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The Friends

Rosa Guy

Theme: Enduring Friendships
Grades: Grades 8-9


Summary:
The Friends deals with three sets of complicated and painful relationships. Phyllisia Cathy, a 14-year-old West Indian immigrant, struggles to achieve a true friendship with Edith Jackson, an African-American teenager from Harlem. Phyllisia also tries to cope with a domineering and sometimes brutal father and a beautiful, sensitive mother who is dying of cancer. Finally, Edith, whose mother has died and whose father disappears, is forced into a parental relationship with her five younger siblings. Edith does everything possible to maintain a household without parents and without money.

Note:The harsh depiction of life's realities in this novel may be disturbing to some readers.


THEME OPENERS
  1. Word Web.
    Have students write the word friendship and create a word web with descriptive phrases they associate with this concept.
  1. Quickwrite: Names Can Hurt You.
    Have students write in their journals about a personal experience in which someone called them an offensive name. Examples might include a religious, ethnic, or racial insult. Invite volunteers to share their responses with the class. Encourage students to compare their experiences with the name-calling incidents that are described in The Friends.
CROSSCURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
  1. Condolences.
    Have students create sympathy cards offering words of consolation to ease Phyllisia's sorrow over the loss of her mother. Encourage students to illustrate their cards and to write poems that express a heartfelt message. You may wish to display the sympathy cards on the bulletin board.

  1. Research Poll.
    Have students create a questionnaire and conduct a poll on the subject of best friends. To help them get started, have the class brainstorm a list of questions to ask respondents. Some examples: Do you have a best friend? Is your best friend male or female? Is your best friend the same age as you? How long have you been friends? What do you like most about your friend? Encourage students to distribute their questionnaires to at least five people they know and then have student volunteers tally the results. Finally, have students discuss their findings with the whole class.
RESEARCH ASSIGNMENTS
  1. Research It!
    Have your students write a research report on a topic inspired by the novel. Possible topics include the Harlem riots of the 1960s, police brutality, inner-city problems, sibling rivalry, stages of the grieving process, abandoned children, high school dropouts, West Indian immigrants, and so on.

  2. TV Talk Show.
    In this project, students stage a TV talk show. The teacher and a student volunteer will role-play the hosts of the talk show. The other students in the class will role-play the members of the studio audience and the guests-main characters from The Friends. The TV talk show will explore family relationships and friends.

    Suggested Procedure:

  • Tell students that you are going to play the role of a co-host on a TV talk show. Have students research the different jobs that will be necessary to stage a TV talk show—such as camera operator, director, writer, actor, expert guest. Invite student volunteers to play the roles of an additional co-host and the following guests-Phyllisia, Ruby, Ramona, Calvin, and Edith. The rest of the class will role-play the studio audience.
  • To prepare for the talk show, instruct a group of students to develop a list of questions that will prompt discussion and draw out the guests. Students can research psychology and sociology resources so that their questions focus on the major themes suggested in The Friends, including the nature of friendship, the difficulties of fitting in, the responsibilities of family members to one another, and the way young people depend on their friends in order to cope with tragedies in their lives.
  • Start the TV talk show by introducing the guests and explaining the focus of the program. Then you and your student co-host can begin interviewing and questioning the "guests" from The Friends. Include the studio audience in the discussion. At the conclusion of the talk show, ask students to summarize the key points discussed.