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Activity Overview


Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes, motifs, and symbols from the novel, and support their choices with details from the text. You can adapt the assignment by specifying the number of each category students should find or asking them to find and illustrate multiple examples to illustrate a single theme or motif.


Themes to Look For and Discuss

Good vs. Evil

The main conflict centers around the fight between good and evil. This is a cosmic fight in a very literal way. The evil Dark Thing is overtaking various planets throughout the solar system, leading to war, poverty, and suffering on these planets. There is a suggestion that the many wars of the 20th century and the rise of totalitarianism on Earth were a result of this dark presence and/or helped expand its reach. More specifically, the characters encounter evil as it is embodied by the Man with the Red Eyes and IT on Camazotz. The book emphasizes that the loss of freedom is one of the greatest evils. For Mr. Murry, this loss takes the literal form of imprisonment. For the citizens of Camazotz, lack of freedom affects their appearances, actions, and even their thoughts. IT’s goal is to bring “peace” by essentially brainwashing the residents of Camazotz. As a result, no one on Camazotz experiences love, curiosity, or individuality. Meg and her allies fight back by using the power of their different and unique personalities and by expressing love.


Appearances can be Deceiving

Things are not as they seem throughout the universe of A Wrinkle in Time. The main human trio are all misjudged by society. Meg is considered stupid and intractable, yet she is actually very bright and eager to learn. Charles Wallace appears odd and slow to develop, but he is a genius and has supernatural abilities of perception. Calvin seems like the typical high school jock who enjoys the popular social scene, but he is actually disconnected and unhappy. This pattern of unreliable appearances recurs throughout the book: the Mrs. W’s, Aunt Beast, and the entire planet of Camazotz are all different in appearance and reality. Students can find other smaller examples as well, such as the food at the banquet in Camazotz appearing delicious, but not existing in reality.


The Power of Love

A Wrinkle in Time emphasizes the power of love to combat evil. Love for their father drives Meg and Charles Wallace to risk their lives. The feeling of love and acceptance Calvin feels with the Murrys drives him to leave his own cold home and adventure with people he barely knows. Love brings pain with it of course. It is because Meg loves her father so much that she is so miserable when he disappears. The Happy Medium captures this pain when she says, “If I didn’t get fond I could be happy all the time.” The children discover on Camazotz, however, that a loveless life is meaningless and empty. Ultimately, it is love that allows Meg to defeat IT and rescue Charles Wallace from its hypnotic clutches.



Motifs & Symbols to Look For and Discuss

Light and Darkness Motif

Light symbolizes goodness, while darkness represents evil. Students can trace the light and dark motifs throughout the novel. The most obvious representation of the dark as evil is the Dark Thing, which is literally a black fog engulfing troubled planets. A representation of light as goodness occurs when stars fight the Dark Thing and overpower its darkness for a time (as seen in the Happy Medium’s crystal ball). Mrs. Who references the triumph of evil with an allusion to Jesus, quoting, "And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." In her creature form, Mrs. Whatsit is described as “made of rainbows, of light upon water, of poetry.” Later, when the children visit Camazotz, they see the lights in the city flickering, suggesting that goodness is fragile and in danger of being extinguished on Camazotz. Students may find these and many more examples to capture this motif.


Science and Space Motif

Half of A Wrinkle in Time takes place in space - whether traveling through it or visiting several very unique planets. Although the science in the book is somewhat vague, the importance of physics and mathematics in space travel is highlighted. Written during the Space Race, the book makes a point of suggesting that travel through space is not a mere element of fantasy, but is grounded in scientific theory. The concept of a tesseract, in fact, was not invented by L’Engle, although she played a large role in popularizing it. L’Engle further highlights science by making both Mr. and Mrs. Murry scientists whose work has led Mr. Murry into danger. This premise adds an exotic and mysterious appeal to the profession of physicist!


Mrs. Who’s Spectacles as a Symbol

Much of the book deals with the concept of seeing. In many ways, the naked eye is limited: characters and settings are not necessarily what they appear to be. On Ixchel, Meg realizes the bland, grayish-brown surface of the planet that she perceives is only a small portion of the planet’s reality. The creatures there rely on other senses to experience their world. Mrs. Who’s glasses are one way to see beyond the limitations of the naked eye and perceive the truth. They enable both Meg and her father to see within the walls of the cylindrical prison he is trapped in. Although blinded to his physical reality, Mr. Murry uses the glasses to see outside his prison and therefore escape. Because the glasses help Mr. Murry see through the darkness to escape his prison, they might also represent hope.


Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 6-8

Difficulty Level 5 (Advanced / Mastery)

Type of Assignment Individual, Partner, or Group

Type of Activity: Themes, Symbols & Motifs

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/6/2] Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/6/4] Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/6/5] Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/7/2] Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/7/4] Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/8/2] Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/8/4] Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts


Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)



Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in A Wrinkle in Time. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s), symbols(s), or motif(s) from A Wrinkle in Time you wish to include and replace the "THEME, SYMBOL, or MOTIF" text.
  3. Create an image for examples that represents this theme, symbol, or motif.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples in the black text box.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.



Rubric

(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)



Themes, Symbols, and Motifs Rubric for Middle School
Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes, symbols, and/or motifs in the story. Illustrate instances of each and write a short description that explains the example's significance.
Proficient Emerging Beginning
Identify Theme(s)
All themes are correctly identified as important recurring topics or messages in the story.
Some themes are correctly identified, but others are missing or do not make sense with the story.
No themes are correctly identified.
Identify Symbol(s)
All symbols are correctly identified as objects that represent something else at a higher level in the story.
Most symbols are correctly identified, but some objects are missing or are incorrectly identified as significant symbols.
No symbols are correctly identified.
Identify Motif(s)
All motifs are correctly identified as important recurring features or ideas in the story.
Some motifs are correctly identified, but others are missing or incorrect.
No motifs are correctly identified.
Examples
All examples support the identified themes, symbols, and motifs. Descriptions clearly explain how the examples connect to the broader themes, symbols, and motifs.
Most examples fit the identified themes, symbols, and motifs. Most descriptions attempt to explain how the examples connect to the broader themes, symbols, and motifs.
Most examples do not fit the identified themes, symbols, and motifs. Descriptions are unclear.
Depiction
Storyboard cells clearly show connection with the themes, symbols, and motifs and help with understanding.
Most storyboard cells help to show the themes, symbols, and motifs, but some storyboard cells are difficult to understand.
Storyboard cells do not help in understanding the themes, symbols, and motifs.




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