Nothing but the Truth

Nothing but the Truth - digital book copy - Free speech in schools


Worksheet link  - Chapter 1-10 "problems"

Worksheet link - Chapters 11 & 12 - connecting characters

Worksheet link - Chapters 13- 15 - summarize the plot

Worksheet link - Chapters 16 - 19 - students identify the consequences of specific choices 


Pre-Read : National Anthem examples

  1. Whitney Houston news clip

Whitney Houston full length performance

  1. Jimi Hendrix Woodstock guitar solo

  1. High school student interview

4. High School Student (Jackson Dean Nicholson) full length performance

5. Tim Hawkins (comedian)

6. Roseanne Barr’s national anthem  


Nothing but the Truth – Characters (students sign up for a part)

  1. Philip Malloy: the fourteen year old protagonist talented runner and average student with tenancy  toward irrelevance.
  2. Margaret Narwin: Philip's  veteran homeroom and English teacher; dedicated and compassionate,  but a bit old fashioned.
  3. Mr. Lunser: Is Philip's homeroom teacher who tends to a rush a bit and is kinda strict.
  4. Dr. Doane: Harrison High's principal, who is pretty calm most of the time and takes the anthem seriously.
    Allison Dorsett: She is kind of a serious person, who doesn't seem to joke around a lot, she thinks
     Philip is a little weird
  5. Dr. Joseph Palleni: He seems like a pretty formal person, and also nice.
  6. Dr. Albert Seymour: He is a straightforward type of guy who doesn't like to exaggerate a lot.  He seems like he knows what he is doing and he acts in charge, recognizing his place as superintendent.
  7. Mike: Is Philip's friend who is in his class and also on his track team.
  8. Sarah Gloss: A girl in Philip's class who is pretty nice to Philip.
  9. Philip's Dad/Mr Malloy: He loves seafood and he is nice to Philip. He is a good parent and he is pretty proud of Philip, and he is sort of a understanding kind of guy.
  10. Steve Hallick: He is a guy on Philip's track team who is a really good runner and Philip wanted to  be like him.
  11. Coach Jamison: Coach Jamison is a very nice and welcoming guy, who is always nice to Philip  and everyone else, even when telling bad news. He follows the rules and is a truthful person.
  12. Ken Barchet: A curious kid in Philip's grade
  13. Lisa Gibbons: A student in Philip's school.
  14. Gloria: A student in Philip's school.
  15. Joseph R. Rippens: A student in Philip's school.
  16. Mr. Benison: A energetic teacher who likes to talk a lot.
  17. Todd Becker: Philip's friend who is on his track team.
  18. Roger Sanchez: A student in Philip's school.
  19. Mr. Lunser: A teacher that that thinks Philip is a good kid.
  20. Janet Barsky: Allison's friend.
  21. Mr. Dexter: Philip's dad's boss, who is strict with rules and takes no excuses.
  22. Mr. Griffen: He is running for board at Philip's school.
  23. Ms. Stewart: She works for the Manchester Record and is interviewing Mr. Griffin and Philip  about his problems at school.
  24. Jake Barlow: Jake is a really talkative radio talk show host who is lively and straightforward
  25. Steve: Steve is a caller on Jake's talk show who is kinda jittery when he talks and he has a very  energetic personality.
  26. Liz: Liz is another caller on Jake's talk show who is a mom and she likes to follow rules.
  27. Mrs. Harland: Mrs. Harland is a chairman on the school board who is a good at re-enforcing rules.
  28. Mr. Duval: Mr. Duval is a curious news reporter who is a pretty formal person when it comes to his job.
  29. Roger: Roger is another caller on Jake's talk show who is kind of a serious guy.
  30. Mrs. Rooney: Is a teacher at Philip's new school Washington academy.
    George Brookover:  Is the principal at Washington academy.
  31. Student (various parts/answer questions from teachers, etc).

Discussion Questions

1. YA lit like Children’s lit relies on a particular narrative technique. Keeping this technique in mind, discuss the relevance of Avi beginning the book with a "Memo" addressed to all homeroom teachers. Look specifically at the motto, "Where our children are educated, not just taught" and at #3, "Please all rise and stand at respectful silent attention for the playing of our national anthem" (1). The structure of epistolary, "confessional," or reporting style of Nothing. . . is part of the theme and style of this YA novel. Discuss.

2. Avi begins the first sentence in Philip Malloy’s diary with "Coach Jamison saw me in the hall and said he wanted to make sure I’m trying out for the track team" (3). This desire Philip is aware of. Discuss what other problems, needs, desires emerge from his first two diary entries (3-4; 9-10). Refer to specific quotations.

3. Difficult economic situations further create problems in this book. List quotations which illustrate several areas where this is true. What about Philip’s college fund? Look carefully at the irony here, not just for Philip but for his father.

4. The book points out different types of literature being read. Discuss the problem here (if you perceive any) and give examples from the book to support your views. What are some of the themes in the literature?

5. Communication between parents and their children, between students themselves, and certainly between Philip and his peers seems to be disfunctional. Give specific instances of this miscommunication. What happens to Philip and his peers, to Philip and his parents? Is there a positive example given in the book?

6. Discuss the difficulties with the discipline procedures that occur. Are these procedures connected with the relationship which is described between the school board, the parents, and the teachers? What are some of the tensions inherent in this situation? Is this common today? Give examples. What about the principal’s actions?

7. Discuss the pros and cons of the media’s role in this book. Look at specific examples (120-21 ?). Give a current example. Discuss the implications for Ted Griffen’s actions and reactions. How does his intervention escalate the problem?

8. Mr. Duval asks at the end of the novel, "Ma’am, do you think there’s some reason that this has happened?" (207). What do you think?

9. Should Ms. Narwin have taken the sabbatical which Dr. Gertrude Doane offers her? Is the problem tenure as Griffen implies (187)? What different decisions should/could Ms. Narwin have made along the way? What might you do in similar circumstances? Is her decision connected to her teaching style? What are the differences in teaching techniques between Lunser and Narwin? Is this relevant to Philip’s game plan? to education?

10. Can this novel be considered a YA tragedy? Why? Look closely at Philip’s own development? Does he sense some self awareness, some inner knowledge of events gone awry? Give quotations and examples to support your view. What might be some of the criteria for a modern tragedy for YA?


Pre-Read Questions

  1. Role-Playings. 
    Call on volunteers to role-play one of the following situations: (1) Imagine you did something that seemed morally right to you at the time, but that you later regretted. Everyone you know finds out what you did and is critical of you. How would you feel? Would you change your mind about what you did? Given an opportunity to lie about what you did, would you tell the truth? Tell your story to a friend who is questioning you. (2) One of your friends has done something that you believe is right. However, everyone at school is angry with your friend. You realize that if you remain loyal to your friend, you will lose all the other friends you have. What will you do? Will you abandon the friend who is being shunned? Will you remain loyal and risk losing your other friends? Will you try to explain why you believe in what your friend did? Dramatize a telephone discussion with a friend who does not live in your town. (3) In one of your classes, a teacher you admire has suspended one of your friends. You believe your friend was at fault. The principal calls you in to find out what happened. What will you do? Will you tell the truth about what happened? Will you offer a story that will help get your friend out of trouble? Role-play your conversation with the principal.
  1. Linking to Today: Telling the Truth. 
    Lead a discussion about the two questions at the beginning of the book. Encourage students to discuss what message they think the author wants to convey with the two questions. If necessary, you may prompt with questions such as the following: (1) Is telling only part of the truth dishonest? (2) Are there situations in which unfairness to an individual is justified? (3) Should a person always tell the truth even if the truth will hurt others? (4) Does justice require more than the enforcement of rules? (5) Are there circumstances when rules should be broken?


  1. Reporter's Report.
    Invite a reporter or an editor from your local newspaper to address the class. Ask the reporter to explain how news stories are selected and prioritized, and what procedures they must follow to confirm reports they hear. For example, if a student told a story such as Philip's, what would the reporter feel was necessary to confirm the story before it could be printed? How would they handle conflicting reports? If it later turned out that the incident was less serious than their article suggested, or a person accused was innocent, would they print a new story with the whole truth? Allow time for students to ask questions.

  1. Express Yourself.
    Have students choose a free-expression issue that is in the news. Suggest they read the Constitution of the United States to see in which part freedom of expression is guaranteed. Ask students: What are some examples of relevant court cases in the news? Do you favor one side or the other? Have them summarize their findings and express their views.


  1. Mock Election. 
    In this project, students will conduct a mock election for the school board in your district. The issue of "free speech" was central to the novel. Include this or another controversial topic in the campaign. Their task is to work cooperatively to research election and campaign procedures, choose issues in the district, create campaign platforms and literature, and walk through the procedure and forms. After the campaign, students should elect the candidate who has best addressed the issues.
  2. Suggested Procedure
  3. Divide students into groups to research school board election procedures in your district. Assign groups different questions such as: How and when should an interested candidate announce candidacy for the election? What forms must be filed? By what date? What public forums are available for candidates to address the public? Do local groups hold candidates' nights? Are they televised? Does the local paper print a statement for every candidate? How may candidates obtain funds for the campaign? Are any sources of funding forbidden? What issues were addressed in the last campaign? Are any issues under discussion for the next campaign? Have groups report their findings to the class.

  4. After research is completed, groups become campaign committees. Each committee should select a school board candidate. Allow the class to brainstorm and discuss what they perceive as major issues in the school district. As a class, have students select three to five major issues for candidates to address in their platforms.
  5. Circulate the campaign literature. Stage a candidate's forum where each candidate presents his or her platform and views. Encourage class members to ask questions. When forums have finished, have each member in the class vote for the candidate who presented the best platform, and did the best job of addressing the campaign issues. Have students use the same method of voting now used in your district, such as secret ballot.