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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Teacher Guide by Elizabeth Pedro

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

Student Activities for The Secret Garden Include:

In the classic novel The Secret Garden, two unlikable children, Mary and Colin, overcome their contrary ways on the mysterious grounds of their Yorkshire mansion.

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




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Mary Lennox, an ornery, unlikable child, is sent to live with her uncle, Mr. Craven, in Misselthwaite Manor. She is placed under the loose care of a young housemaid named Martha. At first Mary continues her disagreeable character, but after spending some time in the estate’s gardens, she begins to change. Mary learns to be curious and play in the gardens making friends with Ben Weatherstaff, a gardener, and a red robin.

Martha shares stories with Mary about her large family living in a cottage. Mary likes Martha’s stories and is especially fond of her mother Mrs. Sowerby, and Dickon, a twelve year old boy who befriends the wildlife.

Mary also learns about a garden that has been locked up for ten years; Mr. Craven and his wife loved the garden and would spend hours inside it. When she died, Mr. Craven had it locked up and the key buried. Mary is quite curious about the secret garden and with the help of the robin, she finds the key and the hidden door. Inside, Mary secretly begins weeding hoping that the roses will still be alive after ten years of abandonment.

One night, inside the Yorkshire mansion, Mary hears the sound of someone crying. She discovers Colin Craven, an ill-tempered ten year old boy who believes he is going to die. Colin and Mary get along much to the surprise of everyone else in the house. The two eat together, read books, and share stories of the secret garden and Dickon.

After sharing the story of the secret garden with Colin, it is decided that he will venture out and Dickon will be his escort. From then on, Colin, Mary, and Dickon visit the secret garden every day and even let old Ben Weatherstaff in on their secret. Colin experiments with Magic and first stands, then walks, and finally is able to run and exercise like a regular boy. He keeps these new abilities a secret from the servants and Dr. Craven, until he is able to surprise his father himself.


Essential Questions for The Secret Garden

  1. Why is family important - especially for children?
  2. What is magic?
  3. What is willpower?
  4. How does your thinking have an effect on what happens around you?

The Secret Garden Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

The Secret Garden Characters


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In this activity, students will depict the characters of the story using a character map. Have students pay close attention to the physical and character traits of both major and minor characters. Students will provide detailed information regarding how the characters interact with the main characters, as well as challenges the characters face.


The Secret Garden Characters

  • Mary Lennox
  • Uncle Archibald Craven
  • Mrs. Medlock
  • Martha
  • Dickon
  • Ben Weatherstaff
  • Colin Craven
  • Susan Sowerby
  • Dr. Craven
The Secret Garden Character Map

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 Secret Garden 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 Physical/Character Traits, Character Changes Over Time, and Challenges Characters Face.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.


Blank Character Map

Example

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Point of View

Point of view provides the eyes, ears, and thoughts of a character. By analyzing point of view, students can gather insight to the author’s purpose, theme, and voice. In this activity, students will examine the author’s point of view and identify ways it is unique in understanding elements of the story.


Mary’s Thoughts

“Mary had thought it must be different from other gardens which had not been left all by themselves so long…”


The Robin’s Feelings

“The robin was tremendously busy. He was very much pleased to see gardening begun on his own estate.”


Speaks to the Reader

“Colin flushed triumphantly. He had made himself believe that he was going to get well, which was really more than half the battle. If he had been aware of it.”


The Secret Garden Point of View

Example

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Vocabulary


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In this activity, students demonstrate their understanding of several words using a spider map as a visual vocabulary board. After choosing the word(s), students provide the part of speech, definition, an example from the text, and demonstrate their understanding of the word(s) through an illustration in the related storyboard cell.

Example Vocabulary from The Secret Garden

  • contrary
  • moor
  • bulb
  • vexes
  • experiment
  • Yorkshire
  • victuals
  • wistful
  • volubly
  • menagerie
  • tendril
  • pert
  • perennial
  • harangue
  • flightiness
  • sneer
  • ail
  • lenient
  • writhe

The Secret Garden 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 Secret Garden 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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Text Evidence


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Provide students with a question or prompt to answer with a storyboard using textual evidence. The example prompt is, "How does “Magic” effect Mary and Colin?" Possible answers to the prompt include:


  • Mary believes that something powerful makes the roses grow.
  • Colin believes that Magic is helping him stand, walk, and run like a regular boy.
  • The Magic teaches Dickon how to exercise, which makes Mary and Colin fatter and healthier.


Other prompts might include:

  1. In what ways does Dickon help Mary and Colin?
  2. Why do you think Mary and Colin like Dickon and Mrs. Sowersby as much as they do?
  3. How do Mary and Colin change throughout the text?
  4. How does Mary’s experience help her to change Colin?

The Secret Garden - Text Evidence

Example

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


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that answers the prompt using at least three examples from The Secret Garden. Click on "Add Cells" to change the number of examples.


  1. Type the question into the central black box.
  2. Think about examples from the text that support your answer.
  3. Type text evidence in the description boxes. Paraphrase or quote directly from the text.
  4. Illustrate each example using scenes, characters, items, etc.


Text Evidence 3 Cell Spider

Example

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The Secret Garden Theme


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Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. The theme provides a moral to the story and is the central idea behind the text. Through analyzing themes, students can delve deeper into the text’s meaning and apply the moral to their own lives. In this activity, students will identify a theme of The Secret Garden and support it with evidence from the text.

Example Themes from The Secret Garden

Change

  • In India she had always been too hot and languid and weak to care much about anything, but in this place she was beginning to care and to want to do new things. Already she felt less “contrary,” though she did not know why.

  • Mistress Mary felt a little awkward as she went out of the room. Yorkshire people seemed strange, and Martha was always rather a puzzle to her. At first she had disliked her very much, but now she did not.

  • Mary had indeed been rather like him herself and since she had been at Misselthwaite had gradually discovered that her own manners had not been of the kind which is usual or popular.


Companionship

  • Thinking him over and saying to herself that, queer as it was, here was another person whom she liked in spite of his crossness. She liked old Ben Weatherstaff. Yes, she did like him. She always wanted to try to make him talk to her.

  • “Do you think he is?” cried Mary eagerly. She did so want to know. “Do you think he really likes me?”

  • “I wish my father would come home,” he said. “I want to tell him myself. I’m always thinking about it-”

Other possible themes include: self-image, magic, nature, and growing.


The Secret Garden Theme

Example

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


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in The Secret Garden. 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 Secret Garden 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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Compare and Contrast

This compare and contrast activity allows students to analyze the similarities and differences between two characters, settings, or objects. In this activity students will compare and contrast two characters: Mary and Colin. Students will take a closer look into these characters and develop a deeper understanding of their role and connection to the plot.

Compare and Contrast Mary and Colin


MaryColin
Mary is a spoiled, stubborn girl that demands everything from her Ayah. Colin gives orders to the servants and Dr. Craven.
Her mother did not want a little girl and demanded that the girl be kept away from her at all times. “My mother died when I was born and it makes him wretched to look at me. He thinks I don’t know, but I’ve heard people talking. He almost hates me.”
“It is very sad, now the poor beautiful thing is gone, to remember that many people never even knew that she had a child at all.” Ben Weatherstaff asks Colin if he has a hump on his back and if his legs are crooked.

The Secret Garden - Compare/Contrast

Example

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