Jack London’s short story ‘To Build a Fire’ is a great one for middle school students.
With the help of this lesson plan, students will read a text lesson that helps them to summarize the plot of the story and identify theme before applying their new understanding to an activity.
After this lesson, students will be able to:
- summarize the short story To Build a Fire by Jack London
- identify theme in To Build a Fire
- cite text evidence to support analysis of To Build a Fire
- Copies of lesson To Build a Fire: Summary ; Themes, one for each student
- Copies of the story To Build a Fire by Jack London, one for each student
- Access to technology and the internet
- Copies of the lesson’s quiz, one for each student
- Colored pencils
- Sample guidebooks
Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.
- Introduce students to the topic by having them briefly research the author Jack London. Consider using the lesson Naturalism in Literature: Authors and Characterisitcs. Use the guiding questions:
- What topics did London often write about?
- What was this movement in writing called?
- What are the characteristics of naturalistic writing?
- Distribute copies of the short story To Build a Fire and have students read it.
- To encourage comprehension, instruct students to make notes in the margins of questions or observations.
- When they are finished reading, divide them into groups of 3-4 students.
- Give each a copy of our lesson To Build a Fire: Summary & Themes.
- Have students title their notebooks To Build a Fire and create subtitles ‘Plot’ and ‘Analysis – Theme.’
- Under the ‘Plot’ section, have students create a K-L-E chart (Know, Learned, Effects) and instruct them to fill out the ‘K’ section with what they know about the plot of To Build a Fire.
- Next, instruct students to read the ‘Plot Summary’ section of the lesson and work together to determine what they learned from the plot and what effect this knowledge has on them.
For example, they may learn to trust and respect nature and the effect may be to be cautious while in the wild.
- Explain that each group should come up with 2-3 ideas for the ‘L’ and ‘E’ sections.
- Have groups share work when finished.
- Now have students read the ‘Themes’ section. After recording each theme in their notebooks, have students find evidence in the text to answer the question ‘How does London’s use of story elements (setting, plot, character choices) contribute to theme?
- Have groups share their answers for each section as a whole group.
- Read the ‘Lesson Summary’ with students before administering the quiz to test understanding.
- Show students several types of guide books to build background knowledge, then explain that they will be researching the Yukon (where the story is set) and creating a guidebook for it.
- Allow students to work in partners or small groups, if desired.
- Determine what elements you require for student guidebooks and write each on the board. For example, you may choose to have students include a description, some images, a map of the Yukon, and suggested activities for visiting the area.
- As students work, walk around to support and answer questions.
- When students are finished, have them share their guidebooks before displaying them in the classroom.
- Read other stories by Jack London and compare and contrast topics and theme.
- Teach students about how authors use a narrator in literature to help propel action and plot in a story.
- Teach a ‘Naturalistic Writing’ unit studying writers using this style.
- Types of Fiction: Novels, Novellas & Short Stories
- What is Theme in Literature? – Definition & Examples
- Narrators in Literature: Types and Definitions