The Scarlet Letter: Engaging Students with the Text Ashley Shields

Teaching The Scarlet Letter
Teaching The Scarlet Letter:
Engaging Students with the Text
Ashley Shields
SCED 419 Final Project
Professor Adkins
Spring 2010
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Teaching The Scarlet Letter
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page 3: Introduction
Page 4: Exploring Companion Texts
Page 6: Interactive Classroom Activities
Page 9: Independent Assignments
Page 10: Incorporating Other Media: Websites, Movies, and Music
Page 13: Conclusion
Page 14: Appendix A
Page 17: Appendix B
Page 19: Appendix C
Page 20: Appendix D
Page 22: Appendix E
Page 23: Appendix F
Page 24: Appendix G
Page 25: Annotation
Page 27: Bibliography
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Teaching The Scarlet Letter: Engaging Students with the Text
INTRODUCTION
For decades Nathaniel Hawthorneʼs The Scarlet Letter has been a classic novel
most all young adults are required to read as part of their high school careers.
Unfortunately, students tend to remember the book with disdain—and for good reasons!
There are several obstacles for students when reading Hawthorne. The Scarlet
Letter was never intended for young adult readers; Hawthorneʼs audience was adults.
The writing style is dated; the setting and culture are unfamiliar; the themes of adultery,
revenge, and guilt are not ones to which students can readily relate. While The Scarlet
Letter is a classic text, when in the classroom the odds are stacked against it.
Despite this knowledge, a fundamental goal of reading The Scarlet Letter should
be that students have a positive reaction to and appreciation for the novel. As teachers,
it is not only our job to ensure students learn from the texts they read but that the texts
are approachable and engaging—The Scarlet Letter is no exception.
In todayʼs classroom, no medium is off limits when it comes to creating an
engaging and interactive reading experience. At our immediate disposal are literature,
films, songs, articles, and websites that assist in making The Scarlet Letter more
approachable, relatable, and engaging for students. Using a variety of tools and media
makes learning fun and interactive, while also leading to a host of activities geared
toward application and assessment.
The purpose of this chapter is to explore how to engage students with The
Scarlet Letter and ensure successful learning and reading experiences.
Teaching The Scarlet Letter
EXPLORING COMPANION TEXTS
One way to better engage students with The Scarlet Letter is to pair the novel
with companion texts. Incorporating young adult literature into a unit on The Scarlet
Letter can benefit students in two ways. Firstly, the companion novel can ehance a
studentʼs understanding of the text itself. Secondly, the companion text can bridge the
gap between students and the subject matter of The Scarlet Letter.
A companion novel that would benefit the studentʼs comprehension of
Hawthorneʼs classic is the graphic novel version, entitled Hawthorneʼs The Scarlet
Letter: The Manga Edition (Lin & Sexton, 2009). The graphic novel is a quick read,
comprised of comic-like drawings and dialogue bubbles that depict the classic novel in
true-to-text fashion. A great way to integrate the graphic novel with the classic text is to
assign corresponding sections of both readings. After completing an assigned reading
from Hawthorneʼs novel, students should turn to the graphic novel. The purpose of the
graphic novel in conjunction with the classic text is to supplement the gaps students
may have in comprehending Hawthorneʼs writing. The experience can be thought of as
reading a script before watching the film, because the graphic novel is simply a visually
appealing representation of the traditional text.
While the simultaneous reading of the traditional and graphic novels will help
students to increase their comprehension, it unfortunately will not enable students to
better relate to the characters and themes in The Scarlet Letter. Few student readers
can relate to Arthur Dimmesdaleʼs all-consuming guilt or the revenge Roger
Chillingsworth seeks. Furthermore, young adults are not experienced in the taboo
subject of adultery. Though some students may have experienced or know others living
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through teen pregnancy, young adults are unlikely to relate to Hester Prynne as a
mother. Add to this the fact that the book is set in Puritan New England and students are
so far removed from the novel that it makes sense for students to dread reading The
Scarlet Letter!
But it is possible to use young adult literature to bridge the gap between students
and Hawthorne. One of the themes of The Scarlet Letter most relatable to students is
that of alienation. Hester Prynne is alienated from her society for committing adultery
and mothering an illegitimate child, especially after refusing to name the father involved
in her sin. Similarly, her illegitimate daughter, Pearl, is alienated from society simply
because of the way she was conceived. While students will not readily relate to the
characters of Hester and Pearl, most students can relate to the experience of feeling
ostracized.
A way to build upon this faint connection between students and the text is to
introduce a companion novel that deepens the alienation connection. A strong example
is Laurie Halse Andersonʼs novel, Speak (1999). Melinda, the protagonist of Speak, is
alienated by her peers after “snitching” on a party. What her classmates do not
understand, however, is that Melinda never intended to bust the party; she sought the
police to help her after a traumatic event—which her peers are unaware of . Without a
doubt, students will readily relate to the teenage Melinda and trials she endures while
being outcast at school. It is through Melindaʼs character that students can bridge their
own experiences with the events in Hawthorneʼs The Scarlet Letter.
Using companion texts, like graphic novels and Speak, will assist students in
achieving successful reading experiences.
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INTERACTIVE CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
Incorporating engaging and critical-thinking based activities is an integral part of
successfully teaching The Scarlet Letter. As students move through the novel it is
important to keep classroom activities interesting and thought-provoking.
When first introducing The Scarlet Letter to the class, there are many ways a
teacher can create a fun learning environment to counteract studentsʼ natural lack of
enthusiasm for the novel. One tool is to generate student thinking by asking the class
about their prior knowledge of the book and their present beliefs on subject matter
contained in The Scarlet Letter. A second tool is to show students that Hester Prynneʼs
scarlet letter has become a symbol outside the novel and remains symbolic to this day.
In other words, when introducing The Scarlet Letter, the teacher should aim to make the
novel both relatable and relevant for the students. At the same time, classroom activities
should inspire creativity and be fun.
Making the book Relatable
In her article “Reading the Complex World: Students Approach The Scarlet Letter
from Multiple Perspectives,” Lorraine Cella (2002) offers excellent introductory activities
for the classroom. One introductory activity consists of questioning students about their
current beliefs.1 As Cella points out, it is important to connect students to the text and to
raise conscious awareness to the fact that “we bring to a text sets of notions and
assumptions based on our experiences” (p. 78).
1
Refer to Appendix A for an adapted version of the questionnaire and lesson plan.
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Identifying peopleʼs beliefs before starting the novel not only forces students to
think about the important subject matter of the novel but gets students thinking about
what they are about to read and how they relate to the book.
Making the book Relevant
Students often wonder “Why do I have to read this book?” and question how a
given text fits into their world. In the case of The Scarlet Letter, the symbol of the scarlet
A remains a casual reference in our society, representing shame and the breaking of
moral codes. Readers can parallel The Scarlet Letter to todayʼs world by identifying
modern public figures shunned from society or ostracized from the community, much
like Hester Prynne in Hawthorneʼs novel.
The article “The New Scarlet Letter: Student Perceptions of the Accounting
Profession After Enrom” by Coleman, Kreuse, and Langsam (2004) examines how
college accounting students feel about the accounting profession after the scandal of
Enron.2 Since the scandal, the accounting profession in general has suffered and strives
to piece together its shattered reputation. Enron, and the accounting profession, can be
seen much like Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter—and both tote a scarlet “A.”
An excellent classroom activity,3 after reading the Enron article, is to have
students think about public figures today that have suffered from scandal, like adultery,
and pay the price by being ostracized from the community. After researching and
sharing modern public figures relatable to Hester Prynne, students should consider
2
Detailed in the article for students, Enronʼs reputation was forever ruined after the company filed for
bankruptcy and admitted to overstating “profits by $600 million” (Coleman, Kreuze, Langsam, 2004).
3
Refer to Appendix B for the full-length lesson plan.
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questions such as “What common moral codes are being broken?” and “What happens
to people who do not meet societyʼs expectations?” Tying The Scarlet Letter into
present day life, students can enhance their appreciation of the burdens felt by Hester
Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale in Hawthornʼe novel.
Making Classwork Fun
To enhance a young readerʼs appreciation of The Scarlet Letter, teachers should
strive to assign classroom activities that inspire creativity in addition to developing
reading and writing skills. A great interactive in-class project for students, to complete in
small groups, is translating a section of The Scarlet Letter into a screenplay.
A creative group project, adapted from Angie Beumer Johnson and Melinda
Spiveyʼs article “If I were the Director: Critical Literacy, The Scarlet Letter, and a Drama
Framework,” (2009) is to have students translate a scene of Hawthorneʼs novel into film
scripts. The project requires students to consider the importance of events within the
text and problem-solve how to capture the important details of the novel in the context
of film.4
The basic prompt for the activity is to have students suppose they were
approached by a film producer looking to make a movie of Hawthorneʼs The Scarlet
Letter. But unlike films made in the past, the producer wants his film to be as true to the
text as possible. The students, in small groups, would select a scene from the novel and
translate it into a screenplay. In addition to considering costumes, stage directions, and
4
Please refer to Appendix C for the full-length lesson plan.
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set design, students could be offered the option of actually filming their scene before
sharing their project with the class.
Classwork activities need not forfeit learning in order to be fun for students.
INDEPENDENT ASSIGNMENTS
Independent writing activities serve as evaluations of the individual studentʼs
understanding and retention of the novel. But such assignments should also inspire
students to think creatively and critically, as well as encourage them to develop and
express their own opinions about what they have read.
For example, one such individual assignment is for students to create a diary
from Pearlʼs perspective.5 A way to introduce the assignment is to discuss the point of
view Hawthorne uses in The Scarlet Letter—third person omniscient. While Hawthorne
reveals the thoughts and feelings of Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger
Chillingsworth, the reader knows very little from Pearlʼs point of view. But even as
Hawthorne does not reveal Pearlʼs thoughts or feelings in The Scarlet Letter, it is not
difficult to imagine how the young girl must feel. Creating a diary from Pearlʼs first
person point of view requires students to use textual evidence and their imaginations in
order to create textually accurate fictional writing.
A second individual writing assignment that forces students to think critically is a
persuasive essay in which students compare the protagonists from Speak and The
Scarlet Letter.6 When teaching either the novel or film version of Andersonʼs Speak, an
5
Refer to Appendix D for the lesson plan.
6
Refer to Appendix E for the lesson plan.
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effective way to culminate the unit is to discuss the similarities between the female
protagonists. For this particular essay, students consider Melinda Sordino and Hester
Prynneʼs respective punishments for their “crimes.” Melinda Sordino is completely
shunned by her peers at school, suffering from cold and disapproving glares as well as
“silent treatment” from people she used to consider friends. She feels alone and refuses
to speak about the night of the party. Hester Prynne, while also shunned from the
community, carries the bulk of her burden across her bosom in the form of the scarlet
letter—which keeps her “sin” and shame of adultery a constant weight in her everyday
life. Students can respond to questions such as “Whose punishment is easier to bare?”
and “Do you think the protagonistsʼ punishments fit their ʻcrimesʼ?” when preparing their
essay.
The essayʼs purpose is for students persuade the reader to share their opinion
on the protagonistsʼ punishments. Encouraging students to think critically about what
they have read, and thus develop their own opinions about the text, ensures a positive
writing experience.
Ultimately, the goal of any individual assignment is to to have students
successfully engage with and utilize the text when crafting effective writing. In the case
of The Scarlet Letter, making the writing assignments fun, creative, and an outlet for
personal expression will help to interest students.
INCORPORATING OTHER MEDIA: WEBSITES, MOVIES, AND MUSIC
Thanks to todayʼs technology, a wealth of information is within an English
teacherʼs reach. Information is not, however, limited to print articles and literature. Part
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of facilitating a successful learning experience for students involves incorporating nonmainstream learning materials into the classroom environment. Students are likely to
respond positively to on-line learning, film, and music because young adults are
genuinely interested in these outlets outside of the classroom.
Incorporating On-Line Learning
The internet serves as an excellent aid in assisting the teacher to prepare
classroom activities as well as an interactive tool for students. In teaching The Scarlet
Letter alongside the young adult novel Speak, for instance, teachers would benefit from
visiting http://www.writerlady.com/Deceitdespair.html , a web-site that explores one
instructorʼs thoughts on teaching the texts as companions. The web-site provides
interactive ideas for group activities and explores how to use the novel Speak in order to
enhance a studentʼs appreciation of the classic novel, The Scarlet Letter. On the other
hand, teachers could find a website on Puritan history useful when preparing students
for the setting and culture described in Hawthorneʼs novel. An excellent internet site
students can view to gain background knowledge is http://www.ushistory.org/us/3d.asp ,
a website created for the purpose of teaching puritan history to students.
Incorporating Film
Another resource teachers can draw upon when teaching The Scarlet Letter is
film. Movies captivate students, and tend to make them feel like the class period is more
leisure and less “learning” intensive. Teachers should use this to their advantage and
build upon the studentsʼ excitement and interest in film.
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An excellent movie to show students is the 2004 film version of Andersonʼs novel,
Speak. First and foremost, the movie is true to the text; the integrity of the novel is not
compromised. Showing the film to students would be an especially great alternative for
those classes that can not afford Andersonʼs novel or do not have adequate time to read
both Speak as a companion text in addition to The Scarlet Letter. Furthermore, Speak is
an age appropriate film featuring the presently-popular Kristen Stewart in the lead role
of Melinda. While watching the movie, students should take notes regarding the
similarities between Melinda and Hester Prynne.
It is important to note, however, that incorporating film into the classroom does
not limit the teacher to full-length movies. Short films or video clips have just as powerful
an effect as a full-length film; the visual appeal of movies is still captured.
An excellent short video teachers can use when teaching The Scarlet Letter is
from the rock opera “shAme.” The musical is an adaption from Hawthorneʼs novel and
provides students with a visual representation of the story. One song in particular,
“Sticks and Stones” may be especially helpful. In the video, Pearl is singing about being
ostracized and her mother, Hester, tries to comfort her with the well-known wisdom of
“sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” Not only does
the film provide visual appeal to students, depicting the novelʼs characters in traditional
puritan attire, but the lyrics to the song help students to better understand Pearlʼs
perspective—something Hawthorne does not provide the reader outright in the
traditional text. Videos from “shAme” can be found when searching through YouTube,
an invaluable tool for teachers looking to take a unique approach to teaching the
classics.
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Incorporating Music
Songs are poetry put to music, and the lyrics can be especially useful in drawing
studentsʼ attention to what they are learning. In the case of The Scarlet Letter, music
can be a great way to tie the novel into modern life or to encourage students to consider
what life would be like in someoneʼs elseʼs shoes.
The band Mudvayne, for example, has produced a song called “Scarlet
Letters” (2008) in which the lyrics describe a person grappling to live with the burden of
their letters.7 Having students listen to the song, and then asking them to explain how
the song makes Hawthorneʼs novel relevant in todayʼs world, can serve as a warm-up or
closing activity for the day.
Similarly, Depeche Modeʼs “Walking In My Shoes” facilitates considering life from
another personʼs point of view.8 When listening to the song, students should consider
how it feels to be Hester Prynne—ostracized from her community.
CONCLUSION
Teaching any novel to students is hard work, but in the case of Hawthorneʼs The
Scarlet Letter, the challenge is three-fold. Teachers must plan and create activities that
capture studentsʼ interest and engage them with not only the novel but the learning
process associated with the unit. Young adults need assistance in overcoming the
obstacles of The Scarlet Letter—the setting, the lack of connection to characters, the
7
See Appendix F for song lyrics and details for obtaining the music.
8
See Appendix G for song lyrics and details for obtaining the music.
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dated writing, etc. By utilizing a vast array of teaching strategies and medium, bridging
the gap between students and Hawthorne can be successfully accomplished.
APPENDIX A
Lesson Plan: Introducing The Scarlet Letter
NCTE Standard(s): Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish
their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of
information).
Learning Objective: This lesson, adapted from Cellaʼs “Reading the Complex World:
Students Approach “The Scarlet Letter” from Multiple Perspectives” (2002) is designed
to facilitate student thinking about topics relevant to the text. The students will also gain
awareness that each reader brings a set “of notions and assumptions based on our
experiences” (p. 78) to the text.
Materials:
1.) Questionnaire (two pages)
2.) Pens/pencils to complete the handout
Procedures:
1.) Tell students that they will be reading Nathaniel Hawthorneʼs The Scarlet Letter. As a
pre-reading activity, they will complete a questionnaire and discuss their answers with
the class.
2.)Distribute the handouts and give students 10-15 minutes to read the questions and
write brief responses to each.
3.) As a class, share student responses to the questionnaire. Be sure to pay attention to
significant similarities and differences among students answers.
4.) Lead students in a brief discussion of our societyʼs moral code system, as defined by
their answers. What conclusions can we draw?
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Name:________________________________________ Date:___________________
The Scarlet Letter Pre-Reading Questionnaire
Directions: The following questionnaire is a pre-reading tool that will help us to think
about the subject matter of the novel. Read each question and write a brief answer to
each. Be prepared to share your answers with the class.
1.) What, if anything, have you heard about the novel The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel
Hawthorne?
2.) How would you react if someone you knew had a child without being married to the
father? Is it okay? Not okay? Acceptable at a certain age or under certain conditions?
Why? What about your background, upbringing, or family values leads you to believe as
you do?
3.) Rank the following actions in terms of their degree of wrongfulness or sinfulness.
Write them in the order from most wrong to least wrong:
*committing adultery
*allowing another person to accept blame for a crime you committed
*obsessively seeking revenge for wrongs committed against you
*condemning among others the wrongs that you yourself have committed
Teaching The Scarlet Letter
BOYS:
Imagine you have a child and are not married to the mother. What do you feel is your
responsibility? What would your family, friends, and members of the community think
about you? What about your background makes you think as you do?
GIRLS:
Imagine you have a child and are not married to the father. What would your family,
friends, and the members of your community think about you? What about your
background makes you think as you do?
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APPENDIX B
Lesson Plan: Modern-day Shunning of Public Figures
NCTE Standard(s): Students use a variety of technological and information resources
(e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize
information and to create and communicate knowledge.
Learning Objective: Students will identify parallels between The Scarlet Letter and
modern public figures. The goal of the activity is to make the dated classic text more
relevant to students.
Materials:
1.) Copy of the article “The New Scarlet Letter: Student Perceptions of the Accounting
Profession After Enron” by Coleman, Kreuze, and Langsam.
2.) Pen and paper to take notes
3.) Access to the internet
Procedures:
1.) Distribute the article and have the class read it either aloud as a group or
individually.
2.) Afterwards, briefly discuss how the concept of Hester Prynneʼs letter “A” is still
relevant today—and like the accounting profession, modern day public figures suffer
from public disapproval and shunning.
3.) Have students break into small groups and explain that each group must research a
recent (within two years) example of a public figure that was alienated or ostracized by
the community.
4.) Instruct students to record the following information: Who was shunned? Briefly
identify the individualʼs role within the public eye, in case classmates are not familiar
with the figure. Why was the person shunned? What moral code did the individual break
or taboo did the individual commit?
Students should have ample time to complete this activity: approximately 20-30
minutes
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5.) After researching, have the small groups take turns sharing their example with the
class. The teacher should make a chart of the individual, the “crime” committed, and the
moral code broken.
6.) Common themes will likely emerge. Encourage students to make statements about
similarities and differences between the examples cited by the class. Ask questions like
“What common moral codes are being broken?” and “What happens to people who do
not meet societyʼs expectations?”
7.) To conclude the activities, how can students relate Hester Prynne to the modern
figures they discussed in class?
The chart below outlines some possible “scandals” students cite in class:
Public Figure
Scandal?
Moral Code?
Jesse James
Cheated on wife, Sandra
Bullock
Adultery
Tiger Woods
Repeated affairs while
married to wife, Elin
Nordegren
Adultery
LeAnne Rimes
Had an affair while
married.\
Adultery
Kourtney Kardashian
Became pregnant while
unmarried
Single and pregnant
Birstol Palin
Pregnant at 17 and while
unmarried, while her
mother, Sarah Plain,
campaigned for VP of the
country
Teen Pregnancy
Michael Jackson
Accused to molesting
children
Child Molestation
Chris Brown
Assaulted then girlfriend,
Rihanna
Domestic Violence
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APPENDIX C
Lesson Plan: Text to Script, with The Scarlet Letter 9
NCTE Standard(s):
Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes
(e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing
process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of
purposes.
Learning Objective: By translating scenes of their choice from The Scarlet Letter into
scripts, students will consider the importance of events within the text and problemsolve how to capture the important details of the text in the medium of film.
Materials:
1.) Project assignment
2.) Pen/paper to write draft of script/computer to type script
3.) Creativity!!
Procedures:
1.) Distribute assignment handout to students and review the project requirements.
2.) Ask students to divide into small groups, pairs or groups of three would likely work
best.
3.) Have students select a section of the text theyʼd like to convert to script. Upon doing
so, have them discuss how the passage would convert to script form.
4.) Students should begin converting the text to script. Remind them that descriptive
details of the text can be incorporated in film through the set design, costumes, stage
direction, etc.
5.) Have students prepare to share their script with the class. They could choose to
perform the scene they wrote or make a colorful poster highlighting some important
points of their project.
6.) Have the students share their projects!!
9
Activity adapted from Johnson&Spivey (2009).
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APPENDIX D
Lesson Plan: Pearlʼs Diary
NCTE Standard(s): Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret,
evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions
with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their
identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter
correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
Learning Objective: Students will consider what Pearl is thinking and feeling
throughout the novel, The Scarlet Letter, as Hawthorne provides the reader with only
limited information about Pearlʼs experience in the story. From Pearlʼs point of view,
students will independently construct a diary in which the characterʼs thoughts and
feelings are expressed. Students will use creativity and support from the text in order to
complete this assignment.
Materials:
1.) Writing prompt
2.) Pen, paper, and access to a computer with printer
Procedures:
1.) Distribute the writing assignment to the class.
2.)Review the directions and prompt.
3.) Students will have one week to complete a draft of the diary.
4.) The following week, students will have the opportunity to peer review their
classmatesʼ diaries and improve their own.
5.) Two weeks from the date the project is assigned, Pearlʼs Diary should be collected
for grading.
6.) As an exit ticket for the day the project is assigned, play “Sticks and Stones” from the
musical shAme for students. The music video will provide inspiration to students. After
listening to and watching the video, have them write on a slip of paper one word that
they feel expresses how Pearl feels.
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Name:____________________________________________Date:________________
Pearlʼs Diary: Independent Writing Assignment
Directions: In Hawthorneʼs The Scarlet Letter, Pearl is subjected to alienation and
shunning from her community because she was conceived through adultery. While the
author provides a third person omniscient point of view for the main characters of the
novel, Pearlʼs inner most thoughts and feelings are not revealed to the reader. Even
without this information, however, it is not difficult to imagine how Pearl must feel.
Despite a lack of Pearlʼs thoughts, the reader can imagine what the little girl must
feel when being ostracized from her community. Gather evidence from The Scarlet
Letter to support how Pearl might feel as a result of being alienated. You may also
reference the song and video “Sticks and Stones” from the rock musical shAme to
shape your answers. Organize your evidence by page number in a list, not to exceed
two pages.
Then, create a diary from Pearlʼs perspective (in first person) that reflects
how she feels about being shunned. There must be at least three journal entries, each
between 1 and 2 pages in length. Be creative, and stay true to the Puritan culture (refer
to http://www.ushistory.org/us/3d.asp for guidance on Puritan history).
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APPENDIX E
Lesson Plan: Does the Punishment Fit the Crime? Essay
NCTE Standard(s):
Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes
(e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and
appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other
readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word
identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter
correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
Learning Objective: Students will write persuasively to support their opinion of whether
or not Melinda Sordino in Speak and Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter have
punishments befitting of their “crimes.” Students will also establish a stance on which
characterʼs punishment is easier to bare.
Materials:
1.) Pen, paper, and access to a computer with printer
2.) Writing assignment questions
Procedures:
1.) After watching the film/reading the novel Speak and reading The Scarlet Letter, have
students compare and contrast the female protagonists, Melinda Sordino and Hester
Prynne.
2.) Supply students with the following questions to consider: In your opinion, is
Melindaʼs punishment worse or easier than Hester Prynneʼs? Do you think Melindaʼs
punishment is easier or harder to bare than Hesterʼs? Do you think the punishments fit
the womenʼs respective “crimes”?
3.) Ask students to brainstorm their preliminary answers to the questions.
4.) Tell students that they must now write a 2-3 page essay based on the questions they
answered. The goal of the essay is to persuade the reader of their opinion on the
following topics: Which protagonist has a harsher punishment, and do the womenʼs
punishments fits their respective crimes?
Teaching The Scarlet Letter
5.) Students will have one week to complete the assignment out of class.
APPENDIX F
Song Lyrics to “Scarlet Letters” by Mudvayne:
The heart is beating but the soul has died
The body's breathing beneath catatonic eyes
The blood is flowing, set it free for demise
I've lost my balance, but god knows I've tried
I don't wanna be here anymore in scarlet letters
Carved into what once was me
Once was yours no more (no more)
An uphill battle I failed to climb
I left it all now and I don't mind
Betrayed and broken consumed by the lies
Farewell to you all, I'll be fine. Goodbye.
I don't wanna be here anymore in scarlet letters
Carved into what once was me
Once was yours no more
I don't wanna be here anymore the scarlet letter
Torn in two, a piece of me, the peace in you no more
Do you believe in loss?
Do you believe in faith?
Do you believe in death?
Now that I'm gone
Forsaken me, ashes to dust just let me lie
Lay me to rest, I've done my best but lost my sight
Turning my back, leave me alone let spirit rise
Knives in my back, all hope is lost
Say goodbye
I don't wanna be here anymore in Scarlet Letters
Got to do, what once was me, once was yours, no more
I donʼt want to be here anymore, I donʼt wanna be
here anymore the scarlet letters
Carved into what once was me, once was yours no more.
To access the music, search for the artist and song title at either YouTube.com or
lala.com
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Teaching The Scarlet Letter
APPENDIX G
Lyrics for “Walking in My Shoes” by Depeche Mode:
I would tell you about the things
They put me through.
The pain I've been subjected to.
But the Lord himself would blush.
The countless feasts laid at my feet,
Forbidden fruits for me to eat.
But I think your pulse would start to rush.
Now I'm not looking for absolution,
Forgiveness for the things I do.
But before you come to any conclusions Try walking in my shoes,
Try walking in my shoes.
You'll stumble in my footsteps,
Keep the same appointments I kept.
If you try walking in my shoes.
If you try walking in my shoes.
Morality would frown upon,
Decency look down upon.
The scapegoat fate's made of me.
But I promise now, my judge and jurors,
My intentions couldn't have been purer.
My case is easy to see.
I'm not looking for a clearer conscience,
Peace of mind after what I've been through.
And before we talk of any repentance Try walking in my shoes.
Try walking in my shoes.
You'll stumble in my footsteps,
Keep the same appointments I kept.
If you try walking in my shoes.
If you try walking in my shoes.
Try walking in my shoes.
Now I'm not looking for absolution,
Forgiveness for the things I do.
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Teaching The Scarlet Letter
25
But before you come to any conclusions Try walking in my shoes.
Try walking in my shoes.
You'll stumble in my footsteps,
Keep the same appointments I kept.
If you try walking in my shoes.
Try walking in my shoes.
If you try walking in my shoes.
Try walking in my shoes.
To access the music, search for the artist and song title at either YouTube.com or
lala.com
ANNOTATION
Websites
1.) http://www.writerlady.com/Deceitdespair.html : The website explains how to teach the
young adult novel Speak alongside The Scarlet Letter. The site is useful for teachers
looking for inspiration when creating classroom activities for the companion texts.
2.) http://www.ushistory.org/us/3d.asp : The website provides background information
students will find useful prior to reading The Scarlet Letter. The website is designed for
students and reviews the history of Puritans and reveals their culture. Background
knowledge on Puritan life will help students when reading Hawthorneʼs novel.
Movies
1.) Speak : The film version of Andersonʼs novel is an excellent visual tool for the
classroom. Because protagonist Melinda Sordinoʼs experience with alienation so closely
ties to that of Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter, students could find the film useful
in bridging the gap between Puritan life and modern day.
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2.) “Sticks and Stones” from shAme : The short video of the song “Sticks and Stones”
relates directly to Hawthorneʼs novel. The video is short and can be easily incorporated
into the classroom as a way of displaying Pearlʼs experience in The Scarlet Letter.
Furthermore, it is interesting to show students how even in recent years The Scarlet
Letter has inspired a musical—and a rock musical at that!
Song
1.) Mudvayneʼs “Scarlet Letters” : The song directly references the scarlet letter, a
symbol that remains powerful to this day. The song is a great way to make the novel
more relevant to a young adult audience because even a current and successful rock
band references Hawthorneʼs classic.
2.) Depeche Modeʼs “Walking in My Shoes” : The song asks the listener to consider
walking in some one elseʼs shoes. It could be interesting to have students listen to the
song and read the lyrics when considering how it might feel to be in Hester Prynne,
Arthur Dimmesdale, or Pearlʼs respective positions.
Articles
1.) “Reading the Complex World: Students Approach “The Scarlet Letter” from Multiple
Perspectives” by Cella: The article could be a useful tool for teachers looking for unique
ways to introduce The Scarlet Letter to their students. I found the questionnaire
surveying student beliefs particularly useful and inspirational, and from it adapted a
lesson plan to introduce the novel to students.
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2.) “If I Were the Director: Crticial Literacy, The Scarlet Letter, and a Drama Framework”
by Johnson and Spivey: This article provides an in-depth experiment that engages
students with The Scarlet Novel by means of creating a film version of the text. As I
found inspiration in the article that shaped my classwork assignment to translate a
scene from the novel into a screenplay, I think the article could be inspiration to other
teachers.
3.) “The New Scarlet Leter: Student Perceptions of the Accounting Profession After
Enron” by Coleman, Kreuze, and Langsam: The article could be a useful tool for
students in the classroom because it makes The Scarlet Letter relevant in todayʼs world
by comparing the accounting profession to Hester Prynneʼs character. The article could
be a useful lead in when discussing modern public figures that have broken moral
codes.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Anderson, L. (1999). Speak. New York: Penguin Group.
Coleman, M., Kreuze, J., Langsam, S. (2004). The New Scarlet Letter: Student
Perceptions of the Accounting Profession After Enron. Journal of Education for
Business, 79(3), 134-141.
Cella, L. (2002). Reading the Complex World: Students Approach “The Scarlet Letter”
from Multiple Perspectives. The English Journal, 91(6), 77-82.
Depeche Mode. (1993). Walking in My Shoes. Songs of Faith and Devotion [CD]. Mute
Records.
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Govenor, M. “Sticks and Stones.” shAme: A Rock Opera. Retrieved April 2010, from
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwEGHEn-ViU
Hawthorne, N. (1850). The Scarlet Letter. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Books.
Hayn, J. & Schultz, B. (n.d.). Deceit, Despair, and Dejection: Connecting Speak and The
Scarlet Letter. Retrieved April 2010 from http://www.writerlady.com/
Deceitdespair.html
Johnson, A., & Spivey, M. (2009). If I Were the Director: Critical Literacy, The Scarlet
Letter, and a Drama Framework. Ohio Journal of English Language Arts, 49(2),
45-53.
Lin, Y. & Sexton, A. (2009). Hawthorneʼs The Scarlet Letter: The Manga Edition. New
Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, Inc.
Mudvayne (2008). Scarlet Letters. The New Game [CD]. Epic Records.
Poe, E. (1993). Alienation from Society in The Scarlet Letter and The Chocolate War.
Adolescent Literature as a Compliment to the Classics (Volume 1). Norwood,
MA: Christopher-Cteuder Publishing, Inc.
Puritan Life. (2008). US History Pre-Columbian to the New Millennium. Retrieved April
2010, from http://www.ushistory.org/us/3d.asp
Sharzer, J. (Director). (2004). Speak [Motion Picture]. United States.
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