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The Cay by Theodore Taylor

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 The Cay Include:

The Cay by Theodore Taylor, is a thrilling survival tale with a dash of historical fiction. Taylor tells the story of eleven-year-old Phillip Enright, an American living on the Caribbean island of Curaçao during World War II. While attempting to return to safety in the U.S., Phillip’s ship is torpedoed and he finds himself blinded and stranded on a raft with an elderly black man named Timothy. As the two attempt to survive on a deserted island, Phillip learns lessons in friendship, perseverance, and inner strength. The story’s message of racial equality provides material for meaningful class discussions. Its linear structure and dynamic protagonist also make The Cay a wonderful resource for teaching plot structure and character development.

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




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The historical context of The Cay can present difficulties for young readers. It may be helpful to begin the reading unit with background on the geography and history of the novel. Curaçao is an island located off the coast of Venezuela in the southern Caribbean Sea, not far from Aruba. In the 1940s, Curaçao was a territory of the Netherlands, known for its oil refineries. When World War II began in 1939, the oil produced on Curaçao became essential to Allied operations. The U.S. and Britain, in particular, relied on these refineries. To weaken their Allied enemies, therefore, Germany began to target the refineries, torpedoing oil tankers and even attacking the refineries themselves. Curaçao itself was attacked in February of 1942. Although Phillip Enright’s story is fictional, his predicament is based on real historical events.


Click here for more information on WWII on Curaçao and its neighboring islands. For further details on the Allied and Axis powers, view the maps available here and here.


Essential Questions for The Cay

  1. How can setting affect the plot and characters of a novel?
  2. How can an external conflict lead to an internal conflict and vice versa?
  3. What types of experiences and reflections are necessary for a person to change?
  4. What is the symbolic meaning of Phillip’s blindness?
  5. In what ways does Phillip grow and change over the course of the novel?

The Cay Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

The Cay Summary


Copy Assignment



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 help 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.



The Cay Plot Diagram Example

Exposition

Phillip and his parents are Americans living on the Dutch island of Curaçao in the Caribbean Sea. Life in Curaçao has become more dangerous now that the second world war has started and the Germans have begun attacking the oil refineries on the island.


Conflict

When Phillip and his mother attempt to return to the U.S. for safety reasons, their ship is torpedoed by Germans. When Phillip wakes up after being hit on the head by debris, he finds himself on a raft in the middle of the ocean with an old, black man and a cat. A few days later, Phillip loses his sight as a result of his head injury.


Rising Action

After landing on a deserted cay, Phillip and Timothy struggle to get along due to Phillip's anger and racism. Gradually, however, Phillip learns to appreciate Timothy and the two work together to survive on the island. Timothy teaches Phillip how to get food, water, and fire in spite of his blindness.


Climax

In July, a hurricane hits the cay. Timothy is prepared for it and secures their knives and fish hooks, then ties Phillip and himself to a tree. They survive the hurricane, but the storm weakens Timothy and he dies just a few hours later.


Falling Action

Phillip buries Timothy and continues to live on the cay, using the survival skills that Timothy taught him. After the hurricane, he rebuilds a brush pile for a signal fire and lights it when he hears a plane flying overhead.


Resolution

After a pilot spots Phillip's signal fire, a ship is sent to rescue him and he is reunited with his parents. Three operations later, he regains his sight. Phillip returns to life as normal, but he never forgets his friend and protector, Timothy.



The Cay Plot Diagram
Create your own at Storyboard That EXPOSITION CONFLICT RISING ACTION CLIMAX FALLING ACTION RESOLUTION Phillip and his parents are Americans living on the Dutch island of Curaçao in the Caribbean Sea. Life in Curaçao has become more dangerous now that the second world war has started and the Germans have begun attacking the oil refineries on the island. When Phillip and his mother attempt to return to the US for safety reasons, their ship is torpedoed by Germans. When Phillip wakes up after being hit on the head by debris, he finds himself on a raft in the middle of the ocean with an old, black man and a cat. A few days later, Phillip loses his sight as a result of his head injury. After landing on a deserted cay, Phillip and Timothy struggle to get along due to Phillip's anger and racism. Gradually, however, Phillip learns to appreciate Timothy and the two work together to survive on the island. Timothy teaches Phillip how to get food, water, and fire in spite of his blindness. In July, a hurricane hits the cay. Timothy is prepared for it and secures their knives and fish hooks, then ties Phillip and himself to a tree. They survive the hurricane, but the storm weakens Timothy and he dies just a few hours later. Phillip buries Timothy and continues to live on the cay, using the survival skills that Timothy taught him. After the hurricane, he rebuilds a brush pile for a signal fire and lights it when he hears a plane flying overhead. After a pilot spots Phillip's signal fire, a ship is sent to rescue him and he is reunited with his parents. Three operations later, he regains his sight. Phillip returns to life as normal, but he never forgets his friend and protector, Timothy. You mus' know how to provite your own self wid feesh.

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 The Cay.


  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.



Plot Diagram Template
Create your own at Storyboard That EXPOSITION CONFLICT RISING ACTION CLIMAX FALLING ACTION RESOLUTION

Example

(Use this rubric or create your own on Quick Rubric.)





Copy Assignment

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The Cay Characters

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!


The Cay Characters

  • Phillip Enright
  • Timothy
  • Stew Cat
  • Mrs. Enright
  • Mr. Enright
  • Henrik van Boven

The Cay Character Map
Create your own at Storyboard That PHILLIP ENRIGHT TIMOTHY STEW CAT MRS. ENRIGHT MR. ENRIGHT HENRIK VAN BOVEN