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The Fault in Our Stars By John Green

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 Fault in Our Stars Include:

John Green’s fourth novel, The Fault in Our Stars, has gained a following among tween and teen readers. This is partly due to its tragic love story, but may also be due to its thought-provoking subject matter. The book explores philosophical questions about the meaning of life, death, and suffering. While adults may find the topics in this novel heavy and too mature for children, Green believes that young readers are probably already thinking about them. Green has stated that he enjoys writing about intelligent teenagers, and he makes a point of including lines from an interview with Otto Frank (Anne Frank’s father) in which Frank states, “I was very much surprised by the deep thoughts Anne had … And my conclusion is … most parents don’t know really their children”. The Fault in Our Stars provides young adults with a poignant way to explore the important questions of the human experience. From a literary perspective, it calls upon students to recognize a number of important metaphors and symbols while tracing the subtle character development of the protagonists.

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




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The Fault in Our Stars focuses heavily on the experience of cancer patients. While John Green acknowledges that “disease and its treatment are treated fictitiously” in his novel, he nevertheless includes a number of medical terms and cancer-related discussions. Students might benefit from a preview of the medical vocabulary in the book, including such terms as metastasize, G-tube, PET scan, PICC line, cannula, BiPAP, and prosthetic. Students should also be reminded that the novel is fictional and does not represent the experience of all cancer patients. A good starting place might be this 2014 article on teen cancer patients reacting to the novel.

Full understanding of the nobel also requires familiarity with the title’s allusion. “The fault in our stars” refers to a line spoken by Cassius in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” The line refers to the ancient belief that a person’s fate was determined by the alignment of the stars upon their birth, much like the idea behind horoscopes today. In contradicting Cassius’ original line, The Fault in Our Stars announces its exploration of fate and free will. Students may benefit from an explanation of this Shakespearean allusion and a debate about its validity. As they continue reading, they will be able to make connections between the book’s title and its characters’ development.

In addition to its Julius Caesar reference, The Fault in Our Stars contains a number of other allusions to literature. The list below identifies some of the works mentioned in the novel. Consider pairing these with students’ study of the novel.


  • “There’s a certain slant of light,” by Emily Dickinson
  • “J. Alfred Prufrock,” by T. S. Eliot
  • “Lady Lazarus,” by Sylvia Plath
  • “The Red Wheelbarrow,” by William Carlos Williams
  • “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” by Wallace Stevens
  • The prologue to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
  • The Greek legend of Sisyphus

Essential Questions for The Fault in Our Stars

  1. What makes life meaningful?
  2. How should humans deal with death?
  3. What is the role of suffering in our lives?
  4. What makes someone a good friend?
  5. How much control do we have over our own lives? Is there such as thing as destiny?
  6. How can good literature and/or art help us better understand our lives?

The Fault in Our Stars Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

The Fault in Our Stars 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 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.



Example The Fault in Our Stars Plot Diagram

Exposition

Hazel knows her lifespan is limited. Hazel's breathing is severely limited due to the cancer in her lungs, and she breathes with the help of a portable oxygen tank and tubes.


Conflict

Hazel makes friends with a cancer-survivor named Augustus, but does not want to become romantically involved with him to avoid breaking his heart when she dies.


Rising Action

Hazel and Augustus grow closer together through a shared love of the book An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten. They write to Van Houten to find out the details of his unfinished ending, and when he refuses to tell them, they plan a trip to visit him.


Climax

Hazel and Augustus are disappointed by Peter Van Houten in Amsterdam, but they grow closer together as a result of the trip. Hazel agrees to begin a romantic relationship with Augustus only to learn that his cancer has returned and cannot be treated.


Falling Action

As Augustus's health deteriorates, Hazel and Gus grow closer together and help each other deal with their physical and emotional pain.


Resolution

Augustus dies, but Hazel is grateful to have loved him and feels comforted by the eulogy he left behind for her.



The Fault in Our Stars 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 The Fault in Our Stars.


  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

Example

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





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The Fault in Our Stars Vocabulary Spider Map


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Another great way to engage your students is creating a storyboard that uses vocabulary. Here is a list of a few vocabulary words commonly taught with The Fault in Our Stars and an example of a visual vocabulary board.

In the vocabulary board, students can choose between coming up with their own use of the vocabulary word, finding the specific example from the text, or depicting it without words.


The Fault in Our Stars Vocabulary

  • unprecedented
  • idyllic
  • liberated
  • rotundity
  • self-aggrandizing
  • eulogy
  • indomitable
  • ascertain
  • affliction
  • futility
  • oblivion
  • inexorable
  • malevolent
  • narcissist
  • stoic
  • palliative
  • solace
  • inevitable

The Fault in Our Stars Vocabulary

Example

(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 The Fault in Our Stars by creating visualizations.


  1. Choose 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.



Vocabulary Template Blank

Example

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The Fault in Our Stars OSCAR


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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!

For this character map, try using “OSCAR” so that students can analyze multiple ways that a character is developed. OSCAR requires students to seek textual evidence to identify the various lenses through which a character is portrayed by both direct and indirect characterization.


DEFINITION EXAMPLE
O
Other Character's Comments

What do other characters say about the character?
"When the scientists of the future show up to my house with robot eyes...I will tell them to screw off because I do not want to see a future without him." - Isaac
S
Speech

What does the character say about others or themselves? How can we infer meaning and traits from what a character says?
"We should team up and be this disabled vigilante duo ...righting wrongs, defending the weak, protecting the endangered."
C
Physical Characteristics

What does the character look like? What descriptive words are used to describe them?
Athletic, strong, good-looking, has a prosthetic leg
A
Author's Attitude

How does the author feel about this character?
Hazel admires and loves Gus: "Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity..."
R
Reader's Reaction

How do you, as the reader, feel about the character?
Augustus is a likable character due to his humor, intelligence, kindness, and love for Hazel.

The Fault in Our Stars OSCAR

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. Identify the major characters in The Fault in Our Stars and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a Storyboard That 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 OSCAR: Other Character's Comments, Character's Speech, Physical Characteristics, Author's Attitude, and Reader's Reaction.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.


OSCAR - TEMPLATE

Example

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





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The Fault in Our Stars Symbols

The Fault in Our Stars is filled with symbolism, in part because the main characters themselves find it helpful to think about their lives metaphorically. The symbols in this book will come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify and explain symbols from the novel, supporting their choices with details from the text.


The Fault in Our Stars Symbols to Look For and Discuss

Cigarettes

Gus's unlit cigarettes represent power and control over his life. He believes, "You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don't give it the power to do its killing." The cigarettes lend Gus the air of confidence and bravado that his character so craves. As he is sick and dying, he risks his life to drive himself to buy more cigarettes, a last desperate act to try to maintain some control over his life.


Funky Bones

The giant skeleton sculpture in the park is an obvious reminder of death. Although the children view it as a fun playground, they are overlooking the fact that death is all around them. In his commentary on this symbol, John Green writes, “What I love about the sculpture is that it makes the bones that we are always walking and playing on manifest, like in a world that so often denies the reality of death and the reality that we are surrounded by and outnumbered by the dead. Here, is a very playful way of acknowledging that and acknowledging that always, whenever we play, whenever we live, we are living in both literal and metaphorical ways on the memory and bones of the dead.” The two visits Gus and Hazel make to the Funky Bones park are significant for the character change they reveal. On the first visit, Gus pictures himself as one of the children swinging from the bones. On the second visit, he pictures himself as the bones themselves.


A Grenade

Hazel repeatedly describes herself as a grenade, a symbol of pain and suffering. Once a grenade is thrown, it is just a matter of time until it explodes. Hazel’s terminal diagnosis, therefore, is a guaranteed explosion of pain to all who love her. Part of the theme of The Fault in Our Stars is the search for life’s meaning. While Augustus wants to save lives and achieve something great, Hazel has no such aspirations. By identifying herself as a grenade, Hazel reveals her concept of her self-worth: she is dangerous and not worthy of love. As Hazel gives in and allows Gus to love her, she comes to a new understanding of love, suffering, and self-worth.


Hazel’s Swing Set

The swing set is a symbol of youth and childhood innocence and reminds both Hazel and Augustus of the carefree life they can never return to. The emotional significance of this symbol is complicated. Early in the novel, Hazel and Augustus give the swing set away since the the childhood happiness it represents is too painful to contemplate. Later, Gus welcomes the nostalgia of the swing set, saying he wishes they still had it. Either way, the swing set reflects the difficulties of contemplating the past in a life with no future.


Amsterdam

Amsterdam represents freedom for Hazel and Augustus. The city itself is known for its libertine pursuits. Visitors there have the freedom to experiment with drugs and prostitution, for example. This provides a symbolic setting for Hazel and Gus to exercise their freedom. Simply going on the trip is an act of defiance, as both Gus and Hazel disregard the concerns of their parents and/or doctors. In Amsterdam, the two are given the liberty to walk around by themselves like adults.They also become sexually involved during their time there. For a few days, they escape the doctors and tests and simply enjoy themselves.


The Fault in Our Stars Symbols

Example

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The Fault in Our Stars Theme Exploration

Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify one theme from the text and trace the way it is developed through plot events, characters, symbols, or allusions. This can be good preparation for an essay on themes within the novel. The example below shows a sample storyboard for an exploration of the theme of fate.

Other themes to consider for this activity:

  • Love
  • Death
  • Suffering
  • The Afterlife
  • Man’s Search for Meaning
  • The Value of Life

Theme Exploration for The Fault in Our Stars


FATE
Cancer Neither Hazel nor Augustus has control over their cancer. Despite all the research and treatments, there is no guaranteed way to prevent and eradicate cancer. Fate seems to control whether a person is healthy or sick.
The Book
An Imperial Affliction
The phrase "an imperial affliction" means "suffering sent by a higher power." The title of Peter Van Houten's book (which plays an important role in Hazel and Gus's lives) emphasizes the inability of humans to escape suffering.
The Stars The characters seem to agree with the Greek idea that one's destiny is shaped by the stars. Hazel says she and Augustus are "star-crossed lovers" and Van Houten writes that the "fault [is] in our stars".
Gus’s cigarettes Gus's cigarettes are a way for him to metaphorically control his own fate. The unlit cigarettes allow him to play with death without dying as a result. They give him confidence, but don't change the reality that he has no control over his death.

The Fault in Our Stars Theme Exploration: Fate

Example

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The Fault in Our Stars Personal Connection

Important lines or events can be highlighted with storyboards. Ask students to make personal connections to the text by selecting and illustrating an important part and explaining its significance. You can direct students to choose a scene, a line of dialogue, or one of the many literary allusions in the book. This is a simple and engaging way for students to demonstrate an understanding of the novel’s characters, plot, or theme. The example below shows a sample storyboard making a connection to a poem Hazel recites.


The Fault in Our Stars Personal Connection

Favorite Literary Reference

"so much depends / upon / a red wheel / barrow / glazed with rain / water / beside the white / chickens" I like this poem because it means that the simple things in life are very important, like spending time with your grandmother.


The Fault in Our Stars Personal Connection

Example

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•   (English) The Fault in Our Stars   •   (Español) La Falla en Nuestras Estrellas   •   (Français) La Faute Dans nos Étoiles   •   (Deutsch) Die Störung in Unseren Sternen   •   (Italiana) La Colpa Nelle Nostre Stelle   •   (Nederlands) De Fout in Onze Sterren   •   (Português) A Culpa em Nossas Estrelas   •   (עברית) האשמה בכוכבים שלנו   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) حظنا سيئ   •   (हिन्दी) हमारे सितारों में खोट है   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Виноваты Звезды   •   (Dansk) Fejlen i Vores Stjerner   •   (Svenska) Felet i Våra Stjärnor   •   (Suomi) Vika Tähtemme   •   (Norsk) The Fault in Our Stars   •   (Türkçe) Yıldızlarımızdaki Hata   •   (Polski) Błąd w Naszych Gwiazdach   •   (Româna) Eroarea în Stelele Noastre   •   (Ceština) Hvězdy nám Nepřály   •   (Slovenský) Chyba v Našich Hviezd   •   (Magyar) Csillagainkban a Hiba   •   (Hrvatski) Greska u Nasim Zvijezdama   •   (български) Вината в Нашите Звезди   •   (Lietuvos) Dėl Mūsų Likimo ir Žvaigždės Kaltos   •   (Slovenščina) Krive so Zvezde   •   (Latvijas) Vaina Mūsu Zvaigznēs   •   (eesti) Vea in Meie Stars