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A Wrinkle in Time By Madeleine L'Engle

Teacher Guide by Bridget Baudinet

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our Middle School ELA Category!

Student Activities for A Wrinkle in time Include:

Madeleine L’Engle’s best-known novel has been a staple in literature classes for decades. A Wrinkle in Time tells the story of the Murry family’s adventure to save their father from the clutches of evil while traveling through space and discovering a host of unique creatures along the way. Just as compelling as the exciting adventure is the character development of the protagonists, who discover their own strengths and weaknesses along the course of their journey. The novel is particularly appropriate for middle school and young teens due to its exploration of common teen issues, including self-doubt, identity struggles, sense of belonging, and personal growth. A Wrinkle in Time can be read as a coming-of-age story for Meg Murry, and an iteration of the hero’s journey pattern. Its focus on space, fantastical lands, and creatures will appeal to students who enjoy science fiction and fantasy.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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Helpful Background

A Wrinkle in Time was published in 1962 during the height of the Cold War. Competition with and fear of the Soviet Union influenced the daily lives of all Americans. Fear of nuclear attack, the Red Scare, and the Space Race dominated American news, politics, and education. Science and math were given increased stress in schools, and NASA was preparing to send the first humans to the moon. A Wrinkle in Time is a product of this focus on science and space. Unlike many fantasy novels, L’Engle uses real scientific concepts to launch her characters into space. Although the book glosses over specifics, it introduces the idea of a tesseract and a “wrinkle” in the space-time continuum. This is a concept that is still in vogue today in a number of space movies and superhero dramas. Students may be interested to learn some of the basic theory of time travel and its role in the book. The links below are small excerpts from Stephen Hawking’s documentary Into the Universe and may be helpful for introducing these ideas.


The Red Scare, or fear of communists, was another focus of the 1960s. American distrust of communism stemmed, in part, from the totalitarian form of communism that arose in the Soviet Union. At various points, Soviet rule included imprisonment, execution, manipulation of historical truths, thought control, and repression of human rights (including religious freedom, rights of property, and freedom of speech). Americans saw democracy as the form of government that offered true freedom - the antithesis of communism. In A Wrinkle in Time, we see this political symbolism in the evil that pervades the universe. The Dark Thing has partly obscured Earth and has won over Camazotz, a dystopian planet entirely controlled by a single, all-powerful brain. Throughout their time on Camazotz, the characters discover the pitfalls of sameness and learn to value their unique differences. Before reading the novel, students may explore the history of the Cold War and discuss ideas of freedom and oppression.


Essential Questions for A Wrinkle in Time

  1. What does it mean to be free? Should there be limits to freedom within society?
  2. Why are differences between people problematic? Why are they good?
  3. How do our perceptions of ourselves shape our identities?
  4. What is the role that love and family play in our lives?
  5. What examples of goodness do you see in the world around you? How do art, science, literature, and religion help society produce goodness?
  6. How can we fight against evil in our world?

A Wrinkle in time Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

A Wrinkle in Time Summary


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A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and helps students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the story in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.



A Wrinkle in Time Plot Diagram Example

Exposition

High schooler Meg Murry is a social misfit who lives with her mother, twin brothers Sandy and Dennys, and precocious four-year-old brother Charles Wallace. Although she has a high IQ, Meg gets poor grades at school, fights with the other students, and is frequently in trouble.


Conflict

Mr. Murry has been missing for months, following an attempt to tesser, by traveling through a wrinkle in the space-time continuum.


Rising Action

Three strange creatures, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs, Which, take Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin to several different planets by tessering. They show the children the dark force threatening Earth and bring them to the planet Camazotz, where the Dark Thing has imprisoned Mr. Murry.


Climax

Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin find Mr. Murry who is trapped by the Dark Thing, called IT. Meg manages to free her father, but loses Charles Wallace to the power of IT.


Falling Action

Meg returns to Camazotz alone and uses her love for Charles Wallace to break his connection with IT.


Resolution

Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace tesser safely home to Earth with their father.


A Wrinkle in Time Plot Diagram

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of A Wrinkle in Time.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  3. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  4. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



Plot Diagram Template 16x9

Example

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A Wrinkle in Time Character Map


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As students read, a storyboard can serve as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information about important characters. When reading a novel, small attributes and details frequently become important as the plot progresses. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!

A Wrinkle in Time Characters

  • Meg Murry
  • Charles Wallace Murry
  • Mr. Murry
  • Calvin O’Keefe
  • Mrs. Whatsit
  • Mrs. Who
  • Mrs. Which
  • IT
  • Aunt Beast

A Wrinkle in Time Character Chart

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify the major characters in A Wrinkle in Time and type their names into the different title boxes.
  3. Choose a Storyboard That character to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  4. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  5. Replace the bold words in the text boxes with the following categories for each character: Physical/Character Traits, Character Strengths, and Character Weaknesses. Write sentences or bullet points to provide details for each category.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


Blank Character Map

Example

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Literary Conflict in A Wrinkle in Time


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Storyboarding is an excellent way to focus on types of literary conflicts.

Having students create storyboards that show the cause and effect of different types of conflicts strengthens analytical thinking about literary concepts. Have your students choose an example of each literary conflict and depict them using the storyboard creator. In the storyboard, an example of each conflict should be visually represented, along with an explanation of the scene, and how it fits the particular category of conflict.

Examples of Literary Conflict in A Wrinkle in Time

MAN vs. MAN

Meg struggles to get along with her peers. On the way home from school, she gets into a fight with a classmate who calls Charles Wallace "dumb".


MAN vs. SELF

Meg struggles with self-doubt. She believes she is a failure academically and socially. When she is called upon to face IT on Camazotz, she must overcome her doubts in order to succeed.


MAN vs. SOCIETY

On Camazotz, all citizens are expected to act and think the same. The young boy who bounces his ball out of rhythm is forced to practice bouncing it properly at CENTRAL Central Intelligence. With each bounce, he feels a stab of pain as punishment.


MAN vs. SUPERNATURAL

The Murrys, Calvin, and the three Mrs. W's are all fighting an evil supernatural force. Throughout the book, this evil is represented in multiple ways: the Dark Thing, the Man with the Red Eyes, and IT. The protagonists use love and hope to fight this evil, but they cannot destroy it completely.


A Wrinkle in Time Literary Conflict

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows at least three forms of literary conflict in A Wrinkle in Time.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify conflicts in A Wrinkle in Time.
  3. Categorize each conflict as Character vs. Character, Character vs. Self, Character vs. Society, Character vs. Nature, or Character vs. Supernatural.
  4. Illustrate conflicts in the cells, using characters from the story.
  5. Write a short description of the conflict below the cell.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



Literary Conflict Template

Example

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Themes, Symbols, and Motifs in A Wrinkle in Time


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Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes, motifs, and symbols from the novel, and support their choices with details from the text. You can adapt the assignment by specifying the number of each category students should find or asking them to find and illustrate multiple examples to illustrate a single theme or motif.


A Wrinkle in Time Themes to Look For and Discuss

Good vs. Evil

The main conflict in A Wrinkle in Time centers around the fight between good and evil. This is a cosmic fight in a very literal way. The evil Dark Thing is overtaking various planets throughout the solar system, leading to war, poverty, and suffering on these planets. There is a suggestion that the many wars of the 20th century and the rise of totalitarianism on Earth were a result of this dark presence and/or helped expand its reach. More specifically, the characters encounter evil as it is embodied by the Man with the Red Eyes and IT on Camazotz. The book emphasizes that the loss of freedom is one of the greatest evils. For Mr. Murry, this loss takes the literal form of imprisonment. For the citizens of Camazotz, lack of freedom affects their appearances, actions, and even their thoughts. IT’s goal is to bring “peace” by essentially brainwashing the residents of Camazotz. As a result, no one on Camazotz experiences love, curiosity, or individuality. Meg and her allies fight back by using the power of their different and unique personalities and by expressing love.


Appearances can be Deceiving

Things are not as they seem throughout the universe of A Wrinkle in Time. The main human trio are all misjudged by society. Meg is considered stupid and intractable, yet she is actually very bright and eager to learn. Charles Wallace appears odd and slow to develop, but he is a genius and has supernatural abilities of perception. Calvin seems like the typical high school jock who enjoys the popular social scene, but he is actually disconnected and unhappy. This pattern of unreliable appearances recurs throughout the book: the Mrs. W’s, Aunt Beast, and the entire planet of Camazotz are all different in appearance and reality. Students can find other smaller examples as well, such as the food at the banquet in Camazotz appearing delicious, but not existing in reality.


The Power of Love

A Wrinkle in Time emphasizes the power of love to combat evil. Love for their father drives Meg and Charles Wallace to risk their lives. The feeling of love and acceptance Calvin feels with the Murrys drives him to leave his own cold home and adventure with people he barely knows. Love brings pain with it of course. It is because Meg loves her father so much that she is so miserable when he disappears. The Happy Medium captures this pain when she says, “If I didn’t get fond I could be happy all the time.” The children discover on Camazotz, however, that a loveless life is meaningless and empty. Ultimately, it is love that allows Meg to defeat IT and rescue Charles Wallace from its hypnotic clutches.



A Wrinkle in Time Motifs & Symbols to Look For and Discuss

Light and Darkness Motif

Light in A Wrinkle in Time symbolizes goodness, while darkness represents evil. Students can trace the light and dark motifs throughout the novel. The most obvious representation of the dark as evil is the Dark Thing, which is literally a black fog engulfing troubled planets. A representation of light as goodness occurs when stars fight the Dark Thing and overpower its darkness for a time (as seen in the Happy Medium’s crystal ball). Mrs. Who references the triumph of evil with an allusion to Jesus, quoting, "And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." In her creature form, Mrs. Whatsit is described as “made of rainbows, of light upon water, of poetry.” Later, when the children visit Camazotz, they see the lights in the city flickering, suggesting that goodness is fragile and in danger of being extinguished on Camazotz. Students may find these and many more examples to capture this motif.


Science and Space Motif

Half of A Wrinkle in Time takes place in space - whether traveling through it or visiting several very unique planets. Although the science in the book is somewhat vague, the importance of physics and mathematics in space travel is highlighted. Written during the Space Race, the book makes a point of suggesting that travel through space is not a mere element of fantasy, but is grounded in scientific theory. The concept of a tesseract, in fact, was not invented by L’Engle, although she played a large role in popularizing it. L’Engle further highlights science by making both Mr. and Mrs. Murry scientists whose work has led Mr. Murry into danger. This premise adds an exotic and mysterious appeal to the profession of physicist!


Mrs. Who’s Spectacles as a Symbol

Much of A Wrinkle in Time deals with the concept of seeing. In many ways, the naked eye is limited: characters and settings are not necessarily what they appear to be. On Ixchel, Meg realizes the bland, grayish-brown surface of the the planet that she perceives is only a small portion of the planet’s reality. The creatures there rely on other senses to experience their world. Mrs. Who’s glasses are one way to see beyond the limitations of the naked eye and perceive the truth. They enable both Meg and her father to see within the walls of the cylindrical prison he is trapped in. Although blinded to his physical reality, Mr. Murry uses the glasses to see outside his prison and therefore escape. Because the glasses help Mr. Murry see through the darkness to escape his prison, they might also represent hope.


A Wrinkle in Time Themes, Motifs, and Symbols

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in A Wrinkle in Time. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify the theme(s), symbols(s), or motif(s) from A Wrinkle in Time you wish to include and replace the "THEME, SYMBOL, or MOTIF" text.
  3. Create an image for examples that represents this theme, symbol, or motif.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples in the black text box.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



Spider Map TSM

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Concept Exploration in A Wrinkle in Time


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A Wrinkle in Time explores many abstract concepts about freedom, individuality, and choice. These themes are applied both to the individual characters and to entire societies and governmental structures. Students can better understand the importance of these ideas and connect with the text by exploring these concepts in their own lives and the world around them.

For this activity, ask students to compare and contrast important concepts by illustrating them with storyboard examples. The examples may be drawn from personal experience, from history, or from the novel.

Suggested Concepts

  • Like vs. Equal
  • Fate vs. Free Will
  • Utopia vs. Dystopia
  • Reason vs. Emotion
  • Differences as a Weakness vs. Differences as a Strength

A Wrinkle in Time Concept Exploration

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Compare and contrast important thematic concepts from the book.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Choose two sets of concepts to explore from the list below or discuss other topics with your teacher.
  3. Create a picture to represent each concept in its own square, using an example from the book or the world around you. Explain your depiction in the text box below it.
  4. In the third box in each row, explain how the concepts are similar and/or different. Provide an image that highlights this connection or difference.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.

Suggested Concepts

  • Like vs. Equal
  • Fate vs. Free Will
  • Utopia vs. Dystopia
  • Reason vs. Emotion
  • Differences as a Weakness vs. Differences as a Strength


Concept Exploration Template

Example

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•   (English) A Wrinkle in Time   •   (Español) Una Arruga en el Tiempo   •   (Français) Une Rousse à Temps   •   (Deutsch) Ein Falten in der Zeit   •   (Italiana) A Wrinkle in Time   •   (Nederlands) Een Rimpel in de Tijd   •   (Português) Uma Ruga no Tempo   •   (עברית) קמט בזמן   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) والتجاعيد في وقت   •   (हिन्दी) समय में एक शिकन   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Морщины во Времени   •   (Dansk) En Wrinkle in Time   •   (Svenska) En Rynka i Time   •   (Suomi) Ryppy in Time   •   (Norsk) En Wrinkle in Time   •   (Türkçe) Zamanda Kırışıklık   •   (Polski) Zmarszczki w Czasie   •   (Româna) Un Ridicat în Timp   •   (Ceština) Vráska v Čase