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Teacher Guide for This Is Not a Drill


Teachers’ Guide/Readers’ Group Discussion Questions

for This Is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell


 1. Do you know anyone who has suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? What are some of its causes? How does it affect its victims?

 2. List the symptoms of PTSD that Brian Stutts displays in the story.

 3. Did your attitude toward Stutts change during the book? If yes, why?

 4. In what way does the setting enhance the plot?

 5. Describe two ways in which the author gives the reader a “break” from the tension of the situation. Was this a good idea? Why or why not?

 6. What methods are used to portray the kids’ various personalities? Which first grader was your favorite? Why?

 7. Why do you think the author used alternating viewpoints to tell the story?

 8. Do you identify more with Emery or Jake?

 9. What are some of the factors that contribute to Emery’s shyness?

10. Were you aware of POTS before you read this story? Do you know anyone with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome? What are its symptoms? How are they similar to PTSD? How are they different?

11. If Emery’s initial “speaking up” against the gunman is out of character, why does she stand up to him? Why doesn’t Jake? How did you feel about their reactions to Stutts?

12. Name characteristics that make Ms. Campbell a strong teacher.

13. List examples of Emery’s actions that show she might be a good teacher in the future.

14. What is your impression of Emery’s mother? List four adjectives that might describe her.

15. Why does Emery feel it’s important to engage Stutts in conversation? What are the risks involved? Do you agree with her decision to talk to him?

16. List the factors that complicate Jake’s relationship with his father.

17. Is Jake responsible for his involvement in the marijuana incident that leads to his arrest? Explain your answer.

18. What mistake does Jake make at the lake? Why does he engage in behavior he knows he’ll regret later? What might he have done differently?

19. What are the similarities in the losses Jake and Emery have suffered in life? What are the differences?

20. Point out examples of foreshadowing that heighten the suspense.

21. Give two examples of literary allusion in the first seven chapters. How do they add to the readers’ understanding of Jake’s reaction to the situation and Emery’s fear for the children?

22. Discuss the effectiveness of Jake’s use of the internet for help in a crisis. Can you think of news stories where social media interaction played a role?

23. How does Stutts’ knowledge of Tucker’s problems complicate his own?

24. What did you think about the ending of the book? Be specific.

25. Can you think of a time when yesterday’s anger almost robbed you of today’s happiness?

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