Noughts and crosses

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Family life

Sephy’s home and family life

Quotations giving facts
‘My parents’ country house. Seven bedrooms and five reception rooms
for four people’ (p. 30)
‘It rose like an all-seeing giant above us’ (p. 30)

Quotations about feelings
‘What a waste… four lonely peas rolling about in a can’ page 30
‘I pretended I didn’t see Callum flinch at the sight of it’ (p. 30)
‘She [Minerva] loved our house as much as I hated it… To me it was like a bad museum – all cold floors and marble pillars and carved stonework which glossy magazines loved to photograph but which no-one with half a gram of sense would ever want to live in’ (p. 32)
‘I preferred the laughter of his house to the dignified silence of my own’ (p. 30)

Callum’s home and family life – note key points

‘I live in a…


Lesson objectives

Yr 9: R12, R16, SpL12

AF3, AF5
Focus: Pages 59–120 Language and theme
Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • Identify discrimination implicit in language

  • Identify some of the novel’s major themes


If this point has not already arisen, check the class have realized what colour noughts and Crosses are. Does this surprise them?

Take responses on the homework reading, allowing students to respond to the riots and Sephy’s foolish actions.
Emphasize that before that fatal first day:

a) Callum was determined – look again at the end of page 41

b) Sephy was optimistic: ‘It was going to be wonderful’ (p. 43).
Recall Kamal Hadley’s attitudes and his mysterious visitor. Do we trust Kamal? How does Sephy feel about him, and what does this suggest about her character at this point in the story?
On the fatal day, why does the word ‘blanker’ cause so much offence?

Distribute the Reading Guide and work through pages 6 to 7, either as a class or as a paired activity. Draw attention to the way language contains prejudices that are difficult to set aside.

Continue to page 8 in the Reading Guide, drawing attention to the relationships between historical events and Malorie Blackman’s novel.
Ask the class what is the most significant choice Malorie Blackman has made in writing her novel (the black/white reversal). Then read her letter at the beginning of the Reading Guide to further clarify thinking.

Using either independent or guided reading, cover from page 59 onwards (more will be read for homework – the plenary can be based on however much the class has tackled in the time available).

Students should be thinking about:

  1. The forces that might drive Sephy and Callum apart (these can be people as well as ideas). For example, hatred or fear or tyrants like Kamal.

  2. The forces that will keep them together.

Use WS3a to support this reading and description of forces. If you are also guiding a group, WS3b will support the session.


Can their relationship survive? What threatens that relationship?

Choose two students to represent Callum and Sephy. Then, select students to represent people or forces that may separate Callum and Sephy (Kamal Hadley, Jude, the Liberation Militia, prejudice, hatred and so on). Ask students representing the destructive forces to stand between Sephy and Callum, displaying cards that label their threat. What forces will keep them together? (Love, loyalty.) Select students to represent these positive forces, too.
The students playing Sephy and Callum must decide which of the forces is most destructive of their friendship and indeed if any will separate them. The whole class can choose to agree or disagree, provided they give reasons. The class, as a whole, must agree on the most destructive of the forces and the strongest force that will keep them together.

Ask students to read to page 120, continuing to focus on what might destroy the relationship between Sephy and Callum, or what will hold them together. They must continue to use WS3a to focus and record their observations.

Sephy and Callum

What forces might separate Sephy
and Callum?

What forces will keep Sephy and Callum together?

They belong to different social groups: ‘If only Callum wasn’t a nought’

Page as evidence
P. 33

Callum believes in education – he will improve himself and become more like Sephy through education: ‘I could make something of myself’

Page as evidence
P. 41

Page as evidence

Page as evidence

Page as evidence

Page as evidence

Page as evidence

Page as evidence

Page as evidence

Page as evidence

Page as evidence

Page as evidence

Guided work
Introduction to text

Tell students which pages you expect them to read in the lesson, and tell them that they will be using the same focus for homework reading.

Strategy checks

Check that all students understand that they will be selecting what they think are forces that will drive Sephy and Callum apart. Show them the examples on Worksheet 3a. Ask them to suggest other forces (including characters) that may force the pair to separate from their reading of the novel so far. Model how to add this point to their copy of Worksheet 3a. Do the same for a force that they think will keep them together. Depending on the nature of the group, model one or more other examples before the independent reading. Point out to them that it is unlikely that the force will be named as such – they must do a little inferring as they did in Lesson 1. Tell them that if they find the same thing twice, they can note the page reference. If they keep finding this same thing, it will be important.

Independent reading

Set the group to read, working with one student or more to assist reading if suitable.

Return to the text

Ask the group to share their points and agree the best ideas, ready to share with the whole class.


Ask students if they now feel confident to continue with the task for homework (as far as page 120). How well have they inferred and picked out key forces that will destroy or secure Sephy and Callum’s friendship? This is a big chunk of reading, so if the group are slow readers, you may wish to compromise and give them a shorter amount to read.


Lesson objectives

Yr 9: R1, R2, R6

AF2, AF6, AF7
Focus: Pages 121–149 Theme and reader response
Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • Identify how far and in what ways a writer draws on history to inform fictional events

  • Begin to develop judgements on writers’ and readers’ sympathies


Recap homework reading, using the Navigator to support summary if required.

Check that students noticed:

  • The section headings. Question these headings; for example, what is the significance of the heading The Turning, when the previous heading was Callum and Sephy?

  • How does the double narrative contribute to the reader’s sense of the two different views of the world in the section The Picnic?

Re-question the class – what is the major force that threatens the friends? (e.g. racial conflict/inequality)


Distribute the Reading Guide and turn to p. 9 on Martin Luther King and Malcolm X – the different approaches to civil rights. Consider the question about using violence to oppose racial discrimination.

What approaches to civil rights (fighting for the equality of all people in a society) have been evident in Noughts and Crosses so far? Allow pairs a few minutes to think about some points before collecting ideas for a list on the board, e.g. Callum’s belief that education matters most (p. 41), Jude’s leaning towards violence (p. 67, Jude says: ‘Long Live the Liberation Militia’).

Ask the class to read from pages 121–149 (or as far as they can in the time), either independently or in groups. They should be focused on the different attitudes to inequality. How many different views are represented in this section? For example, Jude has strong feelings about inequality which he expresses in violence; his Dad feels the hatred but does not act (Jude

calls him a ‘spineless wonder’, p. 123); Meggie admires Alex Luther’s ‘peaceful methods’
(p. 130).

In what respects has Malorie Blackman drawn on the history of the struggle for racial equality in Noughts and Crosses? What do the class think made her include the chapter on the history lesson? What point is this episode making about history?

Tell the class that Malorie Blackman has been criticized for not representing peaceful protest with sufficient strength. What do they think? Why did she do that, do they think?
Ask individuals in the class to say with which characters their sympathies lie. Ask them to justify those sympathies by referring to the text. Where do they think Malorie Blackman’s sympathies lie, and why? Refer students to the Reading Guide and read Malorie Blackman’s comment on page 11 where she claims her sympathies lie with Callum, a white boy.

Ask students to choose a research topic on black history to be completed for Lesson 6 in a form that is readable by their peers. WS4a supports the tasks. The work will be displayed and discussed in Lesson 6.

Students should also ensure they have finished reading to page 149 before the next lesson.

Research task
For every task, use either books and/or the Internet for your research. In collating your findings, select suitable images to be used to display with your writing. You are expected to write around 500 of your own words to answer your research questions (don’t just print out materials from websites).

Task 1

In Chapter 30, Callum is forced to accept a Cross view of history. On page 446 of Noughts and Crosses, Malorie Blackman has more to say on this topic. Find out about two or more of the historical figures mentioned in that chapter (Garrett Morgan, Charles Drew, Daniel Hale Williams, Matthew Henson, Elijah McCoy). What does your answer prove about the way history is written?

Task 2

Martin Luther King advocated non-violent resistance to unjust laws in America. Why was he so against violence? Find out about his campaign to gain equality in the southern states of America. Why was he shot dead? Does Malorie Blackman have anyone like Martin Luther King in her story?

Task 3

Malcolm X believed that the end justified the means, so he believed violence was a necessary part of the fight for equality. Find out what Malcolm X did to fight for equality. Why did he call himself Malcolm X? Why was he shot dead? Does Malorie Blackman have anyone like Malcolm X in her story?

Task 4

Malorie Blackman mentions the Stephen Lawrence case as an inspiration for writing Noughts and Crosses. Find out who Stephen Lawrence was and why his case caused so much publicity in England only a few years ago. Why do you think his case inspired Malorie Blackman to write her novel?


Lesson objectives

Yr 9: R12

AF4, AF5
Focus: Pages 149–182 Structure
Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • Trace how a writer uses characters to structure a plot

  • Identify the turning points in the developing plot and patterns in words to link to the concept of tragedy


Read from page 149–151.

Ask the class which they would choose – being someone, or making a difference? Why would they choose that option? Allow several students to express their views and explore their reasoning.

Continue to read with the class to page 160, focusing on the fortunes of the two families and the parallels between them, modelling the use of WS5a. The worksheet is designed to allow students to see how the fortunes of the two families compare, an important structural device in this section. Pause while reading to note down the parallels and think about the similarities and differences between the main characters. For example, is Lynny anything like Minnie? Has Jasmine Hadley anything in common with Lynny?

Point out to the class the ominous comment Lynny makes to Callum: ‘The higher you climb, the further you have to fall’ (p. 153). Suggest that such a comment implies worse is to follow. Mention that such an attitude is pessimistic and could be called a tragic view of life.

Ask students to continue reading independently from page 160 to page 182 (end of Chapter 42). Complete for homework if some students need more time.

Tasks while reading:

  • Continue to look for parallels between the two families (using WS5a).

  • This section of the novel is called ‘Breakdown’. What is the ‘breakdown’ in this section for Callum’s family?

  • Why does Sephy decide to attend Lynny’s funeral, and what are the consequences?

  • What hints are there in these chapters that worse is to follow?


Take feedback on the reading.

Note, in passing, a key plot point – a man with a pony-tail is with Callum’s father on page 175. Have we met him before? Where and when? What is he doing?
Why has Malorie Blackman drawn these parallels between the two families? What does she achieve by doing so?
Continue with a discussion on the concept of tragedy – the idea that some people are ill-fated and that they cannot succeed, even though they promised to be special. Lynny’s comment to Callum suggests this.
What are the hints that worse may follow?

  • ‘My ineffectual days are over’ (p. 179)

  • ‘Something in his voice scared me. Scared the living daylights out of me’ (p. 180)

  • ‘… pave my way faster to hell’ (p. 180)

  • ‘… and the shadows lengthen’ (p. 182).


On page 181 Sephy says: ‘This is growing up, isn’t it?’. Identify at least three things that have happened from pages 144 to 181 to make her say this.

WS5b supports this task, and it can be customized to allow for different student needs.

Record your evidence of parallels between the two families using the table below.


The McGregor family

The Hadley family

32 and 33

Lynny asks ‘Can I come in?’ when Callum is in his bedroom. He replies ‘’Course.’ They talk. Lynny is pessimistic about the future.

Sephy asks ‘Minnie, can I come in?’ when Minnie is in her room. She replies ‘If you must.’ They talk. Minnie is pessimistic about the future.


Lynny goes for a walk.

Growing up
In Chapter 31, Sephy overhears her parents arguing, and is dismayed to hear that her father is seeking a separation. Not only that, but she also hears him talk about his son and his possible future wife. Sephy feels her world is crumbling because she feels can no longer rely upon either of her parents for support. She realizes that this might be what is meant by ‘growing up’.
Identify three more things that happen between pages 144 and 181 that change things and make Sephy or Callum realize that growing up brings change and challenge, possibly even heartache.
Give reasons for your choice of points.





Lesson objectives

Yr 9: R4, R12

AF4, AF6
Focus: Pages 185–233 Narrative tension
Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:


Arrange the class so that they can read each other’s research tasks from Lesson 4 homework. Briefly, as they are reading, check their homework responses from Lesson 5 and survey what sources proved most valuable to them in their research. Take the opportunity to evaluate how well they are using research sources.

Complete this section of the lesson by reading page 10 of the Reading Guide together. Ask students if they have changed their minds about social or racial inequality at all, since beginning their study of this novel. Take some brief feedback.

Display Ryan McGregor’s words from page 179, ‘My ineffectual days are over’. Ask students what he means by this.

Before beginning reading, ask students what we know already about the Liberation Militia in Noughts and Crosses. What might Ryan and/or Jude do if they join the LM?
Read pages 185 to 201 swiftly with the whole class. Prompt students to respond to the tension that the writer is building in this section with her ominous hints (adults make mistakes, p. 187, Jude’s membership of the LM, p. 190, reference to ‘a noose’ p. 191, Jude’s response to the mention of the shopping centre, p. 197). Draw their attention to the lightness of tone when Callum agrees to meet with Sephy and when Sephy is shopping with her mother. This lightness acts as a contrast just before the crisis.
Ask students to predict the consequences of the bombing. How is this plot development engaging the reader?

Continue reading to page 207. Dwell on the description of the atrocity on page 203 – how does Malorie Blackman want the reader to feel? She uses powerful images of violence and strong words to describe it: ‘carnage’, ‘atrocity’, ‘cowardly, barbaric act of terrorism’ (p. 203), innocent people wounded – a woman, a child (p. 203). Yet, are these her choices? Or one of her characters’? Or someone else’s? Why have these words been used? How can we describe them and the effect they have upon us?

Tell students that you are going to be in the hot-seat as Meggie. They must ask about your feelings when you see the news of the bomb.

Then ask a student to be hot-seated as Jude. Prompt the student to consider how different his view will be from Meggie’s. In questioning him, draw out Jude’s fanaticism and ask students what has made him so violent and extreme.


Can the bombing be justified, ever? Does Malorie Blackman have a view to be detected? Reconsider what she says in the Reading Guide on page 4, and what is included on pages 6, 7, 8 and 9. Reflect on these ideas, briefly.

Finally, reiterate the point that Malorie Blackman’s ominous hints make readers anticipate worse events. We want to find out if we have predicted correctly – a clever device to keep us reading.

Ask students to read independently from pages 208 to 233 and to complete WS6a, which guides them through these chapters and follows through the focus of the lesson on ominous hints.

Reading chapters 51 to 57
How does Sephy cope with change in these chapters?

What happens to Callum’s family and why?

How do Sephy and Callum feel about one another in these chapters?

What in particular happens to Callum at the end of Chapter 56?

Why does Sephy decide she wants to go to boarding school?

What ominous hints or narrative hooks do you notice?


Lesson objectives

Yr 9: R12

Focus: Pages 233–257 Genre and plot
Learning outcome

Students will be able to:

  • Identify how a writer manipulates genre
    and plot to maintain reader engagement


Briefly, review the homework task, following through the omens and exploring possible future events. You may wish to have a review of events so far for the benefit of the slower readers or students who have missed a lesson. The Navigator can be used for this task. Looking at the section headings is a useful way of reviewing the overall direction of events. A quick quiz to recall major events could be used.

Then ask students in which genre they would place the text so far, checking first that they are confident with the term. Explore some options: love story, family story, school story, thriller? Challenge suggestions and agree the genre. At some stage it will be appropriate to mention that Malorie Blackman calls the book ‘a story of love’. Students may, after their collecting of omens, want to call the story a tragedy. It is important not to discount any generic titles at this stage.
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