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The Monkey's Paw by W. W. Jacobs

Teacher Guide by Kristy Littlehale

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

Student Activities for The Monkey's Paw Include:

Many tales have been told about people who tried to change the course of their lives by interfering with fate’s plans, and the dire consequences that result. “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs examines how one man’s curiosity and desire to have more than he needs results in disastrous ramifications. Many students will already be familiar with similar wishing traditions, such as wishing upon a star, making a birthday wish, or throwing a coin into a fountain. While people often think of the possibilities of such wishes coming true, they don’t often think about the potential pitfalls that could happen instead. “The Monkey’s Paw” is a frightening tale that examines important themes such as what can happen when we try to interfere with fate, and the dangers of what happens when we follow our curiosity just a little too far. When fate’s plans get interrupted, it makes sure to restore that balance – at a price.

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




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Fate in Other Cultures

Fate is a concept that has been revered and feared in other cultures across the world. It has many different names:


Have students research some of the different ways fate/destiny has been depicted in other cultures, and the role fate plays in their folklore, religious observances, and daily life.


Essential Questions for “The Monkey’s Paw”

  1. Is life controlled by fate or free will?
  2. Why is it important to be satisfied with what we have?
  3. How can curiosity be dangerous?
  4. Why are people drawn to the unknown and magical possibilities?
  5. Why is it important to think about consequences before taking an action?

The Monkey's Paw Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

“The Monkey’s Paw” 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.



Example “The Monkey’s Paw” Plot Diagram

Exposition

On a dark, cold night at the Laburnam Villa, the White family is awaiting a visitor. Mr. White and his son Herbert are playing chess while Mrs. White knits by the fire. Sergeant Major Morris arrives and regales the family with tales from his 21 years of traveling to vast and exotic places in his tenure as a soldier.


Conflict

Mr. White reminds Morris of a story he was telling him recently regarding a strange monkey’s paw he acquired in India. It supposedly was bewitched by an old fakir to grant three separate men three wishes. Mr. White wants the paw, but Morris is reluctant, saying it causes trouble.


Rising Action

Morris throws the paw into the fire and Mr. White rescues it. Mr. White makes his first wish: he wishes for a sum of two hundred pounds (£200). Herbert makes a crashing sound on the piano and the paw moves. The next day, the Whites receive word that Herbert was caught in the machinery at work and killed. The company compensates the Whites with a check for £200.


Climax

The Whites are shaken by how their wish came true and filled with grief from losing their only son. Mrs. White persuades Mr. White to wish that Herbert was alive again. Mr. White finds the paw and makes the wish; all of a sudden, there is a quiet, persistent knocking at the door.


Falling Action

The knocking becomes louder. Mrs. White wants to run to the door, frantic to let Herbert in, but Mr. White holds her back because knows the wickedness of the paw and is afraid of what kind of “state” Herbert might be in. She breaks free and runs to the door, but she can’t reach the bolt. Mr. White searches hurriedly for the paw.


Resolution

Just as his wife gets a chair, climbs up, and slides back the bolt, Mr. White finds the paw and makes his final wish. The knocking suddenly stops. Mrs. White opens the door, but there is no one outside.



The Monkey's Paw Plot Diagram

Example

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Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of “The Monkey’s Paw”.


  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

Example

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“The Monkey’s Paw” Characters


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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 story, 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 Monkey’s Paw” Characters

  • Mr. White
  • Mrs. White
  • Herbert White
  • Sergeant Major Morris

Character Map for The Monkey's Paw

Example

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Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.


  1. Identify the major characters in “The Monkey’s Paw” 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 Physical Traits, Character Traits, and a Quote.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.


Character Map 3 Field 16x9

Example

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Literary Conflict Student Activity for “The Monkey’s Paw”


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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 “The Monkey’s Paw”

MAN vs. MAN

Sergeant Major Morris knows that the paw brings mischief, so he throws it into the fire. Mr. White, however, wants to try his luck with the paw so he saves it, in spite of Morris’ insistence to let it burn.


MAN vs. SELF

While Mr. White knows the dangers of the paw, he risks it to get his son back. However, when he hears the ominous knocking on the door, he knows that his wish has been granted in a twisted way. Despite the fact that his son could potentially be outside, he wishes for his son to be dead again.


MAN vs. NATURE

When Mr. White makes his wish on the paw, he is interfering with the way that things are supposed to be. Because of his interference with fate, he is punished by losing his son and then having him brought back to life in a zombie-like state.


Conflict in The Monkey's Paw

Example

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows at least three forms of literary conflict in “The Monkey’s Paw”.


  1. Identify conflicts in “The Monkey’s Paw”.
  2. Categorize each conflict as Character vs. Character, Character vs. Self, Character vs. Society, Character vs. Nature, or Character vs. Technology.
  3. Illustrate conflicts in the cells, using characters from the story.
  4. Write a short description of the conflict below the cell.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.



Literary Conflict Template

Example

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Themes, Symbols, and Motifs Student Activity for “The Monkey’s Paw”


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Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes and symbols from the story, and support their choices with details from the text.


“The Monkey’s Paw” Themes to Look For and Discuss

The Consequences of Interfering with Fate

Despite Morris’ objections and warnings, Mr. White is determined to try to change something about his life, rather than being satisfied with all that he already has. According to Morris, the old fakir who bewitched the paw, “wanted to show that fate ruled people’s lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow.” The twisted irony of the paw is that it does, in fact, grant the wish; however, because magic interferes with the way things are supposed to be, the wishes are granted at a serious price.


The Danger of Taking Curiosity Too Far

Mr. White isn’t exactly greedy in his wish for £200; it’s more something he would like to have, and it’s a wish that seems sensible. It’s more of a test to satisfy his own curiosity than anything else. However, this curiosity leads to deadly consequences for Herbert, and absolute sorrow for Mr. and Mrs. White. Sometimes, questions are best left to be wondered about, rather than pursued.



“The Monkey’s Paw” Motifs & Symbols to Look For and Discuss

The Monkey’s Paw

The monkey's paw is an opportunity for the Whites to seize any possibility in the universe, and to satisfy their curiosity. However, it is also a way to interfere with fate, and because of this, they are severely punished. Fate is something that cannot be changed, and when the Whites attempt to change it with the paw, fate finds a way to set things right.


The Cold Wind

The cold wind is a constant throughout the story. It his howling as the Whites await Morris, who is the harbinger of the paw and their subsequent bad luck. It howls as the next visitor arrives, delivering news of Herbert’s death. Finally, the cold wind surrounds the house as the Herbert’s corpse reanimates and attempts to get into the house. The wind is a foreshadowing of bad luck, and a warning to the Whites as they interfere with fate.



Themes, Symbols, and Motifs in The Monkey's Paw

Example

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in “The Monkey’s Paw”. 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) from “The Monkey’s Paw” you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for examples that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.



Template: Theme

Example

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Granting Wishes: Possibilities and Consequences of Interfering with Fate

As students read “The Monkey’s Paw”, they will undoubtedly imagine something that they would wish for, if given the chance. As the story warns, however, sometimes we should be happy with what we have, otherwise dire consequences can result from our pursuits for more. Have students come up with one wish that they would make if given the chance, and the expected outcome of their wish. Then, have students collaborate with each other and imagine two potential pitfalls that could happen from their interference with fate. Have them depict their wish in a storyboard like the one below.


Example Interfering with Fate Assignment for “The Monkey’s Paw”


Wish:
I wish I could become a multi-millionaire by winning the lottery.


Expected Outcome:
With all my newfound money, I would give my parents plenty of money to get caught up on bills and to retire early. Then, I would put aside enough money for my sister and I to get a good college education. Finally, I’d pay for a huge family vacation cruise to the Caribbean.


Pitfall #1:
Some people might try to take advantage of me, or only become my friend because I have money. Some people may even pretend to be a “long lost family member” in order to get some of the money. I may not be able to trust many people and I’d be lonely and depressed.


Pitfall #2:
With all that money, I may not find a need to go to college. If I don’t have any plans for my life, I wouldn't know what to do with myself. I would also lose touch with my friends, who will go off and have careers, while I would be floating around on a yacht all day.


Interfering with Fate: Granting Wishes Assignment for The Monkey's Paw

Example

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Vocabulary Lesson Plan for “The Monkey’s Paw”


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Another great way to engage your students is through the creation of storyboards that use vocabulary from “The Monkey’s Paw”. Here is a list of a few vocabulary words commonly taught with the story, and an example of a visual vocabulary board.


“The Monkey’s Paw” Vocabulary

  • rubicund
  • fakir
  • grimace
  • talisman
  • simian
  • doughty
  • credulity
  • prosaic
  • antimacassar
  • fusillade
  • reverberated
  • finesse

Vocabulary in The Monkey's Paw

Example

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Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in “The Monkey’s Paw” 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.



Vocabulary Template Blank

Example

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•   (English) The Monkey's Paw   •   (Español) La Pata del Mono   •   (Français) La Patte du Singe   •   (Deutsch) Die Affenpfote   •   (Italiana) La Zampa di Scimmia   •   (Nederlands) The Monkey's Paw   •   (Português) A Pata do Macaco   •   (עברית) כף הקוף   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) مخلب القرد   •   (हिन्दी) बन्दर का पंजा   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Обезьяна Лапа   •   (Dansk) Aben Paw   •   (Svenska) The Monkey Paw   •   (Suomi) Apinan Paw   •   (Norsk) The Monkey Paw   •   (Türkçe) Maymun Pençesi   •   (Polski) Łapka Małpki   •   (Româna) Paw Maimuței   •   (Ceština) Opičí Tlapka   •   (Slovenský) Monkey's Paw   •   (Magyar) A Majom Mancsa   •   (Hrvatski) Monkey's Paw   •   (български) Опашката на Маймуната   •   (Lietuvos) Į Monkey Letena   •   (Slovenščina) Opica Taca   •   (Latvijas) Par Pērtiķa Paw   •   (eesti) Ahvikäpp