Theme: Finding Your Identity
Grades: Grades 8-9
Lincoln Mendoza is a star basketball player for Franklin Junior High
in the barrio of San Francisco, but when his house is broken into, his
mother decides they should move to a better neighborhoodthe prosperous
white suburb of Sycamore ten miles away. Lincoln likes the change at
first, but soon he begins to miss his old friends and school. There's
more to Lincoln's plight than being homesick, though. He has a fight
with Tony, his best friend from the barrio; his divorced mother has
a white boyfriend whom Lincoln dislikes; his basketball coach doesn't
like him; he hurts his knee; and his new house is broken into. What
else can go wrong? Well, he has a fight with Monica, a girl from his
new school whom he really likes, and his coach benches him for the big
game between his new school and his old one. When the big game finally
takes place, it forces Lincoln to figure out who he is and where he
- Making Personal Connections.
Ask students to think about what it means to be a "new kid" in school.
Have them individually brainstorm a list of words and phrases that
describe how the experience feels. If they've been new to a school,
encourage them to recall how they felt. If they have not been a new
student, urge them to draw upon experiences they have had when they
were new to a situation or thrown in with a group of people they did
not know. Then invite students to tell about their experiences and
how they felt. Did their experiences help to shape or confirm their
identities? Encourage them to keep these feelings in mind as they
read the novel.
- Linking to Today: Ethnic Boundaries.
Invite students to name ethnic neighborhoods that they are familiar
with, know about from the news, or have seen on television or in movies.
List their answers on the chalkboard. Have students choose one of
these neighborhoods and create a comparison-and-contrast chart showing
how this neighborhood is similar to and different from their own neighborhood.
In a follow-up class discussion, ask students whether they think the
similarities or the differences are greater. Ask students if they
feel their identities are tied to their own neighborhoods. Urge students
to keep their conclusions in mind as they read the novel and to decide
how Lincoln would respond to this question.
Have students write a poem from Lincoln's point of view expressing
how he feels about living in Sycamore by the end of the novel.
- Break a Leg!
Challenge students to work in pairs or small groups to select a scene
from the novel to act out. Suggest they look for a passage that is
rich in dialogue, but allow them to add lines if necessary to develop
the scene. Have the students choose roles and rehearse their parts
before they act out the scene for the class.
- Many Faces.
In this project, students will research a culture that particularly
interests them. The purpose of the activity is to increase students'
awareness of the benefits of a multicultural society.
- Guide a discussion of the cultures represented in Taking
Sides and in the related readings. You might draw cluster
diagrams on the chalkboard for Mexican Americans, African Americans,
Anglo Americans, etc. and invite students to give examples of
contributions these diverse cultures add to American society.
Also have students brainstorm a list of cultures represented in
their community or in the United States.
- Ask students to pick a culture that interests them and to research
that culture using the library, the Internet, and other resources.
Encourage them to talk to people they know who are familiar with
the culture they're researching.
- Have students organize their research into a short report, which
they will present to the class. Encourage class discussion after
- Write A Biography.
Discuss with students the fact that Hispanics are the fastest growing
minority in the United States. Their stories are as varied as the
immigrant Ernesto Galarza's and the American-born Gary Soto's. Have
students choose a Hispanic person that they know personally or that
they have read about or seen on TV. Students then research information
on that person's life either by interviewing people or by reading
books and articles. Finally, have students write a short biography
of the person. Ask students to think about what events or characteristics
helped shape their subject's identity.