Noughts and crosses

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Read pages 233 to 246. Ask the class to focus on the genre to which they think this section belongs. When reading Chapter 60, begin to consider why Malorie Blackman has introduced this sort of plot detail at this stage. Is it like a detective story – what do they expect of this genre? Or a police drama – what about that genre? Prompt the class to draw on what they already know about detective/police/law drama.


Ask students to work in groups, reading from page 246 to page 257 focused on how Malorie Blackman maintains reader interest. For example, suggesting that Ryan McGregor will hang, introducing Kelani Adams (who is paying for her?), bringing back Kamal Hadley for one of his rare appearances for the trial (do we like him any more this time?).


Share ideas on how Malorie Blackman maintains the reader’s interest.

Return to considering the plot so far (using WS7a for support; if suitable, WS7a can be made into a card-sort activity). How have we arrived at this trial with Ryan under threat of execution by hanging? Where did all this begin? Who is responsible for all this? Encourage students to see how human choices have consequences.

Ask students to consider the novel so far for themselves. Can they plot the key events that have led to Ryan McGregor’s confession of the Dundale bombing? They can choose to represent this as a flow chart, a storyboard, a list of bullet points – whatever suits their learning style.

WS7a offers sample plot events and can be adapted to meet different learning needs.

Plot kernels

Jasmine Hadley dismisses her long-standing employee Meggie McGregor when Meggie fails to provide her with an alibi at a time when Kamal Hadley suspects his wife of being unfaithful. As a result, Jude McGregor has to leave school because his mother’s loss of work causes family hardship.

Lynette McGregor has a Cross boyfriend but the relationship ends in tragedy and Lynette has mental health problems.

Callum goes to Heathcroft High School, but the prejudice against noughts is hard to bear.

Lynette McGregor commits suicide.

Ryan and Jude McGregor secretly join the Liberation Militia.

Sephy tells Callum she is going shopping at the Dundale Shopping Centre.

Callum announces he is going to the Dundale Shopping Centre and Jude tries to stop him. Callum finds Sephy in the café and takes her to safety just before a bomb, planted by the Liberation Militia, goes off.

The scene of the bomb explosion is shown on TV and Meggie McGregor is furious with Ryan and Jude – she injures her hand in her fury and has to go to hospital, accompanied by her sons.

When Meggie’s hand is treated in the hospital, Jude and Callum’s fingerprints are taken – they ask for the prints to be destroyed.

Jude and Ryan McGregor leave the McGregors’ home at Meggie’s request.

The McGregor house is raided and Callum is arrested.

Ryan McGregor confesses to the bomb blast to save Jude – he is formally charged with political terrorism and seven counts of murder.


Lesson objectives

Yr 9: R9, R14, Wr11

AF5, AF6
Focus: Pages 261–286 Reader response
Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:


Ask the class if they can recall any TV and film trials. Suggest some recent TV cases they may remember and explore why these make good drama. If possible, show students a short section from a court case drama/film. To Kill A Mockingbird (in the novel, chapters 16–21) would be a pertinent example and could afford some valuable comparisons with Noughts and Crosses. If appropriate, you could suggest students read To Kill A Mockingbird to compare its treatment of race issues with their current novel.

Draw out the key characteristics of a trial that appeal to an audience/reader, e.g. the tension of not knowing the result, the ups and downs of the questioning, the revelations from some witnesses, the unexpected twists in the evidence, the skill of the barristers, the delight in seeing an unpleasant witness being cross-examined, the satisfaction as the truth emerges or horror when it fails to do so, the shifts in sympathy occasioned by events.

Suggest that some of these features will be seen in Ryan McGregor’s trial. Ask students what they think the verdict will be, and why.

Read pages 261–286. Read the first chapter swiftly. Then ask students to read the parts of key characters in the court case as dramatically as possible. If suitable, students could be seated to make the classroom look like a courtroom with everyone taking on a role in the court during the dramatic readings, which continue to page 286 (with some lapses). The teacher should take the role of narrator and read the sections that are not set in the courtroom. Pause to allow responses that may arise during the reading.
When the reading is complete, ask the class if they consider this a dramatically successful part of the novel – and why, or why not. Has Malorie Blackman used the classic courtroom drama to good effect? Take feedback.

Tell students that they are now going to write up the news item about the McGregor case for an evening TV news slot in the Noughts and Crosses society. Their report must last for 60 seconds and must obey the golden rules of news reports: it must include the who, what, where, when, why and how of the case. Refer back to the reporting of the bombing (p. 202) as a model and/or use WS8a to support the task, providing some starting points and suggestions. Students must remember that Crosses dominate the media, and this fact will give their report its slant. Their report must aim to be dramatic and emotive (influencing the reader’s feelings), as the report of the bombing did.

You may choose to work with a guided group for this task, using WS8b to support the students’ writing. Looking again at the report of the bombing, and exploring the emotive language used in describing it, will be helpful.

If appropriate, read out the students’ initial attempts at their news report and draw out strong features from which others can learn.

Ask the class what they think will be the verdict of the trial and why. Are there any bad omens (e.g. page 284 – Callum’s dream of being shut in a box)?
Recap on the previous homework task, retracing the plot details that led the McGregor family to this ‘trial of the century’. The WS7a card sort could be used here as an alternative way of checking the homework task.

Ask students to complete and perfect their TV news stories for assessment in a week’s time.

TV news story
Write up the news item about the McGregor case for an evening TV news slot in the Noughts and Crosses society. It must last for 60 seconds and must obey the golden rules of news reports to include the who, what, where, when, why and how of the case. Remember that Crosses dominate the media, and that will give your report its slant.
Remember to use emotive words as Malorie Blackman did when she reported the bombing as seen on television. (See pages 202 to 204.) You can draw on the detail of his charge, given on page 246, as well as events included in the novel during the trial from pages 264–286.
You must write in the third person and concentrate on a) the facts, b) feelings, with a bias towards the ruling Cross class.
You could begin:
The trial of Ryan McGregor, accused of the terrorist bombing at Dundale Shopping Centre, continued today. McGregor has pleaded not guilty and we are currently awaiting the verdict…
Guided work
For the guided group on the TV report of the trial


Check through the task on Worksheet 8a.

Strategy checks

Recall the events in the court case and decide what would be reported. Collect the who, what, when, where, why and how of the case, drawing on the text (pages 246, 264–86).

Check the style of the TV report of the bombing given on pages 202–204.
Remind students of their time limit, working out roughly how much they will need to write by timing 60 seconds as they read some text at about the right speed for the news.

Independent writing

Model writing an opening phrase based on the facts collected, then support students to suit their needs as they work independently or, if you prefer, in pairs, on the writing.

Return to the text

Ask individuals to read out their reports, check the timing and check for the vital details.


What have the students learned about writing a news report? What are the important things to remember when time is short?


Lesson objectives

Yr 9: R12, SpL12

Focus: Pages 289–304 Writer’s craft
Learning outcome

Students will be able to:

  • Explore how a writer’s choices (viewpoint, structure, language) affect a reader’s response


How have we already seen the ways a writer can affect a reader’s thoughts and feelings? Refer to students’ TV report and the one in the text describing the bombing, with its emotive language. How does Malorie Blackman seek to affect the reader’s responses at the end of the previous chapter: ‘And I heard the verdict that time…’ (p. 286).

Point out that the next section is called ‘The Way It Is’ – does this suggest what the verdict was?
How are we expecting the next chapter to start?

Begin reading from page 289. Model the use of WS9a to record responses to the next chapter as you read, dwelling on Sephy’s innocence and childishness. Stop at the point where they have reached the prison and Sephy is feeling hot (top of page 292).

Students should then read pages 292 to 304 in groups. Ask them to continue to use WS9a to note the writer’s choices and their responses.
Either prearrange for a student or two to give feedback, or take students through the task yourself.

Ask the class why they think Malorie Blackman chose to write this part of the novel as she did. (To shock? To disgust? To increase sympathy for Ryan and increase hatred of Kamal Hadley?)

Direct one student to play each of these characters:

They are going to act out the very end of Chapter 78. Ask other individual students to sculpt each character into position for this final scene, just before Ryan walks away from everyone, from ‘Ryan, you’re nor going to do anything stupid, are you?’ (p. 304).

When the class are content with the ‘stage’ picture, ask students to voice the innermost thoughts of Ryan, Meggie and the officer at this moment, in turn. Students may disagree with one another; find a point of agreement about each character.
Then ask one student where they, as a reader, would place themselves in the scene, showing whom they feel closest to in sympathy. Other students can agree or disagree, giving reasons. Then ask a student to be the writer and place himself or herself in the same moment. Listen to agreements or disagreements until consensus is reached.

How successful is Malorie Blackman in directing reader response in this section? How has she achieved this? Explain that the homework task will ask them to look in some detail at how Malorie Blackman uses language to develop her readers’ response. Explain the homework task in the detail appropriate to the class, offering further examples if necessary, or limiting their comments to three points, for example.


Ask students to look closely at WS9b (a short extract from the novel and a task). They should make a first analysis of how Malorie Blackman’s choices of language, structure and viewpoint affect reader response in this extract.

The writer’s choices and your response


What the writer does

What effect this has on the reader

Page 289

Begins the chapter with Sephy on a
swing – childish, carefree, innocent. She sulks when her Dad tells her off and is only thinking of herself.

I begin to suspect the worst, though I am not certain. I know more than Sephy.

Page 291

Mentions the prison and makes Sephy ask questions.

Now I am sure something nasty will happen.

Page 292

Makes Sephy focus on herself – ‘my dress was beginning to stick to me ...’

I know she’s being naïve.

Page 292

Language, structure and viewpoint
How do Malorie Blackman’s choices of language, structure and viewpoint affect reader response in this extract? Add your own comments to those already provided as a model.
Things to look for:

  • How Sephy’s particular viewpoint and feelings about what she sees make the reader feel.

  • The order of thoughts and events that shape reader response.

  • Word choices and expressions that affect the reader.

Sephy makes a brave but pointless stand – the reader feels some sympathy

The verbs ‘spun’ and ‘slapped’ suggest violence, and shock the reader

Nothing is going to make me sit here and watch this. I’m leaving,’ I turned on my heels, trying to push past the other dignitaries in my row.

Mother stood up, spun me around and slapped my face. ‘Now sit down and don’t say another word.’

Cheek smarting, eyes stinging, I sat down. Some eyes were watching me. I didn’t care about that. More eyes were watching the scaffold. Well, maybe I couldn’t leave but they couldn’t force me to watch. They couldn’t force me to raise my head. And if they did, they couldn’t force me to open my eyes. And if they did, they couldn’t force me to see. But I couldn’t keep my gaze lowered… Slowly, I raised my head, my eyes drawn to the sight, my heart disgusted by it. Angry with myself, I turned away, only to find myself looking straight at Callum. He wasn’t watching his dad either. He was looking at me – and wishing me and every other Cross as dead as dead could be. I’d seen that look on other’s faces – noughts looking at Crosses, Crosses looking at noughts. But I’d never seen it on Callum’s face before.

And I knew in that moment that now I’d never stop seeing it. Flinching, I turned. Back to the scaffold. A choice of views. Hatred or hatred. They were putting a black hood over Callum’s dad’s head now. The prison clock began to strike the hour. When it struck six, it’d all be over.


Lesson objectives

Yr 9: R7, R12

AF4, AF5, AF7
Focus: Pages 305–331 Comparison
Learning outcome

Students will be able to:

  • Recognize the nature of tragedy


Briefly review the previous homework task, asking how straightforward they found the task and taking in the student work for comment. Time could be spent sharing some examples of the work before moving on to the next task.

Distribute the Reading Guide. Turn to pages 12–13 to consider parallels between Romeo and Juliet and Noughts and Crosses. Work through the tasks as set in the guide but working from what they currently know of the plot. Ask students if they think Noughts and Crosses will end so tragically. If so, why do they think this? If not, again, what are their reasons for this belief?

Read from pages 305 to 316. Ask the class if this reminds them of the plot of Romeo and Juliet – in which respects?

Then ask: can this happiness last? How do we know it will not? Suggest the story is structured like a tragedy – refer to page 13 in the Reading Guide.
Ask students what bad choices Sephy and Callum make. Give students a few minutes in

pairs to review the plot so far, thinking of the bad choices, and then share these.

Ask the class what clues we already have that things will deteriorate. Field some suggestions from students. Advise students to be alert to the choices that will follow and what they might lead to. Sample some of their current predictions.

Ask students to read independently or in groups to page 331. They must note what they think are the tragic clues and bad choices, using WS10a to record the page references and their reason for choosing it. Some suggestions are given on the worksheet.


Discuss and agree key tragic clues and bad choices.

Ask the class: if they know the story will end unhappily, why read on?

Using the uncut version of WS7a as their starting point and model, students should continue to select key events of the plot from where that sheet ends to their current page of reading. WS10b provides suggestions for the rest of the novel. This sheet could be adapted to support students, if wished: adapt or cut it to match students’ current stage of reading. Students will also use this plot outline in a later task.

Remind students also that their news report of the trial is due for handing in for the next lesson.

Tragic clues and bad choices
On page 311 Sephy thinks of ‘all the million and one other well-meant but badly thought out things I’d done in my life’. Can you find more such bad choices in the next eight chapters? Can you also find some clues that bad things seem inevitable?
Record page references and/or quotations, and your reasons for your choices, as in the examples below:


Tragic clue or bad choice



Callum meets Jude and agrees to join the Liberation Militia: ‘I’m in.’

Callum must realize that this will be fatal. It has already killed his father.


Sephy relies on a letter delivered by someone else to let Callum know she is going to Chivers if he doesn’t confirm that he will run away with her: ‘Please don’t let me down.’

Relying on a messenger is risky. It might not be Callum but the messenger who lets her down.

More plot kernels

A high-profile trial of Ryan McGregor finds him guilty despite valiant defence by Kelani Adams (who has been secretly paid for by Jasmine Hadley).

Sephy is made to attend Ryan’s hanging but he is reprieved at the last moment.

Callum secretly climbs up to Sephy’s bedroom and spends the night with her.

Ryan McGregor is electrocuted when he tries to escape from prison.

Callum meets Jude and is persuaded to join the Liberation Militia.

Sephy decides she will go to Chivers boarding school unless Callum prevents her. She sends him a letter, telling him of her decision, but he fails to read it in time.

Three years pass as Sephy succeeds at Chivers boarding school and Callum becomes a sergeant with the Liberation Militia.

Jude arrives as the new lieutenant for Callum’s LM cell.

Callum writes to Sephy, asking her to meet him, but Sephy becomes a victim of kidnapping. Callum’s LM cell will use her to raise funds from her father for their cause.

At first Callum can cope with being cruel to Sephy but eventually the pair cannot deny their love for one another and become lovers, though they are immediately frightened by what they have done, knowing it will have consequences.

Jude and Callum’s LM cell is betrayed by Andrew Dorn, who has been a ‘mole’ for the Crosses for years – Sephy tells Callum, thus enabling them to avoid capture.

Sephy – with Callum’s help – escapes from her kidnappers.

Sephy finds that she is pregnant.

Callum finds out about the pregnancy.

Sephy wants to keep her baby but her parents want her to have an abortion.

Callum risks visiting Sephy in her rose garden but he is arrested.

Kamal Hadley offers Callum the choice between his own life and the life of his baby. Sephy is also offered a choice – either she has an abortion or Callum will hang.

Callum is hanged. Sephy gives birth to Callie Rose.

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