Al Capone Does My Shirts Teaching Ideas

Al Capone Does My Shirts Teaching Ideas

Written by Gennifer Choldenko, Al Capone Does My Shirts is a captivating and engaging historical fiction novel. It will transport readers back in time to the infamous Alcatraz Island during the 1930s.

The story follows 12-year-old Moose Flanagan, who has just moved to the island with his family. His father takes a job as a prison guard. Moose’s life is turned upside down as he struggles to adjust to his new home. Problems at school and caring for his older sister who is on the autism spectrum add to the conflict.

When Moose strikes up an unlikely friendship with Al Capone, the notorious gangster who resides on the island, his life takes a thrilling turn. With unforgettable characters, witty dialogue, and a richly detailed setting, Al Capone Does My Shirts is a must-read for anyone. 

Al Capone Does My Shirts Activities

Book Unit Samples

Al Capone Does My Shirts Novel Study Samples

You will find the following in this novel study sample:

  • Vocabulary Practice for Chapters 1-2
  • Comprehension Questions for Chapters 1-2
  • Constructed Response Question – Setting

Teaching Idea #1  – Bump Games

Al Capone Does My Shirts Activities

These two Bump Games cover important reading skills: using context clues and figurative language. The sentences used to practice these skills are lines from the novel. Both full color and black-lined versions are provided in this print-and-go activity. Use games in small groups for a fun interactive activity.

Teaching Idea #2  – Activities on the Web

Al Capone Does My Shirts Activities

Gennifer Choldendo Website – Learn about the other books in this series at Gennifer Cholodenko’s website.

Check out this discussion guide.

ReadWriteThink has a lesson plan on Travel Brochures featuring Al Capone Does My Shirts.

Teaching Idea #3  – Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island

Have students research Alcatraz Island, the setting of the novel, and its history as a prison. They can create posters, timelines, or virtual tours of the island to share with the class.

Teaching Idea #4  – Bullying

  1. How does Piper use her power to bully others? Why do you think she behaves this way?

  2. How does Moose’s sister Natalie experience bullying in the novel? What impact does it have on her and her family?

  3. How does Moose respond to being bullied by Jimmy? What are the consequences of his actions?

Teaching Idea #5  – Symbolism


Alcatraz Island:

Alcatraz represents the challenges that Moose and his family face.

The Laundry: 

Moose’s mother does the laundry. This way to make money symbolizes hope and betterment.

The Baseball: 

Baseball is a symbol of unity and friendship. It brings Moose and the other boys on the island together.

The Box of Buttons:

The buttons symbolize the unique qualities of each person and the importance of recognizing and valuing those qualities.


Teaching Idea #6  – The Series

After reading Al Capone Does my Shirts, be sure to introduce students to its sequels.

  • 2011 – Al Capone Shines My Shoes 
  • 2014 – Al Capone Does My Homework
  • 2018 – Al Capone Throws Me a Curve 

Each book in the series features Moose Flanagan and his sister Natalie. All books in the story take place on Alcatraz Island in the 1930s where the siblings meet notorious criminals.

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Al Capone Does My Shirts Novel Study

Al Capone Does My Shirts Novel Study includes vocabulary practice, comprehension questions, constructed response writing, and skill practice. 

Gay Miller

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