Ms. Bixby’s Last Day


Ms. Bixby’s Last Day
Written by John David Anderson

Publisher’s Summary:
Ms. Bixby unexpectedly announces that she is very sick and won’t be able to finish the school year, and Topher, Brand, and Steve come up with a plan to tell her how much she means to them.

Primary Source Pairing:
Topher, Brand, and Steve tell the story and their admiration for their teacher Ms. Bixby. Create a multimodal experience for students by pairing a character map activity with a listening activity.

We learn of Ms. Bixby’s love of music as we read about the rides she gave Brand to the grocery store and to Brand’s home. The music Ms. Bixby had on in the car helped Brand get to know her better, and it helped us as the readers get to know Ms. Bixby better, too.

For this primary source pairing activity, invite students to listen to “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin. This song is part of the picnic scene in the book, told from Topher’s perspective, when the boys finally get to the park with Ms. Bixby (page 276). Steve’s phone has died and instead of playing the specially curated playlist of classical music, Steve begins to sing “And as we wind on down the road, our shadows taller than our soul. There walks a lady we all know, who shines white light and wants to show how everything still turns to gold.” Ms. Bixby laughs and notes it is a classic song rather than a classical one but that she loves it just the same.

While students are listening to the song, invite them to create a character chart using words, images, or sketches to describe each of the three boys.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you hear.
  • What do you notice first?
  • If you hear any voices, can you understand what is being sung or said?
  • Do you know the song, or do you recognize any instruments?
  • What other details can you hear?
  • How does this song make you feel?
  • How does this song connect to your visualization of Ms. Bixby?
  • Why do you think Steve chose this song to sing to Ms. Bixby?
  • Does listening to this song enhance your ability to make a character chart about Topher, Steve, and Brand? Why or why not?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Album Art:
Listen to “Stairway to Heaven” here: YouTube
BixbyCharacterChart: Created by JMarek

Additional Resources:
John David Anderson’s website:
Ms. Bixby Educator’s Guide: Walden Media
Ms. Bixby’s Last Day: The Unofficial Soundtrack, Written by Blake Hamilton: