Joel and Tony are best friends who live right across the street from each other. Tony is always daring Joel to undertake dangerous feats and today it is to climb a dangerous cliff called Starved Rock. Joel doesn't want to go there, but when his plan of getting his dad to say no to the two biking there fails, he is forced to go along with Tony's not so brilliant idea. When Tony decides to challenge Joel to a swimming contest in a river that they are not allowed to swim in, during their bike ride, Joel sees it as the perfect opportunity to get out of the dangerous rock climbing expedition. Even though he knows Tony is not a good swimmer, the two swim a race that ends tragically. Joel may never be able to forgive himself for agreeing to this race. Marion Dane Bauer does an amazing job in On My Honor, keeping the reader at the edge of their seats, hoping that the tragedy somehow will turn around.
Teachers: Here are some resources and ideas to help you teach this novel...
- Lessons: This site offers a variety of lesson ideas/plans as well as activities to use with On My Honor. Some of the lessons include comprehension/discussion questions, others include extensions to losing loved ones.
- Reading Guide: This book review blog, Wild Geese Guides (also featured in my Reaching for Sun blog) offers discussion questions for before reading, questions for during reading to go along with each chapter, comprehension questions, discussion questions and projects to go along with On My Honor.
Vocabulary: Here are some words that may need to be pre-taught: absorbing, agitated, awkward, barrage, betrayed, bleating, bluffs, clammy, convulsed, crested, dam, deceptively, dense, dispel, eddied, elasticized, embankment, engrossed, erratic, exasperation, exuberance, fishtailed, frazzled, fretted, gawk, gingerly, glowering, guffaw, haphazardly, honor, hurtled, indistinct, inflection, interval, jaunt, jubilant, meadowlark, momentum, murmur, nonchalance, obscuring, quivering, relishing, reverberated, reverently, rigid, scorcher, scornfully, silhouetted, simultaneously, skeptical, slog, solemnly, spewing, stance, supplication, tentatively, underbrush
Since there are a great number of words that may need explanation or pre-teaching before students can fully understand this novel, you will have to be choosy in which words you think are most important and/or which words you think your students are less likely to discover meaning through context clues.
Before Reading: Have small group or whole group discussions on the meaning of "honor" as well as "peer pressure" as these two themes are very prevalent in On My Honor. It will be important for students to have an understanding of these themes before reading.
During Reading: After the tragedy occurs in the novel, have students discuss in small groups how they would react to such an incident. Also have them predict what they think Joel will do in the end of the novel to deal with the situation emotionally. This would be a good time to tie in any part of the lesson that involves grieving a loved one if you have chosen to include this with teaching On My Honor.
- Ask students to think of a time when they lost something very special to them. It can be something as small as losing a toy or something as big as losing a family member or friend. Have the students write a journal entry where they talk about how they felt and how they reacted, comparing these feelings and reactions to those of Joel in On My Honor.
- Have students take on the persona of Joel and write Tony a letter. In doing this activity, students will be able to extend their comprehension of the novel as well as infer some of the feelings Joel probably had that were not explicitly stated in the novel.
Bauer, M. D. (1987). On My Honor. New York: Yearling.Newbery Honor Book
Happy Reading (&Running) =)