Crash by Jerry Spinelli Teaching Ideas

Crash by Jerry Spinelli Teaching Activities

Are you looking for fun Crash teaching ideas? Check out these discussion questions, writing projects, and playlist ideas.

The story follows the main character, John “Crash” Coogan. This tough and aggressive seventh-grader likes to bully his classmates. He picks fights with anyone who crosses his path. But as the story progresses, we see John begin to change, as he learns important lessons about empathy, friendship, and what it means to be a true hero.

The book is a compelling coming-of-age story. Jerry Spinelli masterfully weaves together moments of heartbreak and triumph. Readers will watch John as he navigates his way through the challenges of adolescence. He soon discovers the true meaning of courage and strength.

With its relatable characters and emotional themes, Crash is a book that will make readers both laugh and cry, and ultimately leave them feeling inspired and uplifted.

Crash Teaching Ideas

Book Unit Samples

Crash Novel Study Samples

Get the following samples from the link below:

  • Vocabulary Practice for Chapters 1-4
  • Comprehension Questions for Chapters 1-4
  • Constructed Response Question – Character Traits of Crash

Crash Teaching Ideas #1  – Themes 

Crash Teaching Activities

Themes that middle school students can relate to are presented in the novel. Here are a few discussion questions to get students to talk about the themes.

  1. What is the significance of the title “Crash”, and how does it relate to the overall themes of the book?
  2. How does the book explore the theme of bullying? What insights does it offer about the nature of bullying and its impact on both the victim and the bully?

  3. What role do family and home life play in shaping John’s behavior and attitudes? How does this influence his relationships with his peers?

  4. What is the significance of football in the book? How does it serve as a vehicle for John’s personal growth and development?

  1. What lessons can be learned from John’s journey toward forgiveness and self-acceptance?
  2. How does the book portray the importance of empathy?
  3. What messages or lessons can be drawn from the book about the nature of heroism and what it means to be a true hero?
  4. How does the book explore the theme of identity? What insights does it offer about the struggle to define oneself in a complex and ever-changing world?

Crash Teaching Ideas #2  – Playlist

Crash by Jerry Spinelli Teaching Activities

Have students create a playlist for the novel Crash. Students must tell which scene from the book each song fits with and explain why. Here are a few examples.

  1. “Loser” by Beck – This song could fit the opening scene of the book. This is when John is introduced as the school bully who picks on everyone including his own neighbor.

  2. “What I’ve Done” by Linkin Park – This song could fit the scenes where John starts to feel guilty about how he’s treated his classmates. This song fits the scene when Crash sees his former target, Penn, being bullied by others.
  3. “Brave” by Sara Bareilles – This song could fit the scenes where John starts to stand up for Penn and other classmates who are being bullied. The lyrics of the song encourage bravery and speaking up for oneself.
  4. “We Are Young” by Fun. (feat. Janelle Monae) – This song could fit the scenes where John and his friends celebrate their victories.
  1. “Human” by Christina Perri – This song could fit the scenes where John starts to see the humanity in his classmates and others around him, John starts to empathize with their struggles and pain.
  2. “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke – This song could fit the scenes where John starts to change his behavior and attitude toward others. He starts to seek redemption and forgiveness for his past actions.

Crash Teaching Ideas #3  – When the Shoe Fits

If the Shoe Fits - Writing Activity for Crash by Jerry Spinelli Teaching Activities

Red shoes are an important symbol in the book Crash by Jerry Spinelli. This made me think about what types of shoes would represent the main characters. This turned into “When the Shoe Fits – A Writing Project to use with Crash by Jerry Spinelli.”

This is a free printable activity that can be used as an interactive notebook activity. In the writing activity, students must explain why each character would wear a specific type of shoe. 

For example,  Abby joins Penn in trying to stop workers from building a mall in a nearby grassy field. Abby actually gets on television during her protests, but her success is short-lived as construction begins the day after the protest. Scooter does help pull off Abby’s wet and muddy shoes when gets home the day of the protest, but the author makes no mention of the kind of shoes she is wearing; however, Crocs seem suitable for a young girl who wants to build a refuge in her backyard.

If the Shoe Fits - Writing Activity for Crash by Jerry Spinelli Teaching Activities

The handout includes printables for students to write how the following shoes fit:

  • Crash – cleats
  • Abby – Crocs
  • Penn – Sneakers
  • Scooter – Boots
  • Jane – Sneakers
  • The Red Shoes

Answer keys are included.

See the product that inspired this post.

Crash Novel Study

Crash Book Unit contains graphic organizers for an interactive notebook and game activities covering vocabulary, comprehension questions, constructed response writing, and skill practice.

Gay Miller

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  1. Hello,

    I love your units and I am trying to find the Crash activity “If the Shoes Fit”. I looked on TPT but could not find it. Would you please help me out? I need some good hands-on activities for my students.

    Thank you very much

    1. Hi Diane,

      Here is the link to the blog post. A link to the free printable is toward the bottom of the post.

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