Lesson Planning: Literature

I’m trying to build myself an archive of the lesson plans I’ve found on the internet that are related to texts I teach currently or would like to– eventually, I’d like to try them out and blog about them as I go, so that anyone reading could get a sense of whether or not they’d use it too. Right now, it’ll just be a list, sometimes grouped by text, but please feel free to drop me any suggestions in the comments. Some of these groupings are for texts I’ve already taught, and some are for texts I’m thinking about teaching in the future.

If you teach Shakespeare, you’ve probably already dug through Teaching Shakespeare, courtesy of The Folger Shakespeare Library here in DC, which has an amazing online repository of lesson plans and other teaching materials for almost all of the Shakespeare plays that are regularly taught. I’m also a big fan of their Shakespeare Set Free books. The NEH summer seminars and institutes include The Folger’s summer Teaching Shakespeare Institute, and a similar Teaching Steinbeck Institute, which has generated a pretty fair amount of lesson plans too.

Any English teacher might do well to bookmark Web English Teacher, Carla Beard’s wonderful site full of updated links to a wealth of literature-related resources. I’ve used this site countless times and have always benefited from Carla’s careful curating. Sign up the regular (free!) newsletter while you’re there, and check out the blog too!

Teaching the Text:

Become a Character: Adjectives, Character Traits, and Perspective: uses The Scarlet Letter as an example, but could be adapted for many other novels or plays.

I’ve asked students to take a text and think about how they would adapt it into a film, including movie posters, cast lists, and lists of what they would keep or exclude– this worked well with Catcher in the Rye and August Wilson’s Fences. If I do a similar assignment again, I might ask students to create the accompanying soundtrack or even a dramatized podcast.


Elizabethan Attitudes Towards Revenge (multi-class unit tracking the development of the revenge theme through the play)

Character Through Epitaphs (four sessions, could be adapted for use with Macbeth or Romeo & Juliet as well, for use after having finished text)

Renaissance Humanism and Art (four sessions, for use after reading the text, connects play to era through Botticelli’s Birth of Venus)

The Yellow Wallpaper and Short Fiction by Women:

Writing Women (YW) (the unit including introductory historical context, assignments and support activities while students read)

Character Development (the unit including Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” Glaspell’s “A Jury of Her Peers,” Chopin’s “The Story of An Hour”)

Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” (2-3 sessions)

The Great Gatsby:

Connotation and Color Imagery in “Gatsby” (multi-session unit with pre- and post-reading activities and ongoing assignments)

“Gatsby” and it’s Cover Art pre-and post-reading activities with different versions of the cover art and title

Their Eyes Were Watching God:

Folklore and Zora Neale Hurston (entire multi-class unit using folklore and storytelling as a framework for the reading novel, including assignments)

Harlem Renaissance Retrospective (multi-class unit, including assignment, introducing the period, could be a good lead-in for other authors)

Jumpin’ at the Sun: Reassessing the Life and Work of Zora Neale Hurston (a collection of scholarly feminist essays that I find useful in thinking about ZNH)

Hurston’s Stylistic Choices (looks at Hurston’s writing for stylistic choices, could happen early on or midway through the novel)


Fear and the “Dagger of the Mind” (1-2 lessons, focuses primarily on 3.4)

Character and Plot in Dramatic Tragedy (for use after reading the play, could be adapted to other tragedies, uses alternative endings to explore notions of tragedy)

Catcher in the Rye:

Texting and Holden (asks students to think about technology’s possible effects, after finishing a novel)


Common Visions, Common Voices (using visual art and examples of trickster stories to look at motifs and common themes in art and culture, food for introducing the importance of culture and folklore)

The Things They Carried:

Letter Writing and TTTC (good for use to help students start writing toward a personal essay about what they carry, literally and/or figuratively)


Name That Chapter (could be good as an activity after reading a text, to help think about recurring images and themes)

Narrative and Perspectives in Beloved (three sessions designed for use after reading Book One to help students deal with complex narrative structure)

The Secret Life of Bees:

Teaching Guide from Publisher (PDF file) (chapter-by-chapter reading questions, activities, assignments)

If this has been interesting to you, try my pages on online archives and WebQuests, poetry, and reading too.

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