The Jewel & the Key by Louise Spiegler Classroom Guide

Because it weaves in historical fiction with other literary elements, The Jewel & the Key is the perfect type of YA book to bring into the classroom. And lucky for us, author Louise Spiegler is a teacher herself — and already had some ideas! She’s been putting together a classroom guide that will eventually find a home on her website, but in the meantime, she was kind enough to share it here with us today. So if you’re looking for a great YA to bring with you back to school this fall, look no further!

For Educators: Class Plans

1. The device for time travel in The Jewel and the Key is an antique mirror. Why do you think the author chose this object? Have students research the meaning attached to mirrors in other works of literature, visual art, folklore, mythology and pop culture. For example: in statues of the Hindu god Shiva, as the Lord of the Dance, he holds a mirror in one of his (many!) hands. Be aware that in some cultures, clear water or other reflective surfaces may take the place of a mirror.

2. One of Addie’s main goals in Jewel is preventing her best friend, Whaley, from going to war. Are her actions justified? How far would you go to stop your friend from making a decision you feel is wrong? How much is this an infringement of your friend’s freedom to choose their own path?

3. In 1917, the U.S. entered World War I and the government imposed censorship on certain forms of expression through the Espionage and Sedition Acts, as we see in The Jewel and the Key. Have your students research this act and its relationship to the Bill of Rights. They should also find out specific cases of people sentenced to jail time under this act. Was the act justified? Have them prepare their cases and debate.

4. Turn The Jewel and the Key in to a play: No, not the whole thing! Choose a few scenes, depending on the size of the class. Try this one: Reg arguing with the professor who is about to destroy his copies of the college paper because of its content (pp.284 -289). Break into groups of three, assign roles (Reg/Hanson/Addie) and do a read through with only the lines of dialogue, omitting tags and descriptions.

If you are having different groups of students do different scenes, have them perform for each other. (Other scenes this might work for would include Addie directing Peer Gynt in 1917 or Peterson and Addie in the theater. Of course you would debrief differently.)

Debrief. If this is an Language Arts /Social Studies combination, ask them to define Hanson’s point of view (Why does he insist on destroying the paper? What are the Espionage and Sedition Acts? Are they still on the books?) and Reg’s point of view (Why would he insist on his right to print it? After all he doesn’t necessarily agree with the Wobblies.)

Related readings:

  • “War is the Health of the State” from A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.
  • Living the Bill of Rights by Nat Hentoff.
  • Wobblies! A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World edited by Paul Buhle and Nicole Schulman.

For the comments: What other ways can you think of to use The Jewel & the Key in the classroom? Share your ideas below!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: