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Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

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 Tuesdays with Morrie Include:

In a world where we, as human beings, get so caught up in the noise, the obligations, and the pressure to do more, be more, buy more, we often forget that life isn’t supposed to be about all of that. As Morrie says, “Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” The shadow of death and dying strips away all of the things that don’t matter and pulls the things that do much closer.

In the memoir Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, Albom connects with his Brandeis sociology professor 16 years after graduating from college. Morrie, recently diagnosed with ALS and quickly slipping away, has one last class to teach Mitch – how to have a meaningful life, from the perspective of a dying man with nothing left to lose. He teaches Mitch important lessons about forgiveness, giving to others, letting love in, and rejecting the importance society puts on wealth, fame, and beauty. Throughout these Tuesday lessons, Mitch comes to understand important truths about living and dying, and he finds himself letting go of his pride and vanity. Tuesdays with Morrie is one of the most important books to read in the classroom today, because it encompasses exactly what English teachers are trying to do: to teach our students how to become good people, using lessons from literature and life.

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




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ALS and Lou Gehrig

According to the ALS Association, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a “progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.” The muscles that are affected don’t receive nourishment and begin to atrophy as a result. The degeneration of nerves in the spinal cord leads to permanent hardening or scarring. For those afflicted by the disease, it is a progression that slowly steals the usefulness of the body away, even when the mind remains sharp and aware; some have compared the disease to being imprisoned in one’s own body. While there is no cure, there is a new drug that has been proven to slow the progression; however, the prognosis for most people diagnosed with the disease is between 3-5 years. People who have family members with the disease are more likely to develop ALS, although that likelihood is still rare at around 1%. Other studies have linked an increased prevalence of ALS in athlete who experience multiple concussions, and people who have served in the military. The ALS Association has plenty of resources on the subject and can be visited by students at alsa.org.

ALS is often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, named after baseball Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig. Lou Gehrig played for the New York Yankees from 1923-1939 and hit 493 home runs over his career. Known for his sheer power, consecutive game record, recipient of multiple MVP awards, and leading the Yankees to six World Series titles, Gehrig earned the nickname “The Iron Horse” and was the first MLB player to have his uniform number retired. Gehrig was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 36 and died 2 years later, shortly before his 38th birthday. While the disease was discovered by a French neurologist in 1869, it remained fairly unknown until Gehrig’s diagnosis and death. Gehrig once wrote in a letter to his wife that ALS is more like “chronic infantile paralysis”; in other words, eventually Gehrig would eventually become fully paralyzed and need total care, much like an infant. Lou Gehrig’s good-bye speech, referenced in Albom’s memoir, is one of the most famous and moving speeches of the 20th century. Students can listen to his speech here.

Students may be familiar with ALS already because of the Ice Bucket Challenge started in the summer of 2014 by ALS patient Pete Frates. Its purpose was not only to raise money for more research, but to also raise awareness of the disease. The viral nature of the challenge reached millions of people via social media, and in just one month, the ALS Association received over $100 million in donations. Students may also be familiar with theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. Hawking was diagnosed with ALS in 1963, but has defied the odds and the usual prognosis timeline. He has steadily lost the use of most of his muscles except for his cheek muscles over the years. While Hawking’s mind remains clear, his ability to communicate and his mobility have become extremely limited. Hawking’s inspirational and thought provoking TED-talk from 2008 can be viewed here.

The beginning of Tuesdays with Morrie mentions Albom’s reconnection with his beloved professor after seeing his 1995 interview with Ted Koppel on Nightline. Before or after reading the memoir, students might be interested in seeing Morrie’s interview, and putting an actual person’s face and voice with the disease. You can watch Morrie’s Nightline Interview series here.


Essential Questions for Tuesdays with Morrie

  1. What does it mean to live a meaningful life?
  2. What are some of the obstacles that get in the way of living a meaningful life?
  3. Why is it so important to embrace and experience emotions, rather than hold them back?
  4. How can growing older be an enriching experience?
  5. What are some important lessons we should learn before we die?
  6. How can something terrible like a disease be a blessing at the same time?
  7. Why do people fear things like growing old or dying?
  8. What can we learn from other people’s experiences and mistakes?

Tuesdays with Morrie Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Tuesdays with Morrie 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 Tuesdays with Morrie Plot Diagram

Exposition

After 16 years, journalist Mitch Albom sees his former beloved Brandeis professor Morrie Schwartz featured on an episode of Nightline. Morrie, a once active and spry professor who danced weekly in Boston, has been diagnosed with ALS, a devastating progressive neurological disease. Mitch contacts Morrie and flies out to visit him in his home in West Newton, Massachusetts.


Conflict

While Mitch and Morrie were close during Mitch’s tenure at Brandeis, Mitch has drifted away from the ideals he once had. Now he is wrapped up in his work, the one thing he can control, and in the culture of getting more with more money. Morrie feels the need to tell Mitch his story in a form of a final class, or final thesis, so that he can share what he learns about life and dying from his research – his own demise.


Rising Action

Since Mitch’s paper in Detroit is on strike, he flies out to visit Morrie on Tuesdays. Every week, they cover a different topic that Mitch has written down and Mitch tape records their session, but each week Morrie’s disease becomes increasingly worse. Mitch holds a lot of guilt about the path his life has taken, and he is very reserved with his emotions. Morrie is determined to help Mitch acknowledge his emotions and find a path to living a more meaningful life.


Climax

Mitch receives word from Morrie’s wife to come visit him in late October. As Mitch arrives, he finds Morrie lying in bed, looking very thin and frail, unable to breathe well anymore. Mitch holds Morrie’s hand and Morrie puts it over his heart and cries. Mitch holds him and promises that he will come back next week. As he goes to leave, he realizes that Morrie has finally gotten him to cry.


Falling Action

Morrie falls into a coma shortly after Mitch leaves and passes away the following Saturday. He waited until all of his family had left the room to draw his final breath, and Mitch believes that Morrie did this purposefully.


Resolution

Mitch contacts his brother in Spain, who is battling pancreatic cancer, and rather than trying to recapture the past, he builds a new relationship with him. Mitch finds new meaning in his life from what he learns from Morrie, and he puts aside his pursuit of money in order to focus on his family and living a meaningful life.


Plot Diagram for Tuesdays with Morrie

Example

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Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of Tuesdays with Morrie.


  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.



Story Outline Storyboard Template

Example

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Tuesdays with Morrie 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!

Tuesdays with Morrie Characters

  • Morrie Schwartz
  • Mitch Albom
  • Connie
  • Janine Sabino-Albom
  • Charlotte Schwartz
  • Ted Koppel

Character Map for Tuesdays with Morrie

Example

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Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.


  1. Identify the major characters in Tuesdays with Morrie 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 Textables for Physical Appearance, 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 Tuesdays with Morrie


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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 Tuesdays with Morrie

MAN vs. NATURE

Morrie has been diagnosed with one of the most terrible diseases a person can suffer through. While his body steadily withers, his mind remains sharp. This creates a tension between the two: Morrie knows he only has so much time, according to his body, but his mind still has so much to share with others.


MAN vs. SELF

Mitch is conflicted by the life he has been leading over the past 16 years. Before, he was a young man driven by principles; however, since he graduated from college and his dreams of becoming a piano player fell through, he’s found himself focusing so much on his journalism career that he’s neglected the things in life that are more important, like family.


MAN vs. SOCIETY

Morrie doesn’t buy into the idea that the sole direction of a man in society should be to make more money and buy more things. He rejects the idea totally, which sets him apart from many others who pursue advertising and a culture which tells them more is better. This also put him into a distinct mindset about death and dying, which sets him apart from others and makes him want to share his knowledge.


Conflict in Tuesdays with Morrie

Example

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows at least three forms of literary conflict in Tuesdays with Morrie.


  1. Identify conflicts in Tuesdays with Morrie.
  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

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Tuesdays with Morrie Themes, Symbols, and Motifs


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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 memoir, and support their choices with details from the text.


Tuesdays with Morrie Themes to Look For and Discuss

Living a Meaningful Life

When Mitch graduated from college, he believed he was a man with ambition and convictions, and he imagined himself following these. However, he got wrapped up in work and making more money, which hasn’t left him feeling fulfilled. Morrie, however, has figured out the things that create a meaningful life, such as rejecting the culture of money, focusing on family and love, and living every day as if it is his last. By doing this, he learns how to live once he learns how to die.


The Importance of Forgiveness

Mitch feels intense guilt over the life he has led, and the fact that he hasn’t kept in touch with his old professor. Morrie, however, knows that learning to forgive oneself for our past decisions is just as important as forgiving others for what they have done to us. There are two reasons why forgiveness is important, according to Morrie: the first is that regrets don’t help people when they’re at the end. The second is that not everyone is lucky enough to get the time that Morrie has in order to forgive. Unresolved guilt is a powerful distraction from living a meaningful life.


Overcoming Fear

Morrie and Mitch talk about two kinds of fear: the fear of dying, which Morrie works through with his “detachment” method, and the fear of aging. Not only does our culture attempt to ignore aging in advertising, but many people look back on their youth in their older ages with desire to be that age again. Morrie, however, embraces aging. He finds that he has learned and grown more from aging, and even though his illness is making him dependent, he is enjoying it. He tells Mitch, “If you’re always battling getting older, you’re always going to be unhappy, because it will happen anyhow.” This is also a part of Morrie’s mantra of finding a way to live a meaningful life.


Acknowledging Emotions

Morrie works through his fear and overwhelming emotions by “detaching”; rather, he acknowledges what they are, feels them completely, and then lets them go. In this way, by not burying his feelings below, he can keep himself from becoming overwhelmed by emotions such as fear, loneliness, and grief. Mitch finds this an important lesson personally because he tries to bury his own emotions and holds back from others, which has caused a wedge between himself, his wife, and even his brother.



Tuesdays with Morrie Motifs & Symbols to Look For and Discuss

The Hibiscus Plant

The hibiscus plant in Morrie’s study is something that Mitch seems to notice as he visits with Morrie. It’s small, but durable, and while Morrie withers, the plant holds on. Morrie uses the plant as a chance to demonstrate that people are connected with nature, and as with all things in nature, people and plants both die. The thing that separates humans from the plants, however, that humans have a chance to be remembered because of the love we create and share.


Food

Every Tuesday, Mitch brings food from the local supermarket with him when he visits Morrie. While Morrie soon can no longer eat most solid foods, his eyes light up at the sight of the bags Mitch brings anyways. For the two men, it reminds them of their lunches they used to have back when Mitch was a student, and Mitch enjoys the fact that Morrie is not particularly careful while he eats.


School and Professors

Morrie’s story is told to Mitch as sort of a “final thesis”. Mitch Albom structures the memoir as a final class, with each Tuesday meeting covering a different topic. Morrie himself wants to be remembered as a “Teacher to the Last,” and he values his time with Mitch as an opportunity to share his lessons from his “experiment” with dying.


The O.J. Simpson Trial

As Mitch is visiting Morrie in his final months, it is right in the middle of the O.J. Simpson murder trial which captured the nation’s attention for almost an entire year. Mitch often sees coverage of the trial on different TVs during his travels, and the verdict even comes during a visit to Morrie. However, Mitch uses the trial (and other news stories) to juxtapose the fact that the entire country is concerned with a murder trial, but no one is really focusing on living for what matters, like Morrie.


Themes, Symbols, and Motifs in Tuesdays with Morrie

Example

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in Tuesdays with Morrie. 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 Tuesdays with Morrie 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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Morrie as the Everyman Hero in Tuesdays with Morrie


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In literature, an “everyman” has come to mean an ordinary individual that the audience or reader easily identifies with, but who has no outstanding abilities or attributes. An everyman hero is one who is placed in extraordinary circumstances and acts with heroic qualities. While lacking the talent of the classical hero, they exhibit sound moral judgment and selflessness in the face of adversity. See our lesson on defining an Everyman Hero!

Use that lesson with your class to come up with five common characteristics of an everyman hero. Then, use the following five-cell spider map to highlight how Morrie meets these common characteristics of an “everyman hero” in the memoir Tuesdays with Morrie.



Brave

Even though Morrie is diagnosed with a devastating disease, he faces it with purpose, and finds a way to share his experiences beyond his death by working with Mitch on their “final thesis” together. He is afraid sometimes, but he acknowledges the fear, detaches, and doesn’t let it take over.


Scared, But Determined

While Morrie has coughing fits that leave him gasping for air, and even as he becomes more weak, he still makes sure he is ready for Mitch every Tuesday to get his message and lessons onto the tape recorder. It is this sense of purpose that gives Morrie strength.


Upstanding Character

Morrie is a well-loved teacher, husband, and father to all who know him. He puts his family first, and even though his own father was a silent man, he made sure to shower his own sons with affection and never leave them wanting love from him. He is honest and trustworthy, and he follows his heart, even if it means rejecting society’s standards about what is important.


Compassionate

While Morrie is suffering, he still wants to delve into Mitch’s life and what is bothering him. First, he knows that Mitch is unhappy because he is unfulfilled by only focusing on his work. Second, Morrie knows that Mitch is struggling inside because his brother in Spain is battling pancreatic cancer, and Mitch doesn’t know how to reach out to him. Morrie cares as much about Mitch’s struggles as he does about his own.


Stands Up for Beliefs

During the Vietnam War, Morrie was so fiercely opposed to the war that he and other members of the sociology department at Brandeis gave their male students As so that they could keep their deferments. It may not have been ethical, but it was something that Morrie believed in strongly.


Morrie as an Everyman Hero in Tuesdays with Morrie

Example

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows how Bert can be considered an everyman hero.


  1. Identify events of the story or characteristics of Bert that fit into attributes of an everyman hero.
  2. Illustrate examples for Brave; Scared, But Determined; Upstanding Character; Compassionate; and Stands Up for Beliefs.
  3. Write a short description below each cell that specifically relates Bert as an everyman hero.
  4. Save and submit the assignment.



Everyman Hero Template

Example

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Tracking Character Evolution in Tuesdays with Morrie


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Mitch changes emotionally over the course of the memoir as he visits with Morrie and begins to reconnect with his former convictions and beliefs. Use the activity for Character Evolution found here.

Character Evolution Example for Mitch


PLOT POINTMITCH'S TRAITSEXPLANATION
Exposition workaholic, self-absorbed, unfulfilled Mitch is a successful sports journalist with the Detroit Free Press. He is married, but not totally invested in his life with his wife. He is a workaholic and not fulfilled with the path his life has taken, despite the fact that he has lots of money.
Conflict / Rising Actionguilty; careful; bottled up; confused; fearful When Mitch reconnects with Morrie, he feels guilty about the path his life has taken. As he starts his project with Morrie, he continues to hold back his emotions and not acknowledge them. He feels confused about how to get his life back on the right path again, and afraid of opening himself up emotionally. He is also fearful of losing Morrie.
Climaxopening up; affectionate; heartbroken Over the course of his time with Morrie, Mitch has found himself more open with his affections, including not hesitating on holding Morrie’s hand or rubbing his feet and legs. As he says his final goodbye to Morrie, Mitch finally feels his tears welling up as his heart breaks.
Falling Actionenlightened; regretful; hopeful; open After Morrie dies, Mitch wishes he could go back in time and tell himself not to waste time on things that don’t matter. He also wishes he could tell himself to visit Morrie before Morrie loses his ability to dance. He gets in touch with his brother and opens up to him about how much he loves him and wants to stay in touch. They rekindle their relationship.
Resolutionreflective; grateful Mitch feels that he has been blessed by having a teacher like Morrie in his life. His old papers, between him and “Coach” make him miss Morrie, but he also realizes how much he and many others have learned from his wisdom.

Mitch's Character Evolution in Tuesdays with Morrie

Example

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows the evolution of Mitch throughout the course of Tuesdays with Morrie.


  1. Use the Character Evolution Template to get started.
  2. Break the story down into Exposition, Conflict/Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution. What traits does Mitch have?
  3. Illustrate one or more of the traits for each stage of the story.
  4. Identify major events in each part of the story that affected Mitch.



Character Evolution Template - Novel/Story

Example

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Vocabulary Lesson Plan for Tuesdays with Morrie


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Another great way to engage your students is through the creation of storyboards that use vocabulary from Tuesdays with Morrie. Here is a list of a few vocabulary words commonly taught with the memoir, and an example of a visual vocabulary board.


Tuesdays with Morrie Vocabulary

  • biopsy
  • aphorism
  • beaker
  • sequoia
  • trunk
  • defer
  • sclerosis
  • indecipherable
  • levitate
  • alabaster
  • buoyant
  • nostalgia

Vocabulary in Tuesdays with Morrie

Example

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Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in Tuesdays with Morrieby 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

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•   (English) Tuesdays with Morrie   •   (Español) Los martes con Morrie   •   (Français) Mardi avec Morrie   •   (Deutsch) Dienstags mit Morrie   •   (Italiana) Martedì con Morrie   •   (Nederlands) Dinsdagen met Morrie   •   (Português) Terças com Morrie   •   (עברית) ימי שלישי עם מורי   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) الثلاثاء مع مورى   •   (हिन्दी) मॉरीज के साथ मंगलवार   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Вторник с Морри   •   (Dansk) Tirsdage med Morrie   •   (Svenska) Tisdagarna med Morrie   •   (Suomi) Tiistaisin Morrie   •   (Norsk) Tirsdager med Morrie   •   (Türkçe) Morrie ile salı günleri   •   (Polski) We wtorki z Morrie   •   (Româna) Martea cu Morrie   •   (Ceština) Úterý s Morrie   •   (Slovenský) Utorky s Morrie   •   (Magyar) Kedden a Morrie   •   (Hrvatski) Utorkom s Morrie   •   (български) Вторник с Мори   •   (Lietuvos) Antradieniais su MORRIE   •   (Slovenščina) Ob torkih z Morrie   •   (Latvijas) Otrdienās ar Morrie   •   (eesti) Teisipäeviti koos MORRIE