1. Research to learn more about Al Capone or another famous criminal mentioned in the novel who spent time at Alcatraz. Draw a timeline to depict the criminal's life, using drawings and descriptions to show important events.
Many students may have first become interested in this book because of the title's mention of Al Capone, and will be interested in learning more about one of the criminals mentioned in the book. Students might want to research Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, Roy Gardner, or Bonnie and Clyde using the Internet or a children's encyclopedia. Students may wish to follow the format Theresa uses for her gangster information cards on pp. 14-15. With this activity, students will gain experience in researching a true crime story as well as an understanding of the social context of the novel.
2. If Moose believes that Al Capone is responsible for Natalie's admission in the school, how would he thank him? If he wrote a letter to Capone, what would he say? Write a thank-you letter from Moose to Capone.
Moose is deeply grateful to Capone, who he believes is responsible for Natalie's acceptance by the school. This assignment gives students the opportunity to explore Moose's thoughts and feelings from his own perspective, and they may use his first letter to Capone (pp. 209-10) as a model for the second.
3. What is autism? Use the Internet or reference books to learn more about autism, and create a poster to help educate your fellow classmates about this disorder. Be ready to explain which signs of autism Natalie displays. Also, how has the treatment of autism changed since the 1930s?
This assignment helps students gain insight into both Natalie's character and the nature of autism. As part of their research on the topic of autism, students may use an encyclopedia or Internet site such as http://pediatrics.about.com/library/blautism.htm, or they may choose to interview a teacher who has taught students with autism. After researching autism, students should be able to match many aspects of Natalie's behavior in the novel to characteristics of autism in the descriptions that they have read.
4. Create a poster advertising Piper's laundry scheme as described on p. 75. If Piper came up with another money-making venture, what might it be? Would her next plan be as sneaky as the first? In a group, come up with a new idea that Piper might use to make money on Alcatraz Island, and create another poster advertising her new scheme.