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Activity Overview

Themes, symbols, and motifs are valuable aspects of any literary work, and they add richness to stories. Part of the Common Core ELA standards is to introduce and explain these complex concepts. However, abstract ideas are often difficult for students to analyze 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 supplementary article with specific lesson plan steps on setting up your classroom and activities to teach themes, symbols, and motifs.

In the classroom, students can track the rich themes, symbols, and motifs in Holes and analyze the roles they play in the story.

Themes, Motifs, and Imagery to Look for and Discuss

The Benefits of Friendship

Ask students to depict each time a friendship benefits someone in the novel. Afterwards, have a discussion about how each friendship was good and mutually helped both parties.

The Destructive Power of Cruelty

Each time students see someone being mean or cruel they should make a note of this and depict it. After, have them look at what each of these events has in common. See if your students can articulate the theme on their own. Hopefully, they will conclude that mean or destructive people are not rewarded in the novel.

The Legacy of History

Ask students to track how Stanley’s history continues to come up in his daily life. Episodes like Stanley I surviving the desert after being robbed by Kate, or the discovery of the treasure chest. Tracking these events will show students the importance of personal histories. This will also aid in uncovering some mysteries when reading, and add to excitement as students start making predictions.

The Intervention of Fate

Fate often determines the course of events in Stanley’s life. Although Stanley believes he is cursed, it is fate that seems to bring the Zeroni and Yelnats families together. Have students track all the different ways they see fate in Stanley’s life.

Storyboard Example: Cruelty in Holes

The WardenThe Warden is cruel and mean. She demonstrates her cruel authority with rattlesnake venom nail polish. In the end, her cruelty is rewarded with her arrest.
Kissing KateKate starts as a nice school teacher, but when her love, Sam, is killed, she turns to revenge. She robs and steals, ultimately dying from the bite of a yellow spotted lizard.
Yellow Spotted LizardsYellow Spotted Lizards are deadly. They are a sign of nature’s cruelty, brought on by the drought. However, their weakness is onions.

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies themes in Holes. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s) from Holes you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for an example that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.

Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/W/4/8] Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; take notes and categorize information, and provide a list of sources.
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/5/3] Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/5/5] Explain how a series of chapters, scenes, or stanzas fits together to provide the overall structure of a particular story, drama, or poem.


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

Create a storyboard that identifies themes in the story. Illustrate examples of each theme and write a short description below each cell.
Proficient Emerging Beginning
Identify Theme(s)
All themes are correctly identified and described.
Some themes are correctly identified.
No themes are correctly identified.
Examples of Theme(s)
All examples support the identified theme(s).
Most examples fit the identified theme(s).
Most examples do not fit the theme(s).
Illustrate Theme
Images clearly show connection with the theme(s).
Some images help to show the theme.
Images do not help in understanding the theme.

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