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Activity Overview


Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes and symbols from the novel, and support their choices with details from the text.


Themes, Motifs, and Imagery to Look For and Discuss

The Importance of Progress

Drummond and Brady were once good friends; Drummond even supported Brady’s bids for the presidency. Alone, Brady reminds Drummond of that and wonders why they have grown so far apart. Drummond responds, “All motion is relative. Perhaps it is you who have moved away—by standing still.” These words are a sharp rebuke of Brady and leave him stunned. Drummond is saying to Brady that progress is coming to their world, but in Brady’s stubborn refusal to accept anything other than the Bible’s literal word, he is doing himself a disservice. He is not progressing; he is falling behind while the rest of the world marches forward. In Drummond’s examination of Brady on the stand, he comments that the advance of man’s knowledge is a miracle, but progress has never been a bargain. In being able to reason, as humankind was “plagued” to do by God, sometimes we are lead in a different direction. This is progress.


Freedom of Thought

The very act of sharing an idea has put Bertram Cates into prison, and on trial. Freedom to think is also on trial here, as Drummond points out. Bert is threatened with a fine and imprisonment because he chose to share what he thinks with his class. His academic freedom to share ideas with his students is at stake, and will set the stage for other cases that will come forward against the Butler Act and other laws that force church and state together.


Truth

To Drummond, “right” is unimportant; truth is what drives him and drives this case. The truth of the case is that the law is unjust in limiting ideas and the spread of those ideas. This is censorship, and violates the separation of church and state and the freedom of speech, both of which are protected by the Constitution.

Later, Drummond tells Cates an anecdote about a rocking horse he once wanted, named Golden Dancer. He used to stand outside of the general store and think that if he had Golden Dancer, he’d have everything. Drummond finally got Golden Dancer for his birthday, and as he sat on it to rock, it broke in two. The craftsmanship of the horse on the inside was poor, disguised by the artwork and accessories on the outside. He uses this anecdote to point out to Bert that everything that glitters is not gold, and he needs to show it up for the lie that it is. Truth should not be hidden behind a coat of paint; it is what should guide everyone, and everyone - even Brady, as Drummond later points out - should have the right to be wrong, as long as he is being truthful.


Motifs & Symbols

The Radio

The radio man, Harry Esterbrook, brings in his microphone to capture the first public event ever broadcast on radio. This represents progress, albeit technological progress, sneaking its way into the small town of Hillsboro. The fact that people all over the country are able to witness the unfair verdict in favor of a possibly unconstitutional law, will drum up support for Bert and his plight. It is progress into the modern world, one that is governed by science and technology, rather than religion and superstitions.


Darwin’s Book

Darwin’s book Origin of Species represents the importance of free thought. Bert’s inability to even present this opposing theory of evolution flies in the face of the First Amendment, and seriously restricts the children's abilities to learn more about other beliefs.


The Verdict

The verdict sets up an appeal on a much larger stage. The appeal will bring the case even further into the public eye, and fosters conversation about whether opposing thoughts can be censored in public schools in favor of a religious theory. The verdict prompts the reader to think back to the theme of truth, which should guide all decisions and laws. Honest truth allows for both sides to be presented, and perhaps, like Rachel says, the sickly ideas will die off if they are truly harmful to society.


Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 9-10

Difficulty Level 3 (Developing to Mastery)

Type of Assignment Individual or Partner

Type of Activity: Themes, Symbols & Motifs

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/3] Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/5] Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise
  • [ELA-Literacy/SL/9-10/2] Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source


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 depicting themes, symbols, and motifs from the story.

  1. Use the template provided by your teacher.
  2. In the left column, identify themes, symbols, or motifs.
  3. In the right column, describe their importance to the story.
  4. Illustrate each example with appropriate characters, scenes, and items.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.


Rubric

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



Themes, Symbols, and Motifs (Grades 9-12)
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 Needs Improvement
Identification of Theme(s), Symbol(s), and/or Motif(s)
All themes are correctly identified as important recurring topics or messages in the story. Symbols are correctly identified as objects that represent something else at a higher level in the story. Motifs are correctly identified as important recurring features or ideas in the story.
Most themes are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete. Most symbols are correctly identified, but some objects are missing or incomplete. Some motifs are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete.
Most themes are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most symbols are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most motifs are missing, incomplete, or incorrect.
No themes, symbols, or motifs are correctly identified.
Examples and Descriptions
Quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motifs that are being identified. Descriptions mostly accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s), and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are minimal, incorrect, or unrelated to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions contain inaccuracies in their explanations, or do not highlight their significance to the story.
Examples and descriptions are missing or too minimal to score.
Depiction
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are accurate to the story and reflect time, effort, thought, and care with regard to placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are mostly accurate to the story. They reflect time and effort put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are inaccurate to the story. The depictions may be rushed or show minimal effort, time, and care put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Most depictions are missing too many elements or are too minimal to score. Little time or effort has been put into placement and creation of the scenes.
English Conventions
There are no errors in spelling, grammar, or mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions reflect careful proofreading and accuracy to the story.
There are a few errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions show accuracy to the story and some proofreading.
There are several errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. Most writing portions do not reflect proofreading or accuracy to the story.
Errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics in writing portions of the storyboard seriously interfere with communication.




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