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Example Lesson Plans in English Literature

Example lesson plans for grades 5 - 8

Are you looking for ways to incorporate Decision Skills concepts and tools into your classroom? Here you'll find examples created by teachers educated in DEF's model of decision analysis. We hope that you can leverage them in your English Literature classes.  

English Literature Lesson Plans  Grades 5 - 8 

Grades 5 - 8

A Christmas Carol Charles Dickens

Decision Perspective:

In this lively ghost story Dickens describes the dramatic transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge, and provides a look at how various elements of decision making influence his change and actions.

Decision Topics:

  • frames help define values

  • decisions end with action

  • influence of past and future on present decisions

Essential Questions:

  • How are present decisions connected to the past and future?

  • How does fiction reveal truth about humanity?

  • How can art be literal and figurative?

  • What influence do values have on happiness?

Maniac Magee Jerry Spinelli

Decision Perspective:

The novel begins with Jeffrey Magee’s dramatic decision to run, and the rest of the story explores various unusual outcomes of that original choice. As he becomes a fixture in the hearts and minds of the various people he encounters, others also make interesting decisions about Jeffrey.

This unit explores the following decisions in the novel:

  1. At age thirteen, Jeffrey Magee decides to run away from his aunt and uncle—his home.

  2. Mr. Beale, an East Ender, brings Jeffrey home to live with the Beale family.

  3. Jeffrey, who loves life with the Beale family, decides to leave their home.

  4. Grayson finds Jeffrey in the park and takes him in.

  5. Jeffrey decides to bring Mars Bar, a particularly tough East Ender, to the McNab’s birthday party in the West End.

Through a close look at these five situations, students will consider the parts of a decision, six questions that help us to make the best choices, and the use of both thinking and feeling in decision making.

True Confessions Of Charlotte Doyle Avi

Decision Perspective:

The novel provides a variety of exciting situations for students to examine as they explore and practice basic principles of good decision making. At the beginning of the story Charlotte tells the reader that her father gave her “a volume of blank pages” and instructed her to keep a daily journal of her experiences on the ship. Charlotte says, “Keeping that journal then is what enables me to relate now in perfect detail everything that transpired during that fateful voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in the summer of 1832” (page 3).

The following lesson plans focus on four choices Charlotte makes:

  1. her decision to take the journey on the Seahawk (Chapters 1-3);

  2. her decision to reveal to Captain Jaggery the crew’s plans for mutiny (Chapters 1-9);

  3.  her decision to join the crew (Chapters 10-12);

  4. and her decision once safely back home with her family to sail away on the Seahawk.

There is an additional tree exercise that explores the choice Charlotte makes in her final confrontation with Captain Jaggery in Chapter 21. These decisions provide rich material for exploring how clear values and useful information influence the frame of a decision and ultimately help us choose well among alternatives. Teachers can easily choose among the topics that will most benefit their students.

The Pigman Paul Zindel

Decision Perspective:

This unit, designed for middle school students, gives teachers the flexibility to choose novels that will work well for their particular groups. While the unit includes resources for, Paulson’s Hatchet, Craven’s I Heard the Owl Call my Name, and Zindel’s The Pigman, teachers can easily use the lesson plan, student handouts, and final project with other texts their classes read. These lessons can serve as the primary unit of study for the selected novel or supplement already existing plans.

Decision Topics:

  • alternatives, uncertainty, outcomes

  • declaring a decision

  • role of head and heart in making choices

  • six elements for decision quality

  • outcomes and decision quality

Essential Questions:

  • What can I learn from characters’ decisions?

  • How are thinking and feeling related to making good decisions?

The Hobbit JRR Tolkien

Decision Perspective:

Designed to supplement a longer unit on J. R. R. Tolkein’s novel, The Hobbit, these lesson plans provide students in grades six through eight with a method to analyze characters in the story. Seven mini-lessons, each about 20-30 minutes long, introduce declaring a decision and the six elements of good decision making. Students choose, or are assigned, a character from The Hobbit and they are expected to become the ‘expert’ on that character. The seven decision-making mini-lessons enable students to think critically about their characters as they examine their decisions. The culminating project for the character analysis unit is a formal, three to five paragraph essay in which students comment on the decision-making abilities of their characters, using the language of the six elements.

Decision Topics:

  • six elements of a good decision

  • declaring a decision is the first step

Essential Questions:

  • How do our decisions define us?

  • What makes characters in a novel interesting?

Mississippi Trial 1955 Chris Crowe

Decision Perspective:

The Mississippi Trial, 1955, a gripping story (historical fiction) that follows the kidnapping and murder of Emmet Till through the eyes of a sixteen-year old boy, is the central focus of this unit. These lessons, designed for students in grades six through eight, provide an exploration Chris Crowe’s novel using the six elements of a good decision. Once they have chosen (or been assigned) a character from the story, students use the six decision-making mini-lessons to review the elements, engage in a close reading of the novel, and analyze their characters’ decisions. Teachers also have the option to direct students in an analysis of a personal decision.

Decision Topics:

  • six elements of a good decision

  • decision skills help problem solving

Essential Questions:

  • How do fictional and historical characters influence me?

  • How do our decisions define us?

  • What makes characters in a novel interesting?

To Kill A Mockingbird Harper Lee

Decision Perspective:

Harper Lee’s novel about growing up in a small southern town is filled with intriguing decisions for students to explore. While this unit’s main focus is on one of them—Atticus’s decision to defend Tom Robinson—the plan includes a list of additional decision situations for students to examine in class discussion and writing exercises.

Decision Topics:

  • six questions to test decision quality

  • decisions require follow through

  • including others helps with follow through

  • weigh tradeoffs and risk with each alternative

Essential Questions:

  • What is more revealing—ideas or actions?

  • How do choices affect community?