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Maniac Magee

Lesson 2: Cross the Line

Grades 3-5

In the movie, the town of Two Mills, PA was divided into the East side and the West side, and no one on either side would cross the line until Maniac Magee came to town. There are many lines that separate us in our lives – where we live, which school we go to, and which sports we play are all examples. We’re going to talk about some of the lines we cross everyday.

1.To help participants get acquainted in a new way.
2.To explore labeling and stereotypes in a safe way.


A list of predetermined questions about personal characteristics, experiences, likes, dislikes, etc.
Examples include, Have you ever had the chicken pox, Love chocolate, Like to play sports, Know how to swim, Sleep with a stuffed animal or blanket, Have divorced parents, Have at least one sister, Have at least one brother, Are White, Are Black, Are Hispanic, Are Native American, Are Asian.
Other examples: Are vegetarian, Have ever been in a wedding, Have ever lied to your parents, Are the oldest child, Get straight A’s, Have ever cried at a movie, Have ever farted, Have hair that is not your natural color, Have a learning disability, Have stayed up all night for fun, Had someone close to you die, Have experienced discrimination based on your race or gender, Are unhappy with your body, Have an immediate family member with a substance abuse problem, Would like to feel more included in this group, Lied/passed during this exercise


1.Have all participants stand on one side of the room.

2.Announce “All those who (fill in category) cross the line (e.g. all those who wear contact lenses, have skinned their knees, etc.). The exercise is done in silence, no comments or laughing, etc.

3.Thank the participants for crossing, and says they can return back into line with the others. 4.Mark the results on a poster or sheet of paper.

5.Announce a new category and repeat the exercise several times using different questions.

6.After a few rounds, ask students how the exercise made them feel:
a.What did it feel like to cross the line when others crossed with you?
b.Did anyone cross first and feel weird standing by themselves?
c.If so, did anyone else cross over so you were not the only person? How did that make you feel?

7. After allowing students to answer these questions, follow up by telling students that labels and stereotypes are often not fair to other people. When different groups “crossed the line” not everyone in those groups were the same. In fact, every group that “crossed the line” was made up of different people. If we were to label people by just one group they belong to, it would erase all of the other things about them that would make them unique. This is why it is so important to not judge people based on one thing we know about them – there is always more to learn about each other.

Learning Points

1.Participants get to learn what they have in common with each other and how they might be different even when they assume they are similar based on what they look like.

2.If and when you ask some of the more personal questions, some people may feel a bit more uncomfortable about being “labeled” a certain way.

3.Some students who don’t like the labels other people put on them, which can make them realize that they should try not to put labels on other people.

4.Other people may feel proud that they were able to stand up, face the group, and reveal themselves, letting others see them for who they are.

5.This activity allows for instant teambuilding if the group doesn’t know one another, and challenges stereotypes if the group knows each other well.

Teacher Tips

1.It is difficult to predict what students’ reactions will be and how the discussion will turn out. Whatever the reaction is, the action of crossing the room and facing the others, or not crossing and being faced, will likely bring up a lot of feelings – be ready for any outcome.

2.They may feel angry that they are being forced into categories, or embarrassed to be identified as a negative stereotype.

3.Any participant can “pass” at any time; in other words, this exercise is not a truth serum – people can choose to not participate if it makes them uncomfortable.

4.Decide how high risk you want the questions to be. Start with lower risk, fun questions, and make sure the group is comfortable with each other before trying out some of the ‘deeper’ questions.

5.Be cognizant of whether only people from “target” groups, or oppressed groups, will cross. It can be less emotionally difficult if crossing does not always signify oppression.

6.This is an empowering way to speak without words.