Noughts and crosses

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Lesson objectives

Yr 9: R12, Wr17

AF2, AF5, AF6
Focus: Pages 335–359 Writer’s craft
Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • Select key character developments

  • Analyse how a writer’s use of language, structure and viewpoint affect a reader’s response


Hand back student work on language analysis from Lesson 9 homework, drawing out key points for learning. If possible and appropriate, display a good example of work. Take in the news reports on the trial (Lesson 8 homework). These can be displayed later.

Ask students to pair review their plot event lists and briefly agree essential points, using WS10b (adapted as necessary) if appropriate.
Examine the title of the next section – ask the class to consider who the hostage will be and ask for reasons to justify any views.

Tell the class that the next section of the novel takes place three years later. What developments in the two main characters might they predict? Will age have changed them?

Give the class 15 minutes to read independently up to page 349, noting the key character developments and experiences of Sephy and Callum. For example, Sephy appears confident after a liberal education. She has joined an educated dissident group, ‘Crosses fighting for change in the system’ (p. 336). It gives her ‘my reason for doing well’ (p. 336). She is going to be a lawyer and feels she has ‘direction to my life’ (p. 338). Callum works his way up the LM ranks and at 19 is a sergeant in a well-respected cell codenamed Stiletto (p. 344). He has become vengeful and cold; ‘the Callum Ryan McGregor who loved to sit on the beach and watch the sun go down didn’t exist any more’ (p. 339). He has a reputation as ‘the first one into danger and the last one out’ (p. 343).
When the reading has been completed and the character developments noted, ask the class: Why is the reunion with Jude dangerous to Callum and everyone else in the cell? Do they detect any changes in the character of Jude? Why does Callum want to see Sephy?

Share the reading of chapters 92, 93 and 94, focusing on how the writer’s choices of structure, language and viewpoint affect readers’ responses, using WS11a for class recording. For example in Chapter 92, Blackman uses dialogue and Callum’s viewpoint to suggest the threat to safety that Jude presents. She describes Callum’s hostility to Jude with phrases like ‘My brother could go rivet himself’. The reader sees Callum resisting Jude’s bullying while the others present fall for his ‘big man’ act.

Take some time to read the section, drawing out such detail, especially of the actual kidnapping.

Tell the class that for homework, they will be writing an analysis of how the writer’s use of language, structure and viewpoint affect the reader’s response in Chapter 93. Remind them that they partially completed such a task previously and explain what such work will require this time. If you wish to differentiate the homework, limit the number of points required, or ask some students to tackle only one aspect of the task, or provide some students with particular points you would like them to explain.

Model for the class how to write a full comment on viewpoint or structure or language, by selecting a point from Chapter 93. Use WS11b as an example if suitable. This sheet can also be used to support the homework task.

Students should write an analysis of how the writer’s use of language, structure and viewpoint affect the reader’s responses in Chapter 93.

Analysing language, structure and viewpoint

Aspect to consider

Quotation and page reference


How the particular viewpoint and feelings make the reader feel

The setting of events

The order of thoughts and events that shape reader response

Word choices and expressions that affect the reader

Malorie Blackman chooses to present the initial kidnap from Sephy’s point of view, so Sephy (though not the reader) is relaxed, not suspecting anything and happily anticipating meeting Callum: ‘I couldn’t remember when I’d felt more at peace’. The reader either feels sympathy for Sephy because he/she knows Sephy has been tricked, or possibly enjoys anticipating her inevitable capture.
The setting for this key event is Sephy and Caluum’s old meeting place, the beach. The reader is doubly critical of Callum for allowing this event to occur on such hallowed ground. The choice of setting allows Malorie Blackman to dwell on Sephy’s innocence as Sephy kicks up ‘the water lapping over my feet and ankles’ and revels in ‘the moonlit water’. Sephy clearly feels she is in a potentially romantic scene. The reader knows otherwise.
The writer also chooses to create suspense by emphasizing the time lapse: ‘I glanced at my watch…’, followed by the sudden appearance of what looks to Sephy a very grown-up Callum. The language used to describe Callum suggests Sephy’s admiration of him: ‘He’d definitely sprouted muscles…’. But the reader already knows these muscles will be used against her. It is ‘a brief, icy-cold kiss on the lips’ that alerts Sephy to the truth.

Lesson objectives

Yr 9: R12

AF4, AF6
Focus: Pages 359–408 Reader response
Learning outcome

Students will be able to:

  • Begin to recognize how a writer prompts a reader to anticipate the ending of a novel


Peer review the homework analysis, identifying and sharing successful features. Take in students’ work for more detailed review.


Read pages 359 to 380 with the class. Ask students to focus on Callum’s internal conflict. This is a large amount of reading but it is a tense and emotional part of the text. What would be Callum’s best choice right now, and why?

After the reading (or if suitable, at stages during the reading), allow students time to discuss the question in pairs, and to note down what they think he ought to do and what they think he wants to do before the next task. They must also discuss in their pairs how he must be feeling.
Before starting the next activity, ask students how much sympathy they have for Callum at this time.

Ask one student (at a time) to play Callum. Organize a conscience corridor for Callum, with other students ranked on two sides of Callum, expressing alternative choices and feelings – on one side, students will be telling him what he ought to do, on the other, they will be tempting him to do what he really wants to do. Callum must listen to everyone’s suggestions and then make a choice. Try this with more than one student. Students can develop and change what they say as his ‘conscience’ each time if they wish.

Follow this by asking the class to compose questions for Callum about his feelings at this difficult time. Hot-seat one of the Callums, to develop the interpretation of his feelings and the reader’s sympathies for his predicament.

Ask a student to sculpt another student (as Callum) into a likely pose for the last line of Chapter 100. Ask individuals in the class to position themselves to represent their degree of sympathy for Callum. Then ask another student to place themselves as the writer. What do we learn from the distance between the two?

Ask the class to predict – what will Callum do?

Ask students to follow the instructions on WS12a. They should read pages 380–386, pause and answer the questions. Then continue reading to confirm predictions.

Read pages 380– 386.
1 What previous plot details and patterns have been developed that might help the reader to predict what happens in Chapter 101?

  • The first kiss in the first chapter

  • The first real embrace when Sephy has been drinking

  • The balcony scene and Callum’s night in Sephy’s bedroom

  • The recognition by both parties that they have grown and developed since they last met; those developments are attractive

  • Callum’s wish that someone should ‘Get me out of here, before I do something I’ll regret’ (p. 380)

2 Predict the consequences:

  • in the short term

  • in the long term.

3 Read to page 408 to confirm your predictions.

Lesson objectives

Yr 9: R9, R18

AF4, AF6
Focus: Pages 409–432 Reader response
Learning outcome

Students will be able to:

  • Confirm how a writer prepares a reader for a novel’s conclusion


Take feedback from the previous homework (WS12a) sharing plot patterns and predictions.

Briefly return to the Reading Guide, pages 12–13, on the tragic structure. Has the plot continued to follow the tragic structure? How far does the plot resemble Romeo and Juliet? In what ways is it different?

Read pages 409–432 swiftly, but allowing comments to arise where appropriate. Ask the class to focus on either Sephy or Callum and be prepared to explain their actions and reactions in this part of the novel.


There may only be a short time for this discussion once the reading is completed, and enough time must be allowed for the plenary.

In groups of four (all four must have focused on Sephy in their reading), students should explore the dilemma faced by Sephy. Which would they choose and why? In groups of four also, those who have focused on Callum must consider: What would Callum want?
How do both sets of students respond to Kamal Hadley’s attitude at this point in the plot?
Spend some time with the class as a whole considering the role of Kamal Hadley in the plot. He is a dark and threatening character throughout. Does he do anything good? Can we admire him in any way? Do Sephy’s feelings for him change over the whole novel? Is he just the villain? What does he represent? Is there anyone else in the novel who possesses his amount of calculating nastiness? Is he too much of a cardboard cut-out of a villain? Ask students to reflect on his character and role in the novel for a few minutes.
Take feedback.

What are the possible endings for this novel? What is likely to be most satisfying, given the themes and the nature of the novel? Remind students of the tragic overtones throughout – what factors might lead us to suspect the worst?

Use the plot structure that has been agreed to begin to plot the emotional highs and lows of the novel. Suggest that this could have two plot lines – one for Sephy and one for Callum. How might they match each other? WS13a offers one such graph, for Sephy, but it will be important to negotiate the precise feeling of the class about this graph. If you wish, use the Navigator to support this task, using the highest and lowest points in the main sections of the novel as points for recording the emotional intensity. The happiest moments will be 10 and the worst moments 0.

Students must plot their own emotional graph for the main events in the novel, explaining how their graph will help them to predict the novel’s ending. You may choose to give some students one character’s emotional highs and lows only to plot. For more able students, you might wish to ask them to consider the differences between Sephy’s and Callum’s graphs.

Plot graph
Emotional graph of the major plot events for Sephy – key moments only


Lesson objectives

Yr 9: R18, SpL9

AF4, AF6
Focus: Pages 435–445 Whole text
Learning outcome

Students will be able to:

  • Develop their responses to and judgements about a text through exploratory talk


Very briefly, explore ideas from homework through peer discussion. The likely conclusion is that events take a downward slope in this novel with the occasional, short-lived moment of happiness.

Read the very end of novel (pages 435–445) with the class (though it is likely they will have read this for themselves by now).

Give students a few minutes to talk in pairs about their responses to the end of the novel if that seems appropriate. Some students may be shocked by the ending and need time to reflect before discussing their ideas with the whole class. Some may not wish to talk about it.

If students seem ready to respond orally, take immediate responses and allow the ideas to develop freely. If they seem reluctant to respond at this point, use OHT14a to open up some ideas. Or this sheet can be used when suitable for the class.
Allow the discussion to reach some satisfying agreements about the ending.

Distribute the Reading Guide. In groups or pairs, students should read pages 14 and the top of page 15, and address the stimulus questions. They can also look back at page 11 or the writer’s letter and reconsider her views on racism.

Share further responses as appropriate. Students may also wish to phrase questions about the novel they would still like answered.
If time is available, the class could be directed to the Noughts and Crosses website to find answers to their questions and survey wider views of the novel.

Explain to students that when a novel is written, it is sent to editors who comment on what they like and more particularly, what they might want changed or cut. Ask students to imagine that they are an editor. What three positive comments would they make about the novel to its writer? What two things might they challenge and why? Give students a few minutes in pairs and then fours to generate ideas.

Share a few ideas, drawing on all the positive suggestions and then offering suggestions for possible editing, e.g. cutting certain sections or changing the ending.

What three positive comments would they make about the novel to its writer? What two things might they challenge and why?

The ending
Malorie Blackman said the following in an interview:
It was funny because I was writing it and I wasn't sure how it was going to end, and I felt, Oh no! It was like it wasn't my story any more. It wasn't my story from about chapter two, it was just like these people were talking through me. It sounds bizarre when I say that, but it really did feel like that. It was like these people were talking through me and I was trying to get it down. At the end I got so close to Callum, I thought Oh my god, at my keyboard, and it was so bizarre. It had never happened to me before. In Pig-heart Boy at the end Cameron's Nan dies and I kind of felt if you are dealing with the issue of someone facing their own mortality then it'd be a bit false for no one to die. And at the end of that I kind of got a lump in my throat when she did. But this one I was in tears.
I originally finished it when Sephy says, 'Please God, please let him have heard me. Please. If you're up there somewhere.' And Annie said, could we have something a bit positive at the end? And I thought I didn't want to add another chapter. So I thought, OK, a birth announcement saying that she’s had this child, that she's given it Callum's surname, and you know she's had the baby. I think that was actually a good thing, because it would have been so, so downbeat. But again, that for me was the middle of the story.

Lesson objectives

Yr 9: R18, Wr13

AF4, AF6
Focus: Evaluating the text
Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • Judge how appropriate Noughts and Crosses has been for class reading

  • Use informative and persuasive language to promote a novel or give reasons for not promoting it


How are books chosen for schools? Sample some student responses to this question. Then, distribute WS15a and ask students to rate Noughts and Crosses according to these criteria.

This task can be differentiated as follows:

  • The most able can decide their own criteria and then compare them with the list before completing.

  • The criteria can be limited for the less able, or the task could be guided to varying degrees.


Tell students that they are going to complete a writing task that will help them to evaluate Noughts and Crosses as a whole. They will eventually be delivering their writing as a speech to a senior teacher. The idea is that the English department wants to purchase another set of Noughts and Crosses because the teachers think it meets so many of the criteria.

Students should:

Write a convincing, persuasive promotion of Nought and Crosses lasting no more than three minutes, suitable for an audience of teachers (WS15b supports this task).

Page 15 in the Reading Guide offers further support for this task.
Should there be some dissenters in the class, they might like to be different and to write a persuasive argument to convince the same audience that Noughts and Crosses is not a suitable text for a class reader. This would be a useful choice for higher-attaining students and would add value to the eventual presentations, but it is not essential.
Model identifying the sort of informative and persuasive writing to employ, as appropriate to the group’s needs, using WS15b as a guide.

Allow students to plan and write up their promotions. To differentiate the task, students could work in pairs on planning. WS15c offers some prompts for writing, if needed. Allow a short time to ensure students have understood and started on the task, but they will not have finished it.

If there is time, allow some peer review of writing in progress and identify strong features and points for improvement.
Arrange for the completion of this written task and, if appropriate, for presentation of the most effective examples to a senior teacher at a convenient date.

Conclusions – ask the class what they think they have learned, in particular, from reading this novel. Take some feedback. Then ask students to complete the self-evaluation (WS15d).

As students finish the self-assessment sheet, they can read through the Pathways page in the Reading Guide.

Students should write up their promotional materials for possible presentation in future.

Criteria for choosing a class novel
Which of the following do you consider makes Noughts and Crosses a good choice?

What other reasons would you suggest for choosing Noughts and Crosses?


This is true of Noughts and Crosses (grade from 0 to 5; 5 is highest grade)

The themes and the subject matter are suitable for the age group

The content is unlikely to cause offence to any particular pupil group

The reading demands will suit most of the class, offer some challenges, and be within the reach of all readers with support

The language and style will engage all readers

It is rich enough to engage readers of different abilities, sexes, cultures and interests

It allows the teacher to address particular and appropriate reading strategies

It goes beyond previous reading experiences

It has an appeal for the age group and is topical

It will lead students to other texts by the same author or on a similar theme

It will still feel like a good novel in five years’ time

It lends itself to reading aloud and being shared as a class or group text

It contains enough starting points for discussion

The themes and characters are strongly presented and developed

It has been written since 2000

Which are the three most significant criteria that make Noughts and Crosses a good choice for class reading?


Promoting Holes by Louis Sachar

Polite opening

Giving reason for meeting

Naming the novel and writer

Indicating that I am being selective
hank you very much for agreeing to listen to me. As you know, the English department would like to purchase some new novels for years 8 and 9 to read in class next year. There is one novel in particular that I think is vital for year 8. That novel is Holes by Louis Sachar.

Reasons draw on criteria from WS15a

My reasons for selecting this novel are many. I will mention just a few.

First and best reason

Adverbs used to stress interesting qualities

A few key plot details but not all

Not revealing a key factor

‘All’ and ‘hooked’ are positive recommen-dations
ost importantly, it is a wonderful story – a teenage boy, Stanley Yelnats, finds himself in Camp Green Lake in the middle of an American desert. He has been wrongfully punished for a crime that he didn’t commit. He finds himself condemned to hard labour, digging holes in the sun-baked desert with a bunch of disaffected but fascinatingly diverse adolescents. But in the camp, his life (and that of his whole family) is utterly transformed. The history of his family and that of his friend Zero become strangely connected. The warden of the camp, it appears, has good reason for making her prisoners dig holes – Green Lake has a history too and Stanley is destined to find its secrets – all readers are hooked from the start.

Another key factor

Adjectives to appeal to listener and make characters sound fascinating

Selection of key points of interest

Curiosity-stirring detail

Each paragraph tackles a new reason for recommending
hat alone does not mean it is a good choice for class study. The story stimulates all sorts of discussions on topical issues that interest the class – crime, punishment and injustice being the most obvious. The characters in the camp also appeal to year 8 – they are portrayed as lively and varied teenagers – and they also represent a range of different ethnic groups, which is valuable. Apart from them, there are some amazing characters from the past – a wonderful old lady called Madame Zeroni, who has the power to foretell the future, and a tough American teacher, called Kissing Kate Barlow. Venomous lizards and life-saving onions also feature.
Academic appeal – hard work!
he novel is excellent to read aloud. It presents challenges because it makes the reader work hard to make connections between the different strands in the plot, but this structure also makes for a satisfying read.

Moral appeal – will influence for good

Concluding positive comment
any modern novels for teenagers end unhappily and can give teenagers an over-pessimistic view of life. Holes does the opposite. Stanley is rewarded for being honest and loyal to his friends and for committing himself to a difficult cause. In this novel the bad are punished and the good end happily. It is a great book and worth the study.

Writing persuasively and informatively
Sentence starters and ideas

Firstly, this novel is …

Most importantly, this novel is ……
Another reason why this is a good choice is …….






The characters are



relevant to today


The issues are because…

I recommend this novel because…

It is suitable for year ____ because…
It will be good value for money because…
This novel made me feel ____ because…
This novel teaches that… so…

WS15d Self-assessment sheet


Assessment focus

You practised this when:

I do this well

I can do this some-times

I need to practise this


Understand, describe, select or retrieve information, events or ideas from texts and use quotation and reference to text

  • you noted ways in which Noughts and Crosses were treated in their society


Deduce, infer or interpret information, events or ideas from texts

  • you worked out what was suggested about certain characters and their relationships in the Prologue


Identify and comment on the structure and organization of texts, including grammatical and presentational features at text level

  • you looked at how characters’ lives ran in parallel

  • you predicted how the plot would develop

  • you thought about narrative tension

  • you thought about how the novel would end


Explain and comment on writers’ uses of language, including grammatical and literary features at word and sentence level

  • you analysed the TV news report on the bombing

  • you explored and then analysed Malorie Blackman’s choices about viewpoint and language


Identify and comment on writers’ purposes and viewpoints, and the overall effect of the text on the reader

  • you thought about Malorie Blackman’s viewpoint

  • you placed the writer beside the characters in drama exercises

  • you placed the reader beside the characters in drama exercises

  • you thought about your response to events, characters and endings


Relate texts to their social, cultural and historical contexts and literary traditions

  • you thought about black history, Malorie Blackman’s context and your own society

  • you considered the novel beside Romeo and Juliet and as a tragedy

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