Martha's experience falling in the ocean is the turning point of the novel, and in preparation for the assignment, students should reread this section of the novel and discuss how Martha grows as a result of this experience. This activity would be an excellent springboard into personal narrative essays. By focusing on a single moment in their lives, students will be encouraged to go into detail in describing their experience.
2. Martha tries to write a poem after her near-death experience, but ends up with a page of first lines. Reread these first lines on p. 175. Which line is your favorite? Beginning with this line, write a poem from Martha's perspective to depict what she's experienced and learned in the novel. Use as many of the other "first lines" as you can, and include your own thoughts, combining them into a poem. Your poem doesn't need to rhyme; instead, focus on choosing the most precise, vivid words that you can to describe Martha's experiences in this novel.
This activity is a way for students to understand Martha and empathize with her by selecting some of her own words to show what she's thinking. These "found poems" will give students the opportunity to pay attention to especially vivid language and show their insight into Martha. Students might also be encouraged to illustrate their poems using symbols from the novel.
3. Draw a Boyle family tree, including Martha, her parents, Vince, Lucy, and Godbee. For each character, include a drawing using details from the novel. Also for each character include a description of that character's relationship with Martha and a characteristic quote - something the character says that seems to represent him or her - from the novel. After you've finished your family tree, compare yours to a classmate's and discuss the choices you made.
This assignment is a helpful way of reviewing the characters in the novel and focusing on the family relationships, an important part of the story. Choosing a characteristic quote for each allows students the opportunity to examine the novel's dialogue and draw conclusions about each character.