Summary: In this lesson, students read O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" and are asked to consider the sacrifices we make for true love. As students read, they're asked to make predictions in order to build literary comprehension. Once finished, they'll revisit their predictions to reflect on their own element of surprise. Finally, students are asked to prepare a digital timeline that maps the sequence of events.
How can authors structure text to create an element of surprise?
How can a timeline help us more effectively summarize a text?
What is irony?
Reading: RL.6.1, RL.6.2, RL.6.3
Writing: W.6.2, W.6.2.A
Students will be able to...
Analyze how an author creates surprise in the way he or she structures the text and orders events.
Identify the central idea and summarize the text (using a visual aid).
Develop an introductory understanding of situational irony.
Christie Madsen is a former elementary and middle school classroom teacher. She has spent the last five years supporting the meaningful implementation of education technologies in schools and districts nationally and internationally.
Short Story TImeline
Grade Level: 4 - 6
Time: Two 50-minute sessions
Materials: Student devices (Chromebooks, iPads, or Lab Setting), printed of digital copies of O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi"
Lucidchart's Hourly Timeline Template
Hook students' attention by posing the following question: "Have you ever made a sacrifice in order to make someone happy?" Have students turn and talk to their peers, listing examples of sacrifices that people make for those they love. If students cannot think of real life sacrifices they've made, consider books they've read or movies they've watched.
Come back together as a group to discuss:
Do all sacrifices involve material items?
Which are the hardest ones to make?
Which sacrifice shows the greatest love?
Explain that today we'll be reading a short story called "The Gift of the Magi," where a young couple needs to decide what they're willing to sacrifice to show that they love each other. Pay special attention to the plot structure and look for surprises. Students will have an opportunity to leverage technology to create a visual aid to summarize the story.
Pass out copies of the story or share the link directly with students and read aloud as a class.
As you're reading, pause at the following places and ask students to write down predictions:
After learning about the two prized possessions: What events might occur involving these prized possessions?
When Jim first sees Della's short hair: What will Jim say? Why is he staring at her with a peculiar expression?
Once Jim places his gift for Della on the table: What do you think the gift will be? Why?
After finishing the reading, have students reflect:
Reexamine the predictions you wrote down as you read the story.
Did you accurately predict the outcome of the story or were you surprised? Go back through the story to find passages that hint at the surprise ending.
Begin the second session with a whole-group discussion of yesterday's reading:
Why was Della unhappy when the story began?
What two possessions do Della and Jim treasure?
What sacrifices do the Youngs make to buy each other gifts?
As you made your prediction, what did you expect to happen? Were you correct?
Explain situational irony: a type of irony where characters, or the reader, expect one thing to happen but something entirely different occurs. Invite students to discuss other examples.
Share that today in class, we'll be using Lucidchart to create an hourly timeline of the story.
Each timeline should include a clear beginning, middle, and end, highlighting the introduction, climax, and conclusion of the plot. Students may enhance their timeline with multimedia and will be expected to use it to orally summarize the story to a teacher.
Once students complete their timeline, have them raise their hands and circulate the room, inviting them to orally summarize "The Gift of the Magi" using their visual aid. Look for supporting textual evidence.
Ask students to create a more in-depth timeline based on their favorite novel that you've read in class this year. Using their timeline, invite them to summarize the novel to the class to gain experience presenting to the whole group. Look for effective communication skills and discuss how leveraging a digital aid make whole-group presentations more effective and engaging.
Suggested LucidCHART Templates for use in this lesson
In this project-based lesson, students will be assessed on their ability to summarize the text using a timeline of events. Using a rubric, determine if students have creatively mapped the sequence of events using textual evidence, and can leverage their digital aid to recall the plot. Can students explain why the conclusion was ironic?