Check ago and write a short story about

Check student understanding of and analyze characters in the story ‘After Twenty Years’ with this lesson plan. A video lesson helps summarize plot and characters as students discuss content and finish with a culminating activity.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

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  • summarize After Twenty Years by O. Henry
  • analyze characters in After Twenty Years


Two 1-hour lessons

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.


Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.


Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.


Analyze how complex characters (e.g.

, those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.


  • Video lesson After Twenty Years: Summary & Characters
  • Copies of the story After Twenty Years, one for each student

Key Vocabulary and Characters

  • Twist ending
  • O. Henry
  • Silky Bob
  • Jimmy Wells

Warm-Up and Preparation

  • Start the lesson by having students reflect on the following questions:
    • What does it mean to have good character?
    • What character traits make a good friend?
  • After a couple of minutes of reflection, break students into small groups to share their ideas.
  • Discuss as a whole class, recording character traits and other descriptive vocabulary about friends and good character on the board.
    • What do most students think makes a good friend?
    • What is good character?
  • Introduce vocabulary words and discuss the meaning of the twist ending.

    What may this mean about the story they’re about to read?

  • Have students make a t-chart with the character names Silky Bob and Jimmy Wells and instruct them to record character traits for each as they read.

Direct Instruction

  • Distribute copies of the story and have students read silently.
  • When all students are finished, have them meet in their small groups to ask and answer any questions about the text.
  • Now start the lesson After Twenty Years: Summary ; Characters and pause at 2:07.
  • Discuss as a whole group:
    • What was the twist ending?
  • Resume the lesson and pause at 4:17.

  • Share t-charts as a whole group, then have groups make two more t-charts (one for each character) titled ‘Actions and Words’ and ‘Inferences.’
  • Instruct groups to re-read the story carefully, recording descriptions of actions and words about each character and inferring what O. Henry is telling us about each with these words.
  • When groups are finished, have a representative from each share their work, discussing each idea together. What do you learn about Jimmy and Bob?
  • Lead a discussion:
    • Do you consider Jimmy a good friend? Why?
    • Do the characters have the traits we discussed in the opening exercise?
    • What does it mean if they do or don’t?
    • Would you want Jimmy or Bob for a friend? Why or why not?
  • Play the remainder of the video.
  • Give students the quiz in small groups.

  • When groups have finished the quiz, review the answers and answer any outstanding questions students may have.

Activity One

  • Students will now imagine the friendship of Jimmy and Bob 20 years ago and write a short story about them.
    • How did they meet?
    • How old were they?
    • Where were they?
    • What was their last meeting like?
    • What happened to each in the mean time?
  • Give students time to brainstorm, then use the full writing process to edit, revise, and publish.
  • Break students into small groups to share their stories.

    How did students imagine these characters?

Activity Two

  • Students will choose a friend and imagine a meeting with them in 20 years.
    • What will they each be doing?
    • What will they look like?
    • How will it feel to see the friend after 20 years?
  • Give students time to brainstorm, then have them write a journal reflection entry of the imaginary encounter.
  • Share in small groups, then as a whole class.


  • Allow students to do a reenactment of the story, playing the parts in twosomes. Critique and offer feedback.

  • Study the twist endings of other authors and have students attempt to write stories with these types of twists.

Related Lessons

  • After Twenty Years: Theme & Analysis
  • O. Henry: Biography, Books & Poems

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