Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Teacher Guide by Rebecca Ray

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Don Quixote Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Don Quixote Include:

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes is the story of a man who goes to absurd lengths in the name of chivalry. Unwavering and possibly insane, Quixote and his faithful sidekick, Sancho Panza, boldly struggle against imaginary evils, to prove their valor.

Don Quixote Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Plot Diagram | Don Quixote Summary

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A common activity for students is to create a plot diagram of the events from a novel. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of a plot, but to reinforce major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard that captures the concept of the narrative arc in a story by creating a six-cell storyboard which contains the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the novel in sequence using Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.

Don Quixote Plot Diagram Example


At the beginning of the novel, the reader is introduced to Alonso Quijano, a middle aged man who enjoys reading books about knights and their deeds. After becoming so engrossed in these fantasies he changes his name to Don Quixote and decides to set off on as a knight-errant.

Major Inciting Conflict

Don Quixote sets out, with Sancho Panza, on his quests. In a world no longer ruled by the values of knighthood, Quixote’s chivalric nature is at odds with almost everyone, and he appears delusional.

Rising Action

Quixote encounters many people. At first his chivalric values lead him to help others, but he has an increasing tendency to get involved in the business of others, and not pay his debts.


In a twist of fate, Quixote accidentally reunites two bereaved couples: Cardenio with Lucinda, and Ferdinand with Dorothea, who were torn apart by Ferdinand’s deceptions. The four lovers reunite at an inn where Don Quixote sleeps, dreaming that he is battling a giant.

Falling Action

Two friends of Quixote’s capture him and forcibly take him home in a cage. Quixote, captured, believes that he has been enchanted.


On the way to Quixote’s home, the priest and barber are confronted by Sancho who wants them to free Quixote. The barber threatens to lock Sancho in the cage also and Sancho backs down. In the end, the canon and the priest discuss books on chivalry saying they are ridiculous lies, perhaps to crush the notions that got Quixote into his madness.

(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 Don Quixote.

  1. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Don Quixote Key Vocabulary

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Another great way to engage your students is through the creation of storyboards that use Don Quixote vocabulary. Here is a list of a few vocabulary words commonly taught with the novel and an example of a visual vocabulary board.

Vocabulary Words from Don Quixote

  • feudalism
  • chivalry
  • envision
  • sorcerer
  • alacrity
  • boisterous
  • pensive
  • exploits
  • uncouth
  • verisimilitude
  • sonorous
  • perdition
  • foil
  • contrive
  • contrive

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

Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in Don Quixote by creating visualizations.

  1. Choose three vocabulary words from the story and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary.
  3. Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word.
  4. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Don Quixote 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 and details about important characters. With character mapping, it’s easy for students to follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!

Don Quixote Characters

Alonso Quijano AKA Don Quixote A wealthy, middle-aged man, obsessed with knighthood. He reads so many books on the heroism of knights, he deems himself to be one and sets out as a knight-errant.
Sancho Panza A fat, somewhat greedy, and not very smart neighbor of Quijano. Sancho becomes “squire” to Quixote, and acts as his literary foil .
Rocinante & Dapple Quixote’s horse and Sancho’s donkey.
Cide Hamete Benengeli The fictional Moorish narrator whose accounts of Don Quixote the narrator references often.
Dulcinea A farm girl who, unbeknownst to her, Quixote devotes his love and chivalric deeds to, believing her to be a noble lady.
The Priest and the Barber Two of Don Quixote’s friends who disapprove of his delusions and capture him in order to return him home.
Ferdinand A duke who steals Lucinda from Cardenio. He also takes Dorothea’s chastity.
Dorothea The obsessed and faithful lover of Ferdinand. She cunningly hunts him down to get his hand in marriage.
Cardenio Lucinda’s husband. A helpless romantic who is wronged by his wife and the duke.
Lucinda Cardenio’s wife, who is beautiful and cheats on her husband with the duke.

(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. Identify the major characters in Don Quixote and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a character to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  3. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  4. Fill in the Textables for Appearance, Traits, and Character Importance.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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The Hero's Journey

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Related to both plot diagram and types of literary conflict, the ”Hero’s Journey” is a recurring pattern of stages many heroes undergo over the course of their stories. Joseph Campbell, an American mythologist, writer, and lecturer, articulated this cycle after researching and reviewing numerous myths and stories from a variety of time periods and regions of the world. He found that they all share fundamental principles. This spawned the Hero’s Journey, also known as the Monomyth. The most basic version has 12 steps, while more detailed versions can have up to 17.

Don Quixote is an unlikely epic hero. Cervantes is very clever in using many of the elements of epic storytelling, but with a main character who is not heroic. Despite being delusional and generally incapable, Don Quixote’s journey does seem to escalate and follow predominant traits of Campbell's Heroic Journey.

A fun assignment for students is to ask them to depict which steps of the heroic journey match up with Cervantes' tale. Below is a completed example using five elements of the heroic journey. Remember to allow for interpretation when students are completing their own, as examples may vary in the number of steps included.

Don Quixote: An Unlikely Hero

Stage Summary
Ordinary world The story begins when the reader is introduced to Alonso Quijano, a middle aged man who enjoys reading books about knights and their deeds.
Call to Adventure After becoming so engrossed in these fantasies he changes his name to Don Quixote and decides to become a heroic knight-errant. With his nearly decrepit horse, Rocnante, and his ancient armor, he sets out in the name of his fair lady, Dulcinea; a peasant woman he’s never met.
Mentor/Helper After an unsuccessful first quest, he recruits, Sancho Panza, his faithful sidekick and squire!
Crossing the Threshold On his quest, Quixote attacks a windmill with a lance, thinking it’s a giant, his own delusions and his belief that he cannot return home until he’s done his knightly deeds emphasize this metaphoric threshold. The point of no return might have actually come when he came to believe that he was a true knight.
Test/Allies/Enemies A majority of Don Quixote’s tale deals with the other characters he meets along the way. Notable adventures include the funeral of the lovestruck student, the galley slaves, the unifying of two bereaved couples, and Don Quixote dream that he is battling a giant.
Return In the end, friends of Don Quixote’s come to bring Quixote and Sancho home. They inevitably have to drag him, with which Quixote complies only by believing his is under enchantment.

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

Student Instructions

Use the story of Don Quixote and map it to the narrative structure of the Hero's Journey.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Depict and describe how the chosen character's story fits (or does not fit ) into each of the stages of the Hero's Journey.
  3. Finalize images, edit, and proofread your work.
  4. Save and submit storyboard to assignment.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Quixotic Hero

The adjective quixotic comes from the the character Don Quixote. By definition, quixotic refers to a hero who is a dreamer, idealistic, and one who fights against extraordinary odds or obstacles, regardless what other people think of him, and often to his own detriment. They embark on what appear to be an impossible quests and succeed through their ironic failures.

Don Quixote the origin of this term its prime example, however, there are numerous other characters throughout literature who also fit this archetype. Some include: Romeo an Juliet, John the Savage, Doctor Pangloss, Prince Myshkin, Vladimir and Estragon, and Walter Mitty.

A fun activity to do with students to ask them to come up with a character map and depict three characters from literature they have read that fit the description of a quixotic hero!

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Creating a Coat of Arms for Don Quixote

A great way to introduce your students to knights and the feudal system is for them to create a coat of arms for themselves, or for Don Quixote. Some questions to help create a coat of arms are listed below. When creating the template for the students you will need to use a regular storyboard, with 6 cells, find the background (Scenes > Patterns) and add the pattern that makes the shield shape. Use the flip tool to do the facing side.

  • In the top left panel, add an animal that represents you or your strengths. Be sure to give it a label.
  • In the top right panel, depict yourself doing something you love. Also label this with a matching textable.
  • In the middle cells, show your future self-doing a job that you think you’d like to do. Then show something that is of importance to you. Label both of these cells, too.
  • In the bottom left cell, find a symbol that shows something you love or something that makes you feel good.
  • In the bottom right cell, add a textbox and write “My Motto:” followed by something that you think represents who you are and how you think people should act.

The first five cells can be related, as in the example, but they don’t have to be. If you have many interests, that is fine.

Finally, add a scroll from the textables and, in bold letters, write out your last name.

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A Quick Synopsis of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Important Note

Cervantes first published Don Quixote in 1605, but added a second volume in 1615. In between, Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda, a pseudonym for an unknown author, published an illegitimate part two of Don Quixote. It is speculated that Cervantes himself would not have published the second part if it wasn’t for this phony sequel. This synopsis is for the first of those two volumes.

Don Quixote Summary

Alonso Quijano becomes obsessed with the the ideal of knighthood, a subject he has engrossed himself in reading. The age of chivalry is long past, but taking the name Don Quixote, the middle-aged man puts on some old armor and rides off as a knight-errant. After a series of mishaps and misadventures leaves him severely beaten, he recruits his neighbor, Sancho Panza, to serve as his squire. Together they ride throughout Spain in search of adventure.

After being defeated by a windmill, which Quixote believed was a giant, the two fall in for a time with some goatherds. While following a shepherdess in the woods, the two companions stop by a pond and become involved in an altercation with some muleteers. Both Quixote and Sancho are are badly beaten, but escape to a nearby inn.

At the inn, Don Quixote insists they have arrived at a castle, and that one of the serving girls is a princess. His insistence that she sit by his bedside leads to another fight, with Quixote and Sancho beaten once more. She tries to heal their wounds with a special balm, but it only makes them sick. Quixote leaves the inn, without paying, and Sancho Panza suffers further mistreatment at the hands of his fellow guests, before being released to his master.

Don Quixote continues his pattern of making trouble and exaggerating situations. He attacks a barber after mistaking his basin for the mythical “Helm of Mambrino”, and frees a gang of galley slaves after they trick him into thinking they have been wrongfully imprisoned. The slaves rob Quixote and Sancho, who are forced to flee into the mountains.

In the mountains, the two encounter a lovesick young man, receive another beating, and have a falling out. Don Quixote continues to wander, while Sancho returns to the inn he had recently left. Eventually, Sancho returns to Don Quixote in hopes of luring him home, along with two of Quijano’s friends, a priest and a barber, and a woman named Dorothea. Dorothea is in love with the man who stole the object of the lovesick young man’s affections. The knight’s madness is so strong that it begins to impose on the people around him. Their stories and actions begin to bend in ways that resemble Don Quixote’s elaborate chivalric fictions.

After some digressions and mishaps, because of Don Quixote’s actions, two couples are reunited, though Quixote himself sleeps through the happy event. Don Quixote is finally persuaded to return to his village, though only through trickery. After several more fights and beatings, they arrive home. Quixote’s family is glad to see him, but worry that his madness will lead to him leaving again. The narrator suggests the story does not end at this point, but that records of Quixote’s subsequent adventures are lost or hard to come by.

Essential Questions for Don Quixote

  1. What role do dreams play in our lives? Is escaping into our dreams destructive or positive?
  2. How is the difference between reality and fiction portrayed in the novel?
  3. Looking at characters in this novel and across time, how have archetypes changed or stayed the same?

Don’t Let the Fun Stop There! Check Out Our Other Don Quixote Lesson Plans and Ideas

  1. Use storyboard that show specifically causes and effects of events that happen in the story.
  2. Have students create a storyboard showing Don Quixote and Sancho Panza as foils.
  3. Add a presentation to any storyboard project.

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