Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Rest in Peace, Maniac Magee

Kerry McMillen


After reading the novel, MANIAC MAGEE, students use precise words to create an epitaph for each of the major characters reflecting the individual character¹s personality and nature.


The student focuses on a central idea or topic (for example, excluding loosely related, extraneous, or repetitious information).

The student demonstrates a command of the language including precise word choice and use of appropriate figurative language.

The student uses creative writing strategies appropriate to the format (for example, using appropriate voice; using descriptive language to clarify ideas and create vivid images; using elements of style, such as appropriate tone).

The student explains character development in a literary text.

The student knows the motives for a character's actions.


-Examples of epitaphs (real or made up!)
-Chalkboard and chalk or overhead projector and markers
-Construction paper and scissors
-Transparency of sample epitaphs


1. Collect examples of epitaphs or make up your own and write them on a transparency.
2. Gather supplies listed in materials list.
3. Write your own epitaph to share with the class.


1. Explain to students what an epitaph is. (It is a short, precise statement written on a tomb in memory of the person buried there.)

2. Show some examples of original epitaphs on the overhead or chalkboard. You can make them up, or show some that you¹ve actually seen on tombstones. Examples‹ Here lies Teenager Joan, She starved to death while talking on the telephone! 1970-1984; Farewell, farewell to mischievous Michael, He should have stayed off that motorcycle! 1980-1995

3. For practice, have students write their own epitaphs, making sure they reflect the individual student's personality. Stress the importance of using precise words‹making every word count. Also, tell students that epitaphs don¹t have to rhyme, but it¹s fun to write those that do!

4. Show them an example of what you would like your epitaph to say to reflect your personality. Example‹ Farewell, farewell to Bookworm McMillen, She drowned in the tub, While reading about her favorite villain! 1965-2000

5. Have volunteers read their epitaphs orally.

6. Explain to students that they are now to write epitaphs for the major characters in Maniac Magee‹Jeffrey Maniac Magee, Amanda Beale, Grayson, Giant John McNab, Mars Bar Thompson, Russell, and Piper.

7. Before writing, have the students brainstorm the personality and physical traits of each character. Discuss the character development as the novel progressed through their thoughts, speech, and actions. Discuss the characters' individual motives. Record students' ideas and thoughts on the board so they may refer to the lists as they write their epitaphs. Each epitaph should reflect the character's nature and personality.

8. You may want to have the students work in groups as they write the epitaphs. You could also assign certain characters to certain groups.

9. Have students cut out tombstone shapes from construction paper and write the epitaph for each character on an individual tombstone.


Assessment of students' epitaphs will be based on the following rubric:

Full Accomplishment (3) The student's epitaph clearly reflects the character's personality and individuality through precise word choice.

The epitaph reflects student's understanding of character development as well as individual motives. The writing is focused and does not include extraneous or loosely related information.

Substantial Accomplishment (2) Student's epitaph provides an adequate reflection of the character's personality and nature and shows a vague understanding of character development and individual motivation. The epitaph may be a bit wordy, and some loosely related information may be included.

Partial Accomplishment (1) The epitaph only minimally reflects the character's personality and nature. No understanding of character development and motives is shown. The writing is not focused and may contain unrelated or loosely related information.


This activity may be used with any novel study.
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