Activity Overview

There are many themes, symbols and motifs present throughout the novel Milkweed. Students can explore themes, symbols, and motifs in a novel by identifying a few and creating images and captions depicting examples from the text. Students can explore this by identifying a theme, symbol, or motif themselves or, in an “envelope activity” being given one or more to track throughout their reading. Then, students will create a storyboard illustrating the examples of that theme from the text. Teachers may assign themes and symbols for students to look for or allow students to select their own.

Examples of Themes in Milkweed

  • The Holocaust
  • Friendship
  • Identity
  • Courage
  • Family
  • Prejudice and Dehumanization
  • Kindness
  • Hope
  • Survival
  • The triumph of the human spirit

Examples of Symbols and Motifs in Milkweed

  • Milkweed
  • Janina's shoes
  • The stone angel
  • The carousel
  • Food
  • The missing cow in the Ghetto

Template and Class Instructions

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

Due Date:

Objective: Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes, symbols or motifs found in Milkweed. Illustrate each symbol and write a short description below each cell.

Student Instructions:

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the themes, symbols or motifs from Milkweed you wish to include and type them in the title box at the top.
  3. Create an image for examples that represent each symbol using appropriate scenes, characters, and items.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples in the black text box.

Lesson Plan Reference


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

Create a storyboard that identifies symbolism in the story. Illustrate instances of each and write a short description that explains the example's significance.
Proficient Emerging Beginning
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.
All examples support the identified symbols. Descriptions clearly say why examples are significant.
Most examples fit the identified symbols. Descriptions say why examples are significant.
Most examples do not fit the identified symbols. Descriptions are unclear.
Storyboard cells clearly show connection with the symbols and help with understanding.
Most storyboard cells help to show the symbols but some storyboard cells are difficult to understand.
Storyboard cells do not help in understanding the symbols.

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