Teacher Resources

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Book Trailer: Just a Drop of Water

Discussion Questions

Extension Activities


Discussion Questions

1. A cover can tell a lot about a story. Study the cover of Just a Drop of Water. What stands out? What do you think the story will be about?

2. Some book titles are very commercial and tell you exactly what the book will be about. Others are more literary and make you think. Before reading the book, think about the title Just a Drop of Water. Does it give you any clue to what the book will be about?

3. From the very first chapter on, it’s clear that Jake longs to be a hero. In what ways do you see him try to fulfill this desire? Do you think he’s successful in the end?

4. Have you ever longed to be a hero? Describe what makes you heroic. What else have you longed to be?

5. In what ways does the author keep the tension rising as the book moves forward? Cite specific examples.

6. The author chose Jake to narrate the story. How do you think the book would have been different if it had been told from Sam’s point of view? Is there another character you wish had told the story? Why?

7. The book is set in a small Florida town. Why do you think the author chose this setting? How important is this to the book?

8. Compare and contrast the siblings Sam and Aamber, especially noting their actions following September 11th. Also compare and contrast Jake and Sam. Which character do you relate to most? Why?

9. The author states that the purpose of history is to learn from past mistakes and successes. Cite examples used in the text to make this point. Do you agree or disagree with the statement?

10. Based on the above question, examine the placement of Japanese Americans into Internment Camps during WWII. Compare and contrast this to the detainment of Sam’s dad in Just a Drop of Water.

11. Describe the difference between tolerance and acceptance. Cite specific examples of intolerance, tolerance, and acceptance throughout the book. Where does Jake’s mom stand on this? How does her stance on this change throughout the book?

12.  Explain how Jake responds to changes as the plot moves forward. Cite specific examples from the  beginning, middle, and end to show his progression.

13. Evaluate how Jake and Sam’s friendship changes throughout the book.

14. Jake and Sam endure much during the course of the book. Do you believe they’ll stay friends? Why or why not?

15. What statement is the author making about prejudices?

16. What themes does this book explore? (help: fear, friendship, loyalty, peace) Choose one. Cite examples of this theme in the text. Why do you think the author chose to write about this? How does the theme progress throughout the book? How does this theme affect different characters? How does the theme affect the outcome of the book?

17. Cite different examples of cause and effect in throughout the book.

18. The author arranges each chapter by calendar date rather than titles. Why do you think that is? Create your own chapter titles for the book and explain your reasoning for each.

19. Though Matt may seem like a small supporting character in the book, why do you think the author included him? What importance does he play?

20. Near the end of Chapter 8, Jake’s mom is referring to Sam’s family when she says, “No. But how well do we really know them?” What do you think propels her to say this? What do you think she means by it?

21. In fiction, it’s important for a character to arc (change/grow) by the end of a book. Make a list of the characters that help Jake arc. Pick your favorite and study in detail their role in Jake’s growth.

22. Now that you’ve read the book, how appropriate do you think the title is? How does the author’s explanation of Just a Drop of Water differ from what you inferred it to mean before you began reading? What might be a good alternate title for this book?


Extension Activities

  1. The book is told from Jake’s point of view. At the end of each chapter, write a journal entry in Sam’s point of view pertaining the day’s events.
  1. Ask the author to share the first page of her first draft of this book. Compare and contrast her original first page to her final first page.
  1. Create a classroom Pinterest board (can be done on a bulletin board in the room if you prefer not to have kids go online) pertaining to the book. Include character photos, the medal, the park, the school, and whatever else you’d like.
  1. As you read the book, create your own map of what you think the city looks like.
  1. Draw your own cover for the book. Explain your choices.
  1. Research the meaning of your name. Ask your parents their reason for choosing your name. Last names are typically rich in culture. Don’t forget to research that as well. Would you change your name? Why? Why not? If so, what name would you pick and what does it mean?
  1. You can read the author’s note—why she wrote the book—on her website. After doing so, how does it make you feel? Has anything significant happened in your life that might make you want to write about it someday?
  1. We’ve all done our share of assigned book reports on famous, historical, notorious, and or prominent people, but if you look around your classroom, I’m willing to bet it’s filled with students of many diverse backgrounds. Pick a partner who is ethnically different than you and do a report on them. Present it to the class when you’re done.
  1. The Albatross is just one of many cultural simulations used to teach understanding. Research an alternate one and present it to your class.
  1. Explore other symbols of peace. If you were to plan a peace rally for your school, what events would you include?
  1. Plan a field day for your class, grade level, or whole school based on peace activities.
  1. Create a peace scavenger hunt at school where you track down Jake’s grandfather’s medal.

11 thoughts on “Teacher Resources

  1. Hi, We are from Salisbury University in Brain Flores class reading Just A Drop of Water and have a few questions while reading.
    After reading through the Author’s note we saw a connection between Sam and your friend. We are wondering where Kirk came from in the story? Is he based on someone you know?

  2. Hi, My name is McKenzie Johnson and i’m a student at Salisbury University we are reading your book and my group had a few questions.
    1. Do the characters in the book reflect the people in your life during the 9-11 attack?
    –> what is Matt purpose I feel like he is always there, but not sure what he is doing?
    2. Why did you choose to write this book for an elementary school age group?
    3. Why did you choose to write the book from Jake’s perspective rather than Sam or Bobby?

  3. Hello! I am currently majoring in Elementary Education at Salisbury University and had to read your book for a class. So far my group and I are halfway through the book and really love it. This book has a lot of important themes ranging from not judging a book from its cover to coming of age. We were wondering what is the main takeaway you want your readers to gain from this book?

  4. Hello! It’s Abby and Anya from Salisbury University and we are reading your book for a class. I was wondering how much of the book did you draw from your own personal experiences?

  5. Hi Ms. O’Malley,
    I’m at Salisbury University in Brian Flores class and reading your book. Ali Zimmerman and I have a question about the book.

    Why didn’t the school take charge and address the Bobby and Sam issue more?

  6. Hello, our names are Abby and Alyssa. We are currently reading Just a Drop of Water in our Teaching Reading 3-6 course at Salisbury University. We were wondering why you chose to include a character like Jake’s mom. We feel she is a powerful character to the story. Did you decide early on she was an important character to Jake’s development? Thank you.

  7. Thank you so much for your book! I plan to teach theme as part my class’study your book. I have a few in mind. Do you have any creative ideas for tracking/teaching theme (aside form an anchor chart or graphic organizer we’ll return to throughout the novel)?

  8. Hi, I want to use Just a Drop of Water as a book club book for my grade 5s. What is the reading level? I can’t seem to find it anywhere. Thank you!

    1. Hi, Alicia. It’s suitable for grades 4 and up, so this would be perfect! I’m happy to Skype in when you’re done, if you’d like. Or an in-person visit is always fun. Send me an email at KerryOCerra (at) gmail (dot) com.

        1. That’s a great question. As writers, we’re told/taught to not be didactic, so I wouldn’t say I was trying to preach any theme. The story came about because post-9/11 and very good friend’s family–who are Muslim–were questioned by the FBI for various reasons. And like I tell students at every single school visit I do, I’d love to sit here and say I didn’t doubt them for even a second, but I’d be lying. And even though they’ve forgiven me, I’ve never quite forgiven myself. Sure that thought came from a place of fear, but it doesn’t excuse me. I knew this family. Fear should never have clouded my feelings towards them. So I guess I hope that with this book, others will take away something along the lines of trusting themselves and their own instincts, rather than those of a larger–and oftentimes louder–population. The world isn’t black and white, and it’s okay to see the gray. Does this clarify for you?

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