Get a FREE ebook by joining our mailing list today! Get our latest book recommendations, author news, competitions, offers, and other information right to your inbox.
By clicking 'Sign me up' I confirm that I'd like to receive updates, special offers, including partner offers, and other information from Simon & Schuster Inc. and the Simon & Schuster family of companies. I understand I can change my preference through my account settings or unsubscribe directly from any marketing communications at any time. We will send you an email with instructions on how to redeem your free ebook, and associated terms.
Curriculum Guide Miles Morales Suspended A Spider-Man Novel
By Jason Reynolds About the Book
From #1 New York Times
bestselling author Jason Reynolds comes the high-flying sequel to his groundbreaking young adult novel Miles Morales: Spider-Man
about the adventures of the unassuming, everyday kid who just so happens to be Spider-Man. Discussion Questions
1. Exposition is the part of a story that establishes characters, mood, and setting (including time). Carefully read the first three pages. Which main characters are introduced? What words and phrases help you figure out the mood of this passage? What will the setting of the story be? What has happened to Miles in the week leading up to the events in this story?
2. Brooklyn Visions Academy is designed as a pipeline to college; in other words, it is designed to prepare students for a future that includes attending college. Based on the details in the book, how does the school try to prepare students for success in college?
3. Miles ignites a protest when he tells his teacher, Mr. Chamberlain, that he is not “(1) a pincushion, or (2) a punching bag, or (3) a puppet, or (4) a pet, or (5) a pawn” (p. 6). Explain what each of these metaphors means. What metaphors would you use to describe the way you feel at school? (Note to teachers: You may wish to extend this lesson by comparing Miles’s experience with that of the speaker in the Simon and Garfunkel song “I Am a Rock.”)
4. How is Brooklyn Visions Academy different from what Miles calls “my Brooklyn”? Why do his parents send him to Brooklyn Visions Academy? Do you think they are doing the right thing? Explain your answer.
5. Give examples of passages that describe Miles’s neighborhood and develop the theme of community. Why do you think Miles is so proud of where he is from?
6. Why doesn’t Miles feel like he belongs at Brooklyn Visions Academy? (Note: see page 12) What could the school do to make all students feel welcomed and valued?
7. Miles describes two types of teachers, “the passionate” and the “paychecked terrors”—those that teach because they love the subject and profession, and those who are only there to earn a paycheck. Later he writes about Mr. Chamberlain, “You ever had / a teacher / who taught you / like they / were teaching / you a lesson?” (p. 18) Thinking about good experiences you’ve had in the past, make a list of things teachers have done that told you they were “passionate” and why.
8. What does Mr. Chamberlain say in class that causes Miles to accidentally break his desk? How does he treat Miles after the accident? Why do you think these two incidents cause the class to protest Mr. Chamberlain’s class? What could the school have done instead of suspending the students for protesting how Mr. Chamberlain treated them?
9. After visiting the dean’s office, Miles reflects, “Did you know / American tarantulas / use their hair as weaponry? / Tiny needles turned knives / Follicles that be fierce and feared” (p. 31). Why do you think some schools, organizations, or workplaces make rules about acceptable hair length, style, or color? How would rules about how you could and could not style your hair make you feel?
10. Why do you think Miles’s parents were not angry when he got in trouble for challenging Mr. Chamberlain?
11. Find an example of a way that Mr. Chamberlain teaches history from his own perspective as a middle-aged white male. How does his perspective differ from Miles’s perspective? How does it differ from your own perspective? Why is it important to study historical events as objectively and from as many perspectives as possible?
12. When Miles can’t sleep, he puts on his Spider-Man suit and visits Times Square. Why do you think he chooses this place to visit? What do his interactions with the grandfather, the fake Spider-Man, the thief, and the young boy reveal about his character and conscience?
13. What does Alicia mean when she responds to Miles: “poetry isn’t the prize, it’s the prelude” (p. 59)?
14. Explain Brooklyn Visions Academy’s approach to discipline (pp. 68–70). Do you think any of the students in ISS (In-School Suspension) deserve to be there (pp. 72–77)?
15. Miles alludes to the plot of the first Miles Morales book when he mentions his battle with the Warden, a villain seeking to funnel students from schools directly into jail (see pages 19–20). Explain how a school’s structure and teaching might limit students’ options, causing them to give up or end up in jail. Why does Miles blame schools like this for what happened to his uncle Aaron and cousin Austin?
16. Miles is given assignments in ISS to help him reflect on his behavior. The first of these asks him to develop equations responsible for who he is now. Consider the equations Miles writes, and explain what each one reveals about how he is feeling (see pages 86–89). Write three to four equations that describe the way you feel about yourself.
17. Why do you think the question “What patterns are responsible for your life?” (p. 84) causes Miles to think about his cousin Austin, Uncle Aaron, and the trip to Washington D.C. with Ganke and his parents?
18. Give examples that show how author Jason Reynolds uses foreshadowing before the identity of the novel’s supervillain is revealed.
19. Why does Miles initially try to ignore his spidey-sense when he is in ISS? How can a person know when to mind their own business and when to say or do something?
20. The ISS chemistry worksheet asks students to reflect on when they have been a green banana (one that is influenced to change negatively by the bananas around it) and when they have been a brown and bruised banana (one that cannot be influenced). When Miles reflects on all the people in his life, what does he realize about what each of them has taught or given him? How does he answer the chemistry question?
21. Initially, Ms. Blaufuss assigns students an essay based on Franz Kafka’s story, “The Metamorphosis,” about a man who wakes up to discover that he has transformed into a giant bug. Students are asked to write about when they woke up as “a brand-new thing.” (p. 189) Why would Miles be hesitant to write about this topic? What examples does he think of that describe less obvious ways that he has woken up to find himself different than before? (pp. 189–191)
22. Miles often thinks of his father’s advice to “find the light that lifts his chin.” (pp. 58 and 144) Explain what this saying means. What is something that provides the light that lifts your chin?
23. Why do you think Tobin begins his attack by trying to alter Miles’s vision? What does vision have to do (symbolically and literally) with how we perceive ourselves and our surroundings? How does Tobin want Miles to see himself? (p. 270)
24. Use a Morse code translator to translate the messages on pages 263 and 283. What do you think this message means? Why do you think the author chose to write it using Morse code?
25. When Miles realizes that Tobin is trying to control whose stories are represented in the library’s collection, Miles wonders if the stories of his family and friends would matter enough to be represented (p. 280). Why is it important to see people who look like you and share your experiences represented in stories, history, art, music, and the world around you?
26. What happened to the real Tobin after Spider-Man defeated the termite version of him? What do you think caused him to become consumed by the desire to destroy books?
27. Why do you think Tobin destroys books? Why do you think that, throughout history, book banning has been used to control or manipulate people? What do you think makes some people want to destroy, ban, or censor books?
28. Self-determination is a term that means that a person is free to control their own life. How could a school help instill self-determination? Explain how Brooklyn Visions Academy tries to instill self-determination in students. How could the school do a better job?
29. Throughout the book, Reynolds repeats the motif of spiders and webs. Look at the passages on the following pages: 1, 16–17, 31, 35, 40, 41, 62, and 93. What do you think spiders and webs might symbolize?
30. At the beginning of the book, the narrator states: “It could be said, depending on who you ask, that Miles is the bearer of good conscience” (p. 6). What does it mean to have a good conscience? How does Miles demonstrate that he has a good conscience? Why is this an especially important characteristic of a superhero? Extension Activities
1. You are probably familiar with the story of Peter Parker, but if you are not, watch one of the Peter Parker Spider-Man movies. Create a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting Peter Parker and Miles Morales. Discuss what you think are the most important similarities and differences between the two characters. Based on your discussion, debate whether you believe Miles Morales will be more similar to or different from Peter Parker when he becomes an adult.
2. This book often alternates form: the third-person sections are written as prose and the first-person sections are written as poetry. Compare and contrast the characteristics of prose and poetry. Why do you think that Reynolds chooses to narrate the book in prose and have sections from Miles’s point of view in poetry? Using the structure of Suspended
as inspiration, write a one- to two-page third-person narrative about what happened on one day last week, then add a first-person poem that captures how you felt about the day.
3. As you read, look for examples of similes and metaphors in the text. As an example, the poem “Spider Fact” on the first page contains both a simile (“when / they move, / like a cursor / across the blank white / page of a wall”) and a metaphor (“or when we trip / the web-like wire / of a booby trap”). In the first example, the spider’s movement on a wall is compared to the movement of a cursor on a page. In the second, the spider’s web is described metaphorically as a booby trap. Keep track of all the similes and metaphors you find while you read, then choose your favorite one and draw an illustration to accompany the quote.
4. What is the purpose of education? Is it to teach people how to “read and write themselves free” or to “civilize” them by teaching them to conform to social expectations and obey authority without questioning? (pp. 229–232) Working with a group, decide on a vision for a perfect education, and then design a perfect school that could instill this vision in its students. What would the building look like? What would you look for in teachers? What types of classes would you teach? What extracurriculars would be offered? What would the classrooms look like? How would your school handle discipline?
5. Research the list of topics and authors that have either disappeared from the library or have been damaged by termites:
· Harvey Milk, Stonewall, Marsha P. Johnson (p. 32)
· The Fire Next Time
· The Autobiography of Malcolm X, The Bluest Eye, The Color Purple, The Hate U Give, All Boys Aren’t Blue, Speak, Catch-22, Fun Home, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
What do all these books have in common? When Miles overhears a parent complaining about the missing books, she is telling the dean, “I just want them to be better than us. . . . They deserve it!” (p. 34). How could reading some of these books make the world a better place? What does it mean to say that “Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance” (p. 50)? How would censoring these books lead to ignorance? What do you think people are afraid of when they censor books? To learn more about fighting censorship, visit bannedbooksweek.org.
6. The American writer and social reformer Frederick Douglass famously wrote in his autobiography, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” This sentiment is echoed in this book’s challenge to “Read and write yourself free” (p. 231). Reflect on a time when you read a book that broadened your perspective or impacted your life in some other way, and write a personal essay about how reading changed the way you view yourself or the world. (Note to teachers: You may wish to adapt this as a Letters About Literature activity. Formerly sponsored by the Library of Congress, this competition is now run at the state level. If your state does not offer a competition, consider organizing a school-wide activity to celebrate the books and authors that have made an impact on students. More information is available here: https://www.read.gov/contests/lal.html#:~:text=Letters%20About%20Literature%20is%20a,on%20state%20and%20national%20levels
7. Winston Churchill famously said, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Choose one of the following historical events that Mr. Chamberlin failed to teach, or Tobin tried to censor, and do your own research about it. Present your findings in a research paper, presentation, or speech, and conclude by examining how learning about this history has changed the way you think about the past, present, and future.
· Jim Crow
· The Civil Rights Movement
· Harvey Milk
· The Stonewall Uprising
(Note: they are not mentioned explicitly in the text but you might include the Holocaust, Japanese Internment, and Native American Internment here as well)
8. While termites are destructive in buildings, in nature they play an important role because they work together and can break down and recycle dead trees and plants. In the same way, people working together can make a big impact on the world—either for good or for bad. As Miles observes, “‘I believe in small things changing the course of reality.’” (p. 163). With your peers, discuss a positive change that you would like to make in your school or neighborhood and find ways to organize and advocate for that change.
9. Typically, superhero stories involve the hero saving the day, but heroes can make mistakes and may use violence to solve problems. Split the class into two groups and randomly assign one group pro-superhero and one con-superhero, then debate whether superheroes are positive role models for children.
10. Miles’s English teacher assigns students Jamaica Kincaid’s story, “Girl.” Afterward, they are asked to create an erasure poem by crossing out, or “erasing” certain words to create a response out of the remaining words, phrases, or letters. You can see examples from Miles and Tobin on pages 211 and 220. Read Jamaica Kincaid’s story, and create your own erasure poem answering one of Ms. Blaufuss’s questions: “What did you find interesting about the way that it’s written? Do you relate at all to the speaker or who’s being spoken to? If so, why?” (p. 201).
11. Miles is frustrated by authority figures who “think they know who you are, and don’t know you” (p. 5). Superheroes are sometimes described as an alter ego, which is another way of saying they are an alternate identity. When Miles is Spider-Man, he is able to express parts of his personality that he hides at school. Create a superhero alter ego for yourself. What power would help you solve the problems that you care about? How would your alter ego reflect your interests, your talents, and the things that matter the most to you?
12. An explication is a term used to describe the analysis of a poem. When you analyze a poem, you identify examples of figurative language (simile, metaphor, personification, imagery, allusion) and sound devices (rhyme, onomatopoeia, repetition, alliteration, assonance). You should also pay attention to specific words or phrases that might have more than one meaning. Choose one of the following poems from Suspended
to analyze: “Austin” (p. 138), “Ganke/Not to Mention” (pp. 140, 141), “Spider-Man” (p. 147), “As Far as Rio Morales is Concerned” (p. 173), “Harlem for Her” (p. 182), “Jamaica” p. (199), “A Reckoning” (pp. 236–40), “Golden Rule” (p. 241). Note: Page numbers refer to the hardcover edition of this title.Guide prepared by Amy Jurskis, English Department Chair at Oxbridge Academy in Florida. This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.