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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 story, and support their choices with details from the text.


Themes to Look For and Discuss

The Evils of Imperialism

The story highlights the evils of imperialism, including the dirty work of neglected prisoners and bamboo beatings. The narrator is plagued with guilt over the part he plays in perpetuating the treatment of the Burmans. The story also highlights the cycle of resentment that comes with a people who are being oppressed by a despotic government: the more they rebel and mistreat the occupying forces, the more the occupying forces’ disdain increases and the punishments become more severe. This leads to more resentment by the people, and more resentment by the occupiers. The Burmans are unarmed, totally reliant on the British government, impoverished, and subjugated. The narrator is a part of this imperial machine, but he hates it because he sees its downsides and its victims.


The Crisis of Conscience

The narrator struggles with his conscience over killing the elephant. After he shoots the elephant, he finds that he didn’t do it correctly, and the suffering of the animal causes him to eventually have to walk away. He finds out later that the elephant took a half an hour to die; he is plagued by this guilt for many years afterwards because he knows that he made the wrong decision for all of the wrong reasons.


The Struggle with Pride

The narrator struggles with his conscience because he doesn’t want to look like a fool by walking away from the elephant in front of the Burman crowd. Even worse, he doesn’t want to accidentally be killed by the elephant, which the crowd would observe with laughter. He muses that his predicament is a reflection of the “futility of the white man’s dominion in the East.” He sees himself as a puppet whose strings are being pulled by the crowd, and that even though his position is supposed to put him in control, he very much is not in control of anything at all.



Motifs & Symbols to Look For and Discuss

The Elephant

The elephant can be seen as a symbol of the people oppressed by British Imperialism. The elephant is chained up but breaks free, and follows its natural behavior. When it has expended its energies and revenge, it is peaceful. However, despite its calm and peaceful demeanor, it is punished not because of its sins, but because of the arbitrary ideals of the man holding the rifle, who is desperately trying to hold on to his semblance of power—much like the despotic government itself.


The Crowd

The Burmans are not merely spectators to the scene; they act as a catalyst for the narrator’s decision to take action against the elephant. The narrator knows that if he stands in front of the elephant and it doesn’t charge him, then the elephant is over his rage; however, to simply walk away from the crowd without doing anything would make him look stupid. The crowd’s expectations challenge the narrator’s ego and authority, and causes him to violate his conscience.



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 that identifies recurring themes in “Shooting An Elephant”. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


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



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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