The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street by Rod Sterling

Teacher Guide by Rebecca Ray

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    I remember reading this story as a play in middle school. I was captivated by the ending, and it has stayed with me ever since. Using the story in the classroom can prove to be a great tool for teaching themes, lessons, and morals. This lesson plan is designed to generate creativity and discussion around what happens when human nature gets out of hand.

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

    A Quick Synopsis of Twilight Zone - The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street (Contains Plot Spoilers)

    The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street was originally an episode of the 1960’s television show The Twilight Zone. Later, the episode was made into a graphic novel. The story deals with human nature, and paranoia.

    The story begins on quiet, suburban Maple Street. A shadow passes over, accompanied by a flash of light, a whooshing sound, and followed by a power outage. Immediately, people are in the streets speculating, and extraterrestrial visitors is mentioned. One resident, Peter, volunteers to take a look around. The characters believe that the aliens could be living as a family in the neighborhood who appear human. Hysteria takes hold, and residents start to accuse their neighbors. Everyone is a suspect, and the neighborhood is growing uneasy.

    Panic of monsters steadily builds until, one night, a shadowy figure appears. Charlie, a main character, grabs a shotgun, and shoots the shadow in fear. Unfortunately, it is Peter Van Horn, returning from his scouting mission. He dies instantly. Suddenly, the lights in Charlie's house come on, and he panics as the crowd begins accusing him of being both a murderer and the monster responsible for the power being out. A witch hunt begins, and the neighborhood turns into an angry mob. Terrified residents produce weapons, a riot breaks out, and fear drives residents to shoot each other.

    The ending scene reveals that the object that had flown overhead was indeed an alien spaceship. Alien observers watch the riot on Maple Street knowing they created the mass hysteria through the manipulation of the power. In the end, the residents of Maple Street were the real monsters. The aliens conclude that conquering Earth will be easy; the humans will destroy themselves.

    Essential Questions for The Monsters are Due on Maple Street:

    1. How can fear control you?
    2. What causes modern day mass hysteria?
    3. How do dire situations cause people to act out of character?
    4. Do you believe that psychological warfare is more dangerous than conventional weapons? Why?

    Follow the Maple Street Monsters by Creating a Plot Diagram

    A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a novel. 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 novel 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 the sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.

    Plot Diagram Example The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street:

    • Exposition

      On quiet, suburban Maple Street, somewhere in America, the inhabitants notice a meteor-like object fly overhead. After it passes, all electronics and electricity go dead.

    • Conflict

      A young boy named Tommy tells a story he read about aliens arriving from outer space. Believing his story, the people start to suspect each other of being secret aliens.

    • Rising Action

      One resident, Pete Van Horn, leaves to check the next block over. Meanwhile, Mr. Goodman's car mysteriously starts. Everyone accuses him of being an alien. Steve tries to talk some sense into the mob, but fails. He becomes a suspect as attention is directed to the radio in his basement!

    • Climax

      The mob sees a figure coming towards them. Charlie grabs a gun and accidentally shoots Van Horn, who has returned. Suddenly Charlie's lights go on, and now he is the prime suspect.

    • Falling Action

      Everyone is hysterical. Charlie screams that the real alien is Tommy, the young boy who knew the events before they happened.

    • Resolution

      In the end, aliens watch the town as it destroys itself. A simple trick by the aliens turned the residents against each other; they themselves were the monsters, not the aliens.

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    Depicting Key Themes, Symbols, and Motifs in The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street

    Valuable aspects of any literary work are its theme(s), symbols, and motif(s). Part of the Common Core ELA standards is to introduce and explain these complex concepts. However, abstract ideas are often difficult for students to anatomize without assistance. Using a storyboard, students can visually demonstrate their understanding of these concepts, and master analysis of literary elements. For best practices, see our article with specific lesson plan steps on setting up your classroom and activities to teach theme(s), symbols, and motif(s).

    In the classroom, students can track the themes this story uses to teach lessons to the audience

    Themes, Motifs, and Imagery to Look for, and Discuss

    • Fear/Paranoia: Fear and suspicion can cause normal, peaceful people (neighbors and friends) to turn on one another. Despite having known each other for some time, idiosyncrasies drive them to re-examine how well they know their neighbors.

    • Mankind as Its Own Worst Enemy: Ever noticed how mankind pulls itself down? This theme is present in this story and throughout history.

    • Prejudice: When people make prejudgments they are often irreversible. Once a thought is put into someone's mind, it is hard to root out. This is why prejudices are so dangerous. In the residents' search for a scapegoat, suspicion and prejudice lead to dire consequences.

    • People as Wild Animals: Throughout the story, the author creates metaphors aound the people acting like animals. This symbolizes the loss of control humans have once hysteria and paranoia take control. They become no better than animals, living by instinct rather than rationality.

    Character Mapping The Maple Street Mob!

    As students read, a storyboard can serves 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!

    You can click on this map and create a copy on your teacher account. Feel free to use it as is, or to edit it for the level of your class. Printing it as worksheets, for your students to complete while reading, is an fast and easy way to incorporate this character map into your classroom.

    For “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” a character map helps students remember who were called out as scapegoats, and will visually show them how quickly things escalated. It will also provide a reference for discussion about how each person added to the hysteria.

    Example Character Map

    • Name: Steve Brand
    • Description of character’s personality:
    • Leader, calming influence, intelligent, open-minded, tries to control the mob.

    • What causes the mob to focus on him?
    • He always works late in his basement on a radio.

    • Changes in character, physically or mentally?
    • He eventually gets angry, and stops trying to help.

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    Depicting Conflict Using The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street

    Literary conflicts are often taught during ELA units. Building on prior knowledge to achieve mastery level with our students is important. An excellent way to focus on the various types of literary conflict is through storyboarding. Having students choose an example of each Literary conflict and depict it using the storyboard creator is a great way to reinforce your lesson!

    In “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” conflict is not only present, but is also an important recurring element. Much of the conflict stems from the paranoia and hysteria the people create while they are searching to blame someone.

    Examples of Conflict from The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street

    • Man vs. Self: The residents of Maple St. are unable to control their fear. This leads Charlie shooting Peter Van Horn.

    • Man vs. Society: It seems the only person not joining the mob, was Steve. Throughout the story, he manages to keep a level head, and tries not to jump to accusing anyone. He remains logical and rational, trying to come up with a reasonable explanation. This runs very counter to the rest of the neighborhood.

    • Man vs. Man: Paranoia causes neighbors to turn on each other. A perfect example of this is how Charlie turned on Les when his car mysteriously started!

    Depicting Literary Elements from The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street

    Most short stories and screenplays are rich in figurative language and literary elements. These are used to enhance the symbolis, motifs, and themes within the plot. The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street is no exception. The use of simile, metaphor, personification, and onomatopoeia is abundant.

    A great lesson plan, after reading the story, is for students to create a scavenger hunt using the storyboard creator. Give them a list of figurative language to find and have them create a storyboard that depicts and explains the use of each literary element in the story! They will have an absolute blast and master the words by the end. Check out this example below:

    Elements of Figurative Language - Motifs of Hysteria and Animal like Behavior!

    • Metaphor
    • A comparison without using like or as.

      Example: “Maple Street was a bedlam. It was an outdoor asylum for the insane.”

    • Metaphor
    • A comparison without using like or as.

      Example: "A fever had taken hold now, a hot burning virus..."

    • Simile
    • A comparison using like or as.

      Example: "They blinked foolishly at the lights, and their mouths gaped like fishes"

    • Simile
    • A comparison using like or as.

      Example: "Like a hippopotamus in a circus"

    • Onomatopoeia
    • When the spelling of a word mimics its' sound.

      Example: "Everyone on the street looked up at the sound of the whoosh."

    • Personification
    • Giving something human qualities.

      Example: "The dull, dumb, blind prejudice of the man"

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    Modern Day Adaptation or Alternate Ending Option!

    Creating Parodies and Satires, and Modern Day Adaptation are part of a rich literary tradition. They are also valuable tools for teaching students about literature. Through creative writing, students learn to use literary elements in context, committing these terms to memory.

    Have students create their own modern day adaptation. For this assignment, you can have students rewrite the ending of The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street, rewrite it in a contemporary setting, or choose an event from history that resonates with the theme themes of the story. Possible historical examples include the Salem witch trials, events leading up to the Holocaust, Japanese Internment Camps, and post 9/11 racial profiling.

    Don’t Let the Fun Stop There! Check Out Our Other Lesson Plan Ideas.

    1. Show specific causes and effects in a storyboard.
    2. Use a storyboard to show how mass hysteria could start in your own classroom.
    3. Create a storyboard that helps learn new vocabulary words with Visual Vocabulary.
    4. Add a presentation to any storyboard project.

    From Stephanie (Head of Creativity)

    While creating scenes and characters for this article, we watchedThe Monsters Are Due on Maple St. for inspiration. It's so cool that this story was converted from a black and white TV show to a screenplay and graphic novel! These formats give students a chance to read this story when before, they might never have been exposed to it. Despite the original being written in the 1950's, its theme is still very relevant today, and the story is more appealing now than ever before.

    • Artist Favorite: Need a car? Use search! Our artists have created a bunch of great cars from all eras.
    • Pro Tip: A great way to create crowds for your storyboard is to make use of the ones in the Silhouettes category. You can copy them, invert them, and cut them to make any size crowd you need!

    Make sure to use our image search. It has more than 45,000 items!

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