Playing around with Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Anderson’s historical novel provides space for a plethora of classroom and out of the classroom activities. That means these ideas could work both for formal and informal educational situations. Though I (Catherine) have used the novel with middle school students, others can adapt or rework these activities for use with other ages as well.

Some ways to introduce your students to the book:

Covering Chains

  1. Ask student to pair off, or assign pairs yourself.
  2. Provide a handout with discussion questions about the cover:

What are your impressions of the cover?

Based on the cover image, what is this book about?

What seems important about the cover image?

Students then have about 5-8 minutes to discuss their ideas before returning to the large group. Each pair prepares to share at least one idea from their discussion for the rest of the group.

Pick a Passage and Read Aloud

  1. As an entire class, read aloud a passage from Chapter 2 (or another early chapter of your choice). Take turns by changing speakers every paragraph or so.
  2. Individually, students write a short response to these questions. Provide about 10-12 minutes for this activity:

Share your interpretations of this passage. Are there any parts that stand out to you? What questions do you have? What do you notice? What seems important? Write down at least 3 observations or questions you have about the passage.

  1. Students then form small groups and share their responses verbally.
  2. The entire class then discusses the questions, providing space for students to talk about their ideas with everyone.

Cover Design Activity

Students are provided with blank white paper, construction paper, or if you are really serious, posterboard, and a variety of artistic mediums. Crayons, colored pencils, pen, and watercolors are all options here. Students are invited to redesign a new cover of the novel, thinking carefully about their choice for the new visual of the story. After artwork is completed, students are asked with briefly present their covers to the rest of the class, explaining their cover design and the thought process that went into its development.

To add competition, covers could be displayed on a board, without names, and voting could take place for the most creative new cover design of Chains.


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