Maniac Magee

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Maniac Magee is a great unit for teaching both theme and character change. Jeffrey Magee, later nicknamed Maniac, goes to live with Aunt Dot and Uncle Dan after his parents die in a trolley accident. After years of living with his aunt and uncle, who hate each other, Jeffrey decides he has had enough. Jeffrey simply runs away.

After a year of running, Jeffrey ends up in a fictional town called Two Mills. In this town, Hector Street divides the town between the East Side where the African Americans live and West side where the White population lives.

At first Jeffrey doesn't see any differences between the two groups. He simply sees people as people. Jeffery makes many friends and soon becomes tagged with the nickname Maniac because he accomplishes several feats including intercepting a football pass intended for the star quarterback, hitting a homerun from John McNab's fastball, and going into the spooky Finsterwald's backyard. Unfortunately, as the story progresses, Maniac is called names and told to go home when he is with the East Enders. When Maniac travels to the West End, he sees the fear the population has of the East Enders. Maniac is awakened to the idea of prejudice.

On the anchor chart below, students select two themes from the book. Prejudice and courage are two obvious choices, but other minor themes are present in Maniac Magee as well. I like to use sticky notes for students to complete the anchor chart. This way the anchor chart may be used with different groups of students.

Below is a printable anchor chart that may be downloaded for free by clicking on one of the images below. These anchor charts may be used with any novel.

Click here to read a blog post titled Five Ways to Teach Theme for additional information.


The anchor charts above pair with the constructive response graphic organizer below. This is a free sample constructive response organizer from Maniac Magee Interactive Notebook and Activity Unit. Just click on the image to download the pdf version of this organizer.




Ways to Use the Graphic Organizer

Option 1

Have students use the graphic organizer for notes. Notice the notes in the photo above are not in complete sentences. Glue the organizer to the left side of the notebook page. On the right side of the notebook, students use the notes to write the details in paragraph form.

Option 2

Students complete the organizer by writing complete sentences.


Maniac Magee changes throughout the novel. Initially he does not see any differences between race. As the novel progress, Maniac is confronted by people who are prejudice repeatedly. This changes Maniac. Students can complete the organizer below to help understand how Maniac changes. Just click on the image to download the pdf version of the organizer.


Maniac Magee Interactive Notebook and Activity Unit contains graphic organizers for an interactive notebook and game activities covering vocabulary, constructive response writing, and skill practice. Click on the image below to visit Teachers Pay Teachers where you can take a look at the preview and purchase this unit.