If the Witness Lied

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Jack Fountain knows that what's happened to his family sounds like at horrible soap opera. Aunt Cheryl, who's living with the Fountain children now that their parents are gone, has decided that they will heal only if they work through their pain--on camera. In this gripping thriller, Cooney details how love, devotion, and forgiveness make resilience--and recovery--possible.
Curriculet Details
45 Questions
46 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in 9th grade, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining literary devices such as figurative language, irony and characterization. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about theme development and symbolism. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of textual structure , figurative vs. literal meaning, and the themes of love, family, and the search for identity. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

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Chapter 1

The beginning of a story's plot line usually includes the exposition. In the exposition, the reader learns about the setting, the characters, even the main conflict. This is also where the reader starts to get a feel for the narration and tone. Who is telling this story? Which of the following is the correct point-of-view for the story so far? 
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently. Is there a word on this page you need to look up? 
How does Jack seem to feel about his celebrity status? 
Irony, in a nutshell, is when an author plays on the reader's sense of expectation and delivers the opposite. There are three kinds of irony: verbal, situational and dramatic. Though the highlighted statement is more of a thought, it is verbally ironic. Why do you suppose that is? 
Think about the ways in which you are learning about Jack. What kind of character is he? How does he feel about what is going on around him? Watch the video below to learn more about how authors develop characters. Keep track of the clues as they are revealed.  (This annotation contains a video)
What is Jack realizing as he listens to the conversation between Aunt Cheryl and the "deep and masculine" voice?  

Chapter 2

Though the narrator has not changed, the character in focus has changed. What is the effect of the this choice on your reading? How does this choice contribute to the mood, or feel, of the book so far?  
How are Smith, Jack, Madison, and Tris related? 
What can you assume has happened to the Fountain family? The narrator has revealed some information directly, while simply leaving hints as to what other important events have taken place. Watch the video below to learn more about textual evidence and drawing inferences. What inferences have you drawn so far? (This annotation contains a video)
Make a prediction. What do you think is the "it" that has happened? Consider which clues you can use to draw your own inference. 
How does Smithy's portrayal of Jack make him seem like a hero? No, he may not be completing tasks that require other-worldly strength, but he does seem to fit the mold (or archetype) of the hero so far. 
What does the highlighted section reveal about Smithy and Jack's relationship? 
To Jack, this feels like war. Though it isn't literally war, it is figuratively a battle between the Fountains' attempts to live normally and move on from their tragic past and those who seek to profit from their tragedies. Considering our society's obsession with entertainment news, gossip, and reality T.V., how does the author use this story to develop a theme? Watch the video below to learn more about themes in literature.  (This annotation contains a video)

Chapter 3

Kate could best be described as _________________ when compared to Smithy's ____________. 
Notice the transition from Jack's thoughts to Madison's. While Jack is racing to save Tris from being on TV, Madison is sitting down to find some decent TV, even finding her old church on one channel. What is the impact of this subtle transition? What is the role of TV in this book? 
Visit the website below to read about the story of Ruth. As you read her story, consider its place in this story. Who does Ruth remind you of?  (This annotation contains a link)
After reading the story of Ruth, explain why you think this particular biblical story is included here. 
Why do you think Madison is trembling now that "home is in sight"? 
Why does Jack think that God "owes Tris one"? 
What do you learn from the highlighted information? Who do you think Wade could be? Why might Smithy, whose parents are both dead, have a credit card? 
Use the define feature to look up the word jutting. Which of the following is the best synonym for jutting as it is used in the highlighted sentence? 

Chapter 4

The Fountains seem to have a lot of outside judgement on their personal decisions and issues. What theme might this be helping to develop? Watch the video below to learn more about how author's work to develop themes.  (This annotation contains a video)
What does the highlighted section reveal about the different perspectives of Smithy and Mrs. Fountain?  
Pay attention to the author's uses of figurative language. How does the metaphor comparing the microphones to a garden of flowers (yes, there is a simile there at the end too) make for a contrasting or paradoxical image?  
Which of the following aspects of the story helps to build the mystery or suspense of the novel so far?  
Characterization is the way that an author reveals aspects of a character's personality traits to the reader. What does this indirect characterization focused on Cheryl's outward appearance say about her? 
What does the characterization of Cheryl reveal about her? 

Chapter 5

What do you think about the description of Smithy's reaction to the death of her father? How is this an effective way to describe how this event changed Smithy's life forever and in numerous ways? 
How does the author's use of figurative language in the highlighted sentence reveal the dual ways in which this incident has impacted the Fountain family? 
Remember Smithy's reaction to her father's death? Why does the author keep alluding to grief or loss as blindness or loss of the physical senses?  
Kate is ___________ after Smithy left town without sharing her decision with Kate.  
Notice the author's comparisons of the passing of time. Jack is longing to get older, to distance himself from the tragedies his family has experienced. He is also wishing the time in the day would go by faster because he feels responsible for his young brother.  
Because of the omniscient narration, the reader knows that _________________. 
Section One Quiz 

Chapter 6

Do you think Cheryl's portrayal of Smithy's attitude is accurate? What information does Cheryl choose to reveal and what does she leave out when she tells Madison that Smithy is coming home? 
Cheryl's claim about the half day is an example of ____________. 
What is Diana's role in this story? Think about characters in other novels, TV shows, or movies. Which kind of character does Diana remind you of? Consider this as you continue to learn more about the characters in this book. Which archetypes (or stock characters) do you see in the story?  
Why would Diana think or know that Jack could be in the room rescuing his stuff? 
These sections without dialogue provide a lot of background for reading. Notice when the story shifts back and forth between Jack's thoughts and Madison's. Do you think this is an effective way to present the story? What does it add? What does it leave out? 
Why do you think the author included the highlighted section as one-sentence paragraphs? What could the purpose of such a structural choice be? 
View the chart below to learn more about characterization. What inferences can you make from this section that lead to a better understanding of the characters? (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following is not an indirect characterization of Angus? 

Chapter 7

Have you ever heard the term "figurative language"? What comes to mind? Watch the video below to learn more about figurative language. Do you see any figurative language in the highlighted section?  (This annotation contains a video)
In the highlighted sentence, the author gives the word "murder" the power to "assault" Madison. This is an example of ______________. 
What about Jack and Madison's life or upbringing makes it difficult for them to accept that "real life" can include terrible things (like murder)? How does the author use the notion of what happens on TV versus what happens in real life to build on a theme you have already seen developing in this book? 
Throughout the story so far, you have been given little bits and pieces of stories about the day of Mr. Fountain's death. What is the purpose of this section in which the kids are trying to sequence the day of the accident to better understand what happened?  
Watch the video below to learn about how authors use foreshadowing to create tension. Where do you see foreshadowing in this story? (This annotation contains a video)
What might the existence of Mr. Fountain's phone foreshadow?  

Chapter 8

A common theme in literature is the search for identity. Think about this theme as you read. Which characters are trying to figure out who they are or where they belong? Which of life's forces seem to be shaping each character? Consider events, family, friendships, fears, etc. How does this moment between Kate and Smithy represent growth for each girl? 
What do Diana's thoughts about where Jack might be show about their relationship.  
What do you think? Tristan can remember the book that his sister is reading perfectly, but then Jack suggests that he can't pick up on the subtle issues that are happening around him all the time. Could he remember more than they think? 
The comparison of the kids to whirling tops is _______________.  
Notice how Angus tries to appeal to Smithy's sense of vanity or to her emotions. What kind of language does the author use to reveal that no one seems to be falling for his praises except for Cheryl or Mrs. Griz? 
What other item, often left by Mr. Fountain in the cup holder of the Jeep, contains important information? 
Who could Wade be? Why does Madison get an allowance and not Jack? Is he some kind of benefactor or estate keeper who is distributing out the Fountains' inheritance?  
What is the mood of this section in which Jack flips through the pictures from his father's cell phone? What does the author do to create this mood? 

Chapter 9

As you read, watch for recurring or important objects in the text. What do these things symbolize? Watch the video below to learn more about symbolism in literature. (This annotation contains a video)
Explain what the cell phone could symbolize in this book. Consider that it is the thing which holds the evidence of Tris's innocence and it is the way the kids all communicate with each other. 
As Smithy notices the changes that have been made to her house, she remembers what used to be there, the fun that used to take place there. Now, she can see what is gone more clearly. What kind of childhood do her memories paint a picture of? 
Which of the following themes does Jack's decision to take care of his brother, even though he doesn't fully know how evil his aunt is, help to support? 
Now that you know what is in the cell phone, what clues or information could possibly be in the briefcase?  
Consider the conflicts that have propelled this story's action. What is the conflict that Jack faces now? 
Have you ever had a day like this in class or left to use your cell phone? What is different about Diana's situation? What does she not realize that you do that makes her thoughts seem unimportant? Watch the video below to learn about the three different kinds of irony that occur in literature.  (This annotation contains a video)
Diana's reaction to Jack's call is an example of _________. 
What is the most likely reason that the author includes all of this detail about how difficult it is for Diana to get in to the attic? 
Remember learning about foreshadowing? What does this last, brief section foreshadow?  

Chapter 10

What does this language remind you of? Smithy, who claimed to be angry with a God she doesn't even believe in is now "seeing the light." What is happening to Smithy? 
What can the reader infer about Smithy from the highlighted section? 
The song Laura Fountain used to sing is performed by Peter, Paul & Mary in the video below.  (This annotation contains a video)
Make a prediction: Based on what has happened so far, what do you think this turning point will bring to the story? Write a brief prediction of what you think will happen next.  
Section Two Quiz 

Chapter 11

Have you ever considered your phone a weapon? While you may mostly consider it to be a socialization tool, in what other ways might a cell phone be useful?  
What is motivating Cheryl's reaction to finding Diana in the garage?  
How do the constant flashbacks in this story affect the pacing? Watch the video below to learn more about how writer's use flashbacks as a structural feature in literature.  (This annotation contains a video)
Madison's thoughts in the highlighted section reveal a potential ____________ for Cheryl to have killed Mr. Fountain.  
What can you infer about Cheryl based on what she told others immediately after Mr. Fountain's death? 
What might this comment foreshadow? Where could Cheryl be, and what might she be up to? What prior knowledge or events can you recall that influence your thoughts about what she might be doing now?  
Which of the following is Diana's comment, "Oh, you know. Police, fire trucks, TV crews. The usual." 
Happy hour is a time (usually after work, but before dinner) during which restaurants offer discounted drinks and food. This is meant to entice the working crowd to go straight from the workplace to a bar or restaurant. 

Chapter 12

Explain what Jack means when he says, "You made choices... they can't be undone." Is this meant be mean? 
Pay close attention to the clues as they begin to add up. Which pieces of the mystery can you figure out on your own? Why might Cheryl have tried to separate the kids from everything that was familiar?  
What does the bath-time scene reveal about Diana? 
Though the music in the video is not the Nutcracker Suite, watch the brief video below to see an example of one of these jewelry boxes. What does this imagery add to the scene in which the kids are getting rid of Cheryl's belongings not knowing when she will come home or how she will react? (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following details does not support the story that the kids are building regarding the events that took place the day Mr. Fountain died? 
How does the author use figurative language here to convey how Jack feels? Why is this more effective than just stating that he is angry? 

Chapter 13

Why do you think the author compares the kids and Cheryl to animals? Where else have  you seen this kind of imagery in the book before? 
Why doesn't Cheryl show that she is worried about the photographs? What could she know that would prevent her from being afraid, or is she just pretending? 
Medusa is a monster (a gorgon) from Greek mythology. She was capable of turning people to stone if they looked into her eyes. This reference to Medusa as a comparison for Cheryl is an allusion. An allusion is when a text references another well-known text, person, historical event, or place. (This annotation contains an image)
If it was questionable before, it is clear now that Cheryl is ___________.  

Chapter 14

Jack's joy is the joy of __________. 
Now that their grandparents are there, how has the plan changed? Why didn't they think of their grandparents before? 
This final section of the story is known as the resolution or denouement. How does the ending resolve not only the major conflicts, but the smaller internal ones?  (This annotation contains an image)
Which resolution at the end of the story do you think is the most important one? Why? 
Section Three Quiz