Ghost Boys begins with the death of twelve-year-old Jerome Rogers and slowly unfolds through a series of flashbacks. Jerome lives in an improvised neighborhood in Chicago. His walk to school is dangerous including going past drug dealers. Jerome is bullied for being a good student.
One day a new kid comes to school, Carlos Rodríguez. Jerome knows right away that he is going to be a target for bullies. Jerome decides to help Carlos by showing him how to grab his lunch then eat it in the upstairs restroom. Unfortunately, the bullies find the two and begin beating on Carlos. Jerome draws the attention of the bullies away from Carlos. When he does, Carlos pulls out a gun. The bullies back down and leave. Carlos tells Jerome the gun is just a toy made from plastic. He carried it to school because he was afraid.
After school, Carlos wants to thank his new friend for helping him on his first day at a new school, so he offers to loan the toy gun to Jerome. Jerome takes the toy to a park after school and pretends he is shooting bad guys…This leads to his death.
The story teaches a valuable lesson that all students should read.
FREE Teaching Ideas for Ghost Boys
Activity #1 – Youtube Videos
Colby Sharp presents great middle school book reviews geared for teachers. His run-down helps teachers determine if some of the hot-off-the-press books are ones they should purchase for their class libraries.
Activity #2 – Free Teaching Guides
This free 10-page Ghost Boys Educator’s Guide is found on Jewell Parker Rhodes’s website. This resource contains many ideas and links to additional materials to help students better understand the novel. Sections in the guide include:
- Ways to Introduce the Novel to Students
- Literary Analysis
- Cultural Context: Past, Present, and Future
This Ghost Boys Educator’s Guide Page from the publishing company, Little, Brown and Company for Young Readers, provides teaching ideas for the novel.
Activity #3 – Civil Rights Timeline
Have students create a timeline of some of the major events of the Civil Rights Movement. Discuss where Emmett Till fits into this timeline. Did his death influence any of the events that took place in the Civil Rights Movement? If so, which ones?
- Brown vs. Board of Education
- Montgomery Bus Boycott
- Little Rock
- Freedom Riders
- Birmingham Civil Rights March
- Letter from Birmingham Jail
- Sixteenth Street Baptist Church
- “I Have a Dream” Speech
Activity #4 – Helping Students Understand Prejudice and Discrimination
Divide students by some random piece of clothing. For example, all students wearing tennis shoes move to the left side of the room. All students wearing any other type of shoes move to the right side of the room. Reward one group only with a token prize such as a piece of candy. Discuss how the students from each group felt. Did types of shoes really matter? How did it feel to be included or excluded?
Have students create a simple T-Chart on a piece of paper. Students label one side “Insider” and the other side “Outsider.” Note: This can be done in small groups. Provide each group with a piece of chart paper. Students brainstorm and list on the T-Chart times they felt like they were included in a group, an insider. Next students list times when they felt like they were excluded, an outsider.
- Do you have more items listed on the “Insider” or “Outsider” column? [Note, most will have more “Outsider” events listed. This is because events tied to strong emotions are easier to remember.]
- What generalizations can you make about your list?
- How did it feel being an “Insider” or an “Outsider?”
- What took place to make you feel included? Was it the way you dress? your appearance? your behavior? or something deeper?
- What are some things you can do to make people who are excluded from a group feel welcome?
Activity #5 – Free Book Unit Samples
If you would like to try out the Ghost Boys Book Unit before you buy it, this download contains free samples including:
- Vocabulary Practice for Chapters 1-3
- Comprehension Questions for Chapters 1-3
- Constructed Response Question for Chapters 1-3
- Photos to Show What the Rest of the Unit Looks Like
Ghost Boys Book Unit contains graphic organizers for an interactive notebook. Vocabulary, comprehension, constructed response writing, and skill practice are all included. Printable and digital versions are available.