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The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

Teacher Guide by Kristy Littlehale

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

Student Activities for The Red Badge of Courage Include:

Stephen Crane wrote The Red Badge of Courage without ever having witnessed combat. However, his use of vivid imagery, color motifs, and his ability to describe the emotional highs and lows of an insecure soldier have earned the novel many accolades. While the novel only takes place over the course of a few days, it is a story of a lifetime for a young private named Henry Fleming. The story of Henry Fleming and his journey from a young fearful boy to a bold young soldier highlights important themes that many students will encounter in their own lives, including overcoming fear, a soldier’s duty and honor, defining manhood, and finding redemption.

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




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Realism

One reason why Crane’s writing style is so successful is because it incorporates many elements of the Realism literary movement. Realism is defined as depicting the characteristics of everyday life in their truest form. Realism doesn’t concern itself with supernatural elements like its Gothic predecessor, nor does it try to get too exotic or fancy in its descriptions. It is often referred to as a “faithful representation of reality”. Crane utilizes Realism in his depiction of Henry Fleming’s thoughts and in his journey from coward to hero. Some important characteristics of Realism include:



The Battle of Chancellorsville

While the 304th New York Regiment is fictional, it was thought to be inspired by the 124th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which Stephen Crane utilized to prepare for his novel. The battle that Henry Fleming takes part in is thought to be based off of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia in 1863. Students can find more information on the battle (and perhaps English and History classes can team up for this, too!) at the following resources:



Essential Questions for The Red Badge of Courage

  1. When can fear become overwhelming?
  2. What is courage? Why is it important?
  3. What are some reasons why people choose to enlist and fight in a war?
  4. Should desertion be considered a crime? Why or why not?
  5. What qualities make a good soldier? A bad soldier?
  6. What defines “manhood”?
  7. Is it possible to find redemption for our mistakes?

The Red Badge of Courage Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

The Red Badge of Courage 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 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 Red Badge of Courage Plot Diagram

Exposition

Henry Fleming, a young man of 18 years old, has finally left his farm and his mother to join the Union Army. However, his regiment largely wanders from one place to another, never really seeing combat. Henry is consumed by fears that he will run away from a true battle, and while he tries to find comfort in other soldiers, especially veterans, the worries still plague him.


Conflict

While Henry fights initially, he is quickly overcome by fear as he sees many of his fellow soldiers fleeing the first battle. His friend, a loud and arrogant soldier named Wilson, also deserts the battle before it really begins. Henry turns and runs away from the battle, fleeing into the woods and plagued by fear, guilt, and shame.


Rising Action

Henry finally meets up with a wounded unit of soldiers. His tall friend Jim Conklin is among them. A tattered soldier tries to befriend Henry. Henry and the tattered soldier follow Jim into the woods, where he dies in a strange manner. Henry soon notices the weakened state of the tattered soldier and abandons him in the woods, alone and muttering to himself. Overcome by his weariness, Henry is led back to his regiment by a cheery stranger. He tells his regiment that he was shot in the head by the enemy, but the wound is from a struggle with another soldier.


Climax

Henry keeps his cowardice from his comrades and becomes a “war devil,” or a fearless soldier. The regimen is then sent to an assignment which most likely means certain death. Henry and Wilson overhear the general calling the soldiers “mule drivers,” and this fuels his and Wilson’s resolve to fight. Henry becomes the color bearer for the next battle by saving the flag from a dying color bearer.


Falling Action

The regiment squares off with rebels hiding behind a farmer’s fence. Their lines are quickly dwindling, so they realize they have to charge the fence. Henry and Wilson lock their sights on the rebel color bearer, and Wilson swoops in to grab the flag as the color bearer is killed. The Union forces win the battle, and a strange calm settles over the land.


Resolution

As they are marching back to camp, Henry is again plagued by guilt for his actions on the previous day. He recalls his cowardice, his abandonment of both Jim Conklin and the tattered soldier, and it starts to cause him despair. However, he begins to see that he has made up for these mistakes in his bravery as color bearer, and he finds peace within himself for his actions.


Plot Diagram for The Red Badge of Courage
Create your own at Storyboard That EXPOSITION CONFLICT RISING ACTION CLIMAX FALLING ACTION RESOLUTION Henry Fleming, a young man of 18 years old, has finally left his farm and his mother to join the Union Army. However, his regiment largely wanders from one place to another, never really seeing combat. Henry is consumed by fears that he will run away from a true battle, and while he tries to find comfort in other soldiers, especially veterans, the worries still plague him. While Henry fights initially, he is quickly overcome by fear as he sees many of his fellow soldiers fleeing the first battle. His friend, a loud and arrogant soldier named Wilson, also deserts the battle before it really begins. Henry turns and runs away from the battle, fleeing into the woods and plagued by fear, guilt, and shame. Henry finally meets up with a wounded unit of soldiers. His tall friend Jim Conklin is among them. A tattered soldier tries to befriend Henry. Henry and the tattered soldier follow Jim into the woods, where he dies. Henry soon abandons the tattered soldier in the woods, alone and muttering to himself. Overcome by his weariness, Henry is led back to his regiment by a cheery stranger. He tells his regiment that he was shot in the head by the enemy, but the wound is from a struggle with another soldier. Henry keeps his cowardice from his comrades and becomes a “war devil,” or a fearless soldier. The regimen is then sent to an assignment which most likely means certain death. Henry and Wilson overhear the general calling the soldiers “mule drivers,” and this fuels his and Wilson’s resolve to fight. Henry becomes the color bearer for the next battle by saving the flag from a dying color bearer. The regiment squares off with rebels hiding behind a farmer’s fence. Their lines are quickly dwindling, so they realize they have to charge the fence. Henry and Wilson lock their sights on the rebel color bearer, and Wilson swoops in to grab the flag as the color bearer is killed. The Union forces win the battle, and a strange calm settles over the land. As they are marching back to camp, Henry is again plagued by guilt for his actions on the previous day. He recalls his cowardice, his abandonment of both Jim Conklin and the tattered soldier, and it starts to cause him despair. However, he begins to see that he has made up for these mistakes in his bravery as color bearer, and he finds peace within himself for his actions.

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 Red Badge of Courage.


  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 Red Badge of Courage 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 Red Badge of Courage Characters

  • Private Henry Fleming / The Youth
  • Jim Conklin / The Tall Soldier
  • Wilson / The Loud Soldier and The Friend
  • The Injured Lieutenant

Character Map for The Red Badge of Courage
Create your own at Storyboard That PRIVATE HENRY FLEMING / THE YOUTH JIM CONKLIN / THE TALL SOLDIER WILSON / THE LOUD SOLDIER AND THE FRIEND THE INJURED LIEUTENANT