as their emotions during the ritual.

The Giver

Quiz Questions

  1. Give two examples of tradeoffs in the story. Explain what they do. Explain what is sacrificed and what is gained. The people in the community must share their experiences and feelings at the end of each day in the Evening Ritual. They gain support and comfort from their family. They learn to deal with their emotions. However they surrender their privacy and their emotions. Privacy and strong emotions are seen as a threat to the community. The people in the community are assigned their jobs. Everyone is guaranteed a job and people are given a job that matches their abilities. However people are not allowed to choose. They gain the security of a guaranteed job but they sacrifice their freedom to choose.
  2. What assignment does Jonas receive? How is his assignment special? Jonas is given the job of Receiver of Memory. He is “selected” instead of being “assigned”. The job has great honor and is only assigned once in a generation. It has special privileges. Jonas may lie. He is allowed privacy. But Jonas may not tell anyone about his assignment. So he will be very alone. And it will be difficult. Unlike others Jonas will have to experience pain.
  3. Describe The Giver’s job. Why is it important to the community? The Giver holds the memories of the past. Some are considered too painful for others to hold. The Giver advises the Community of Elders when they make decisions. He tells them about the mistakes of the past so they do not repeat them.

Vocabulary – 

Meticulously – done with great care and precision

Retroactive – affecting an earlier date or time, impacting the past

Aptitude – talent or ability

Palpable – capable of being felt or touched

Serene – peaceful

Languid – slow or sluggish

Haphazard – without plan or order

Admonition – warning

Permeated – soaked through

  1. What do you think was the main message of the novel? A) The main message was that love, compassion and caring are the things that make us human. They give life meaning. Emotions can be messy. They can bring joy and they can bring pain. You can not have the good emotions without also having the bad. You can not know love without also knowing sorrow. But it is worth it. When the community in the book eliminates emotions ,because they are dangerous, they destroy the meaning of life. They become less than human. The author writes, “Of course they needed to care. It was the meaning of everything” (Lowry 196).  B) The main message of the novel is that memories are important. They comfort us and encourage us. They give Jonas hope and strength as he struggles through the snow. And memories outlive us. People who are remembered never disappear, and our own memories survive even after death. “If you were to be lost in the river, Jonas, your memories would not be lost with you. Memories are forever” (Lowry 180).


  1. Why does Michael refuse the candy from Mrs. Dando? Mrs. Dando gives candy to kids she thinks are lonely or sad. All the kids know this. Michael does not want people knowing he is sad about his baby sister’s illness. He especially doesn’t want his friends Leaky and Coot to feel sorry for him. Michael was very happy riding alone on the city bus that day, because no one knew anything about anyone else on the bus.
  2. Who lived in the house before Michael? Was he happy? Ernie Myers lived in the house before Michael. He was very sick. Skellig says Ernie was always coughing and spewing his guts. Doctor Death told Michael that Ernie’s dead body lay under the dining room table for a week before it was found. So Ernie was obviously alone and probably lonely at the end of his life.
  3. Why doesn’t Michael stay away from the garage (at least 2 reasons with evidence)? Michael goes to the garage because he wants to help Skellig. He takes food (27 and 53) and aspirin to Skellig. Michael also believes Skellig can help his baby sister. He asks Skellig to help even though there is nothing to suggest Skellig can. Michael also is trying to decide if Skellig is real. Skellig asks Michael if he thinks Skellig is just a figment.
  4. Is Michael happy? Michael seems very unhappy. And he has lots of reasons to be unhappy. His baby sister is very ill and could die. His parents have less time for him now. He had to move away from his friends to a run-down old house. And he’s not sure if he is going crazy, because he sees a weird creature in his garage.
  5. Could Ernie see Skellig? Ernie could see Skellig. Skellig tells Michael that Ernie used to look right at him, but look through him. He said Ernie believed he was a “figment”. This means Ernie saw him, but didn’t believe that he was real. They had a strange distant relationship. Skellig seemed to watch over Ernie. He knew about Ernie’s illness.

Ample – A large amount – more than enough

Rubbish – trash

Parcel – package

Perceptive – to notice and understand things around you that others might not.


Question 1

Ossification is when the mind stops working. It becomes hard and inflexible. Calcification is when the body stops working. Joints become hard and inflexible. They are the same because something becomes inflexible and no longer works properly. They are different because ossification is mental while calcification is physical. Calcification can be avoided by exercising and moving the body. Ossification can be avoided also by staying active, by keeping the mind positive and active.

Question 2

Michael is connected to the baby, especially through their hearts and heart beats. During heart surgery the baby’s heart stops for a moment. This is when Michael loses consciousness. He is affected by what happens to the baby’s heart.

Question 3

Main Messages –

We are connected to the well being of the people around us.

We should not categorize things or overgeneralize.

We should be more open to having faith and believing.

We need to see and hear the world more closely. We need to notice how amazing the world is.

Death is natural and necessary.

Love can heal.

David Almond shows us through Mina that it is wrong to categorize and generalize. Mina gets angry when she sees the sticker on Michael’s library book. It categorizes the book by reading level and also categorizes the students who can read it. She thinks anyone should be able to read a good book regardless of its difficulty level. Mina also gets frustrated when Michael says that blackbirds are black. That generalization causes people to overlook all the different colors that are actually part of a blackbird. Finally Skellig himself does not fit into a neat category. Skellig says he is kind of a bird, kind of an angel, kind of a person. Almond wants us to see that the world is more amazing and complicated than the categories we have created to simplify it.

Question 4

Mina dislikes the sarcasm in schools. She and her mother believe that teachers are too sarcastic with children. She hates that schools shutter you away from the world you’re supposed to be studying. She quotes William Blake who wrote, “How can the bird that is born for joy sit in a cage and sing?” Finally she doesn’t like the way schools label information and students. One thing is “science” and another is labeled as “art”. She is upset that books are categorized by which kind of student should read them.


Sinews – muscles or tendons

Efficient – productive without wasting time

Lumbering – large and clumsy

Fixated – overly focused on something

Plundering – ransacking, stealing

Beguiled – fooled






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s