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. Jeffrey follows him around and destroys his stuff. For example Jeffrey used Steven’s special autographed drum sticks to make the “dangerous pie”.

Question Two:

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

Question Three:

When Steven finds how Jeffrey has leukemia the first thing he feels is relief. He realized he wasn’t in trouble for Jeffrey’s nosebleed. He regrets this feeling a lot, 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.

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. person because Steven is torn between worrying about himself vs. 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.

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).

Question 5

Renee is more attractive, popular, fashionable, and confident. Annette is more awkward and unsure. But Annette is the more caring and compassionate person, and so she is the more likable character.


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 turns 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.





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