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Living and Dying in Brick City Teacher’s Guide

By Sampson Davis Lisa Frazier Page

Living and Dying in Brick City by Sampson Davis | Lisa Frazier Page



Please click on the PDF link at the bottom of this page to download the free Teacher’s Guide. Email us at for a printed copy.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) place emphasis on the importance of reading and examining nonfiction for meaning and application to society. For this reason, Living and Dying in Brick City is particularly appropriate for use in language arts and the social sciences. The discussion and activities in this guide are aligned with CCSS and offer an opportunity for discussion, analysis, and debate of the health crisis in urban America and as it relates to the population of the inner-city community.

For a complete listing of the Standards, go to

In addition, Dr. Davis’s Living and Dying in Brick City not only explores the real world experiences inside the E.R., but also offers teenagers and adults preventative guidance to support initiatives for healthier lives and communities.

Critical Thinking Activity:
Click and read the article “Woman Featured in Stark Anti-Smoking Ads Dies” (Tween
Critical Thinking Challenge:
Why was Terri’s ad so effective? Click and read the New York Times article “The E-Cigarette Industry, Waiting to Exhale.” (A version of this article appears in print on October 27, 2013, on page BU1 of the New York edition with the headline “Waiting to Exhale.”) http://www.

Critical Thinking Challenge:
The F.D.A. has said it plans to issue preliminary rules for public comment on e-cigarette regulations. What is your opinion as to the impact of e-cigarettes? Is there enough supporting evidence to substantiate the claims made in this article? Consider other sources of research you may use to support your opinion.

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Compare and Contrast:
After reading both articles and viewing Terri’s video, become the voice of Terri Hall. Challenge yourself to write a script/or produce a video on the effects of e-cigarettes that identifies with Terri Hall.

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1. Living and Dying in Brick City is a work of nonfiction. Sampson Davis chose “real life drama to shine a light on the health crisis in America’s city and to show the potential consequences regarding personal health.” One of the goals of any type of research is to deepen an understanding of the issue. As a primary source, how does Sampson Davis set out to accomplish this goal? In your opinion, was he successful?

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2. Dr. Davis and Dr. Marc Borenstein, chairman of Beth Israel’s Emergency Department often shared their experiences of growing up. Dr. Davis stated, “Struggle can leave a lifelong imprint on a person’s soul, and it often breeds compassion.” Based on your personal experiences, what struggle in your life has led you to a greater understanding of the meaning of compassion?

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3. Discuss and cite from the text the struggles that Sampson Davis experienced.
How did these struggles affect his life?
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4. On his first day on duty in the E.R.’s trauma unit, Dr. Davis recognizes the name Don Moses (a.k.a. “Snake”) on the board with the names of the deceased. Compare and contrast the two men’s lives. What was the critical element in Dr. Davis’s early life that changed him? And how did it change him? In your discussion, cite supporting evidence and key elements that led to the change.

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5. “Kids aren’t born without hope.” What do you think Sampson Davis meant by this statement? Cite evidence from the text to support your response.

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6. On page 23, the text reads “Children growing up in poor urban neighborhoods aren’t programed by their DNA to run around with guns, killing one another. Violence is a learned behavior. . . .” What is your reaction to this statement?

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7. On page 41, Dr. Davis asks, “Do we do more harm than good?” Who is the “we” Dr. Davis is referring to? What is he referencing with this statement?

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8. In Chapter 4, “Love Hurts,” Dr. Davis writes about his family. Discuss some of the key elements in this chapter that influenced Dr. Davis’s life. Talk about the values that are important in your family. Discuss the value of family in the American culture.

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9. Chapter 5, “Dying for Love,” discusses sexually transmitted infections. Why did Dr. Davis feel compelled to include this topic in his book? How does this chapter impact the decisions in your life?

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10. Read the Tween Tribune article, “Teen Moms Clueless About How They Got Pregnant,” below. What common threads do you see between the article and Chapter 6, “Baby Love”?

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11. “Tempers, fueled by alcohol, explode over the smallest perceived insult—a wrong look, a stepped on shoe, rejection from a beautiful woman—suddenly throwing everything into chaos. Add guns to the mix, and many times someone winds up dead.” (Chapter 7, “Clubbing”) React to these statements, citing either personal experiences or information from other sources.

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12.  In Chapter 8, “Fear Factor,” Dr. Davis writes about cancer, smoking, and death. Share your knowledge and experiences on any of these topics. Which of these experiences (if any) has impacted your life?

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13.  Have you ever participated in any health awareness activities, such as the Relay for Life, Wear Pink, or Bandanas for Breast Cancer events? Share your experience. Did it change you in any way?

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14.  After reading pages 170 and 171, “The Warning Signs for Suicide,” discuss what interventions you could use when faced with a friend who is depressed.

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15.  Read the article “Teens & Tweens ‘Don’t Know’ About Exercise.” Respond to the question at the end of the article, “What do you think?”

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16.  In Chapter 13, “Reaching Out,” how does Monique remind Dr. Davis of himself? Cite supporting evidence.
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17.  Watch the YouTube video “Who Moved My Cheese?” After viewing the video, compare its message with Dr. Davis’s “unexpected twists” in Chapter 14. Make sure that you have supporting evidence.

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1. In Chapter 2, “Hidden in Plain Sight,” Dr. Davis references sickle cell anemia and the plague of drug abuse. Choose a current healthcare topic that you can relate to. Write a persuasive essay on the topic, expressing your own ideas clearly and persuasively.

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2. Sudden cardiac arrest, smoking, diabetes, AIDS, STDs, birth control, cancer, obesity, and depression are all topics of discussion in Living and Dying in Brick City. Choose one topic to research. Use your research to create an informational pamphlet for a targeted audience.

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3. In Chapter 2, “Hidden in Plain Sight” Dr. Davis states, “Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States.” (Page 40) Go to the website Above the Influence ( Choose one of the following formats (PowerPoint, video, or poster) to create an advertisement for Red Ribbon Week.

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4. Dr. Davis struggled with the question, “Did we do more harm than good? We were supposed to help our patients, or at least do no harm. That’s what all doctors promise when we take the Hippocratic Oath.” Form teams and debate whether doctors help
or harm patients. The book and the website The Hippocratic Oath Today (  can be used as resources.

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5. Create a brochure to inform your community of available healthcare resources. Be sure to include information such as dental care, local clinics, hospitals, schools, community center program, etc. Be sure to consider that you address the various needs of your population.

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6. Prepare a PowerPoint presentation or graph to illustrate and analyze the data related to one of the following topics: dating violence, domestic violence, or gang violence.

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7. Dr. Davis compared his Honda Accord, “The Coupe,” to himself. Explain his analogy in a reflective narrative.

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8. Dr. Davis referred to the 1932 Tuskegee Institute experiment, “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.” Research this topic and be prepared to present your findings. Be sure to reference the following people in your research and their link to the topic: Bill Clinton, Clark and Vondelehr, Dr. Dibble and Nurse Rivers, and Peter Buxtun.
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9. “Education is the most permanent way off the streets,” says Dr. Davis. Create a jingle, musical number, rap, poem, illustration, cartoon, or video to showcase this quote.

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10. Research the Three Doctors Foundation at Dr. Davis dedicated his book to his mother who taught him that “the most important ingredient in medicine is compassion.” As a class, plan a schoolwide or classroom event that would focus on creating compassion among all members of your school community.

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