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The Homework Machine Activities

"The Homework Machine" Visualizing Activity

Grades: Any
Lesson Plan Summary: Read The Homework Machine poem and have students draw what it would look like.

This lesson incorporates Language Arts into Art. I use this with primary students, but it could be used for any grade.

Pencils and erasers
Pencil crayons (or crayons, felt pens, paint, etc.)

Give each student their supplies. Have each student close their eyes. Tell them to close their eyes and get ready to use their imaginations. Tell them they are going to make a picture in their minds and they'll be drawing it later.

Read the class the poem "The Homework Machine" by Shel Silverstein. When you are finished, tell the class to draw and color a picture of what they think the homework machine would look like.

Then the students are done drawing, have a discussion about the poem and their pictures. For primary grades (especially K or 1), questions like "How big do you think the machine is?" and "What kind of noises do you think the machine would make?" are suitable. Older grades can answer questions like "Why do you think the machine didn't work properly?" and "How would you build a homework machine?"
Submitted by: Patricia Pruim - Iskut, BC, Canada

We want your pictures! Did you do the "Homework Machine" or a similar activity? We would love to get a picture to add to this activity page! Help others by showing off how you did it! Send us your picture or lesson modification ideas.

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Brenton, Kelsey, Judy and Sam were the last people anyone would expect to be friends. Brenton was brilliant, but didn't have many friends. Sam was known as a troublemaker. Judy was considered the teacher's pet, while Kelsey didn't put much effort into anything. The only thing they had in common was the table where they sat in school. Because their last names all started with D, their teacher had them sit together; everyone called them the "D Squad."

So why were the D Squad hanging out together every day after school by October?

Read Judy's section on p. 25-26.

Brenton insists his machine is real. And that afternoon, he takes the rest of D Squad to his house to show them. Brenton scans in their worksheet with questions about the solar system—and a few minutes later, a completed worksheet (in Brenton's handwriting) comes out the printer!

The rest of D Squad are amazed, and pretty soon, the homework machine (which they name Belch) is doing their homework, too! Can you imagine all the things you could do if you didn’t have to spend time on homework? Is there anything bad that could happen if a machine did your homework for you? Find out what happens to D Squad in The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman.

Discussion questions

Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!

  1. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the homework machine. Why would you want (or not want) a homework machine?
  2. Brenton, Kelsey, Judy and Sam are very different characters. Which one was your favorite?
  3. Which character is most like you? Which one is most different?
  4. Did you think Miss Rasmussen would figure out the kids were cheating earlier? Why did it take her so long to figure out something wasn't right?
  5. At the end of the book, Sam says about Brenton: "Brenton just does his own thing. He's one of these guys who is so uncool that he's cool. You know what I mean? You reach a point where you cross the line into coolness." Do you agree? What makes someone cool?
  6. Why does Brenton leak the story about the homework machine? Would you have done the same thing? Why or why not?
  7. On several occasions, the kids in D Squad get the other kids in their school (and around the country) to do something special on a certain day--like wearing red socks, or wearing clothes inside out. If you could make everyone in your school do something for one day, what would it be?
  8. The kids in D Squad have different ideas about the war. Whose opinion do you agree with?
  9. Judy says, "In some situations, you can't tell the difference between right and wrong so easily. Like driving faster than the speed limit is wrong, but if you're rushing to the hospital so that a baby can be born, then speeding is okay." What are some times when you had a hard time deciding if something was right or wrong?
  10. In this story, the homework machine was named Belch. What would you have named the homework machine?

If you liked this book, try

  • Frindle by Andrew Clements
  • Did Fleming Rescue Churchill?: A Research Puzzle by James Cross Giblin
  • Lost and Found by Andrew Clements
  • Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell
  • A Book of Coupons by Susie Morgenstern

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