Topic: “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant
Length of Lesson: One 90 minute (block schedule) period
Materials: Copies of “The Necklace” (full text) for each student, Using Context Clues (handout)
• To derive the meaning of unfamiliar terms in a text through the use of context clues.
• To identify the use of situational irony in a short story.
• To develop proficiency in reading nineteenth century texts aloud
• To practice discussion skills within a small group.
• To write a fictional epilogue for a short story.
Context: This lesson will be taught in the middle of a unit on short stories – specifically, stories that include different types of irony. The preceding story will be “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Alan Poe because Poe’s story includes verbal irony, while “The Necklace” introduces situational irony. After covering “The Necklace”, the class will move on to O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi”. Not only does the latter story also deal with a young couple who face an ironic surprise, the story’s characters can be compared or contrasted with the characters in “The Necklace” in terms of their socioeconomic status, personalities, and worldviews.
Prior Knowledge: I assume that students have already acquired most reading comprehension skills necessary to read, interpret, and discuss a late nineteenth century text. I also assume that students have covered Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” in 9th grade and have at least familiarized themselves with the concept of irony. In addition, the students should already be comfortable with using context clues in order to understand words that are unfamiliar to them. Lastly, I am assuming the students have read texts in which the ending includes an epilogue.
Warm-up: As the teacher takes attendance, the students do a free-write about the question on the board: “Why do some people pretend to have more money than they actually possess?”
Students come together for a mini-discussion about the ideas that evolved during the free-writing exercise.
Introduce the short story “The Necklace”. Discuss the ridged class structure of Parisian society, and explain that the main character in “The Necklace” is a middle-class woman who longs to be included in the social life of the rich. Handout copies of “The Necklace” and the “Using Context Clues” handout to each student. Ask the students to look over the words and pay close attention to them as they come up in the story. Recommend that the students highlight or underline the words from the handout and other words that are unfamiliar to them.
Popcorn Reading Activity: Students take turns reading “The Necklace” aloud. Pause as needed in order to clarify ambiguity, answer questions, or define words that are complex but not included in the handout.
Students share their initial thoughts about the story. Give students freedom to lead the discussion in the direction of their choosing. Possible questions to stimulate discussion: What was surprising about the story? What kind of characters are Madame Loisel and her husband? What could the characters have done differently? Then, steer the conversation on to a discussion about irony. Relate the story’s ironic twist back to the use of verbal irony in Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado”. Compare and contrast the two different types of irony – verbal and situational.
Group Vocab Activity: Have the students get into groups of 3-4. Working together, the students in each group will attempt to define the words on the Using Context Clues handout.
Ask for volunteers from each group to offer their definition and explanation of how that definition was derived from the text. Each group should be responsible for sharing at least one word/definition with the class.
Assign homework: The story leaves the reader wondering what Madame Loisel will do with the rest of her life. Ask the students to write a 1-2 paragraph epilogue about Madame Loisel’s life after she discovers the truth. Remind the students about the role of an epilogue and encourage them to look at other epilogues in books they might have at home. Answer any questions the students may have about the assignment.
• Student participation in the read-aloud activity as well as both the group and class discussions.
• The group presentation of the vocabulary word they decided to share with the class.
• The homework assignment.
This lesson plan is not set in stone and is not meant to be followed as such. Students should have the power to influence what goes on in the classroom. For instance, in the post-reading discussion of the text, the lesson plan leaves room for the students to lead the discussion and gives the teacher only “back-up” questions which are to be used if the discussion stalls. Through engaging activities like “popcorn” reading and group work, this lesson will also allow the students to collaborate with each other in order to achieve the goal of learning. Putting the students in small groups gives each student an opportunity to share their ideas even if the students are shy to share their thoughts in front of the whole class. In addition, the post -group work discussion also gives the teacher a simpler way to assess his/her student’s knowledge because students are sharing what they discovered aloud. I believe that building vocabulary is crucial to the development of an enduring curiosity about language as well as to the growth of reading comprehension skills. The lesson’s emphasis on vocabulary instruction through the use of context clues will help the students interact with words before, during, and after the reading of the short story. Lastly, this lesson will encourage individual creativity as the students decide the fate of characters by completing a low stakes homework assignment.
Common Core Standards
RL 9-10 : 2, 3, 4
RL 11-12 : 6
W 9-10 : 3a, 3d, 4, 10
L 9-10 : 4a, 4d
Using Context Clues
Maupassant, Guy de. “The Necklace.” Trans. Marjorie Laurie. An Introduction to Fiction. Ed. X. J. Kennedy
and Dana Gioia. 7th ed. New York: Longman, 1999. 160-66. Print.