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Activity Overview


Valuable aspects of any work of literature are its themes, symbols, and motifs. Part of the Common Core ELA standards is to introduce and explain these complex concepts. However, abstract ideas are often difficult for students to internalize without much assistance. Using a storyboard, students can visually demonstrate their understanding of these concepts and master deep analysis of these literary elements. For best practices, see our article with specific lesson plan steps on setting up your classroom and activities for themes, symbols, and motifs.

An example of this in the classroom could be to track the themes and symbols George Eliot uses in Silas Marner to communicate with the reader.


Silas Marner Themes, Motifs, and Symbols to Look For and Discuss

Loneliness and Despair

A common theme in literature is "loneliness". Throughout this novel, many characters experience their own type of loneliness or isolation. It is very interesting to track this theme and its implications as the story progresses. Some characters have physical isolation or loneliness, such as Silas. Other characters exhibit mental loneliness, like Godfrey. He experiences loneliness when he cannot tell the ones he loves the truth about his lies.


Betrayal, Blackmail, and Lies

Many characters will are lied to, blackmailed, or betrayed. Silas is betrayed by William in Lantern Yard, as well as by those who cast him out of town. He was also betrayed when Dunstan stole his money. The theme of lies is most evident with Godfrey. By concealing his secret marriage, hiding the fact that Eppie was his child, and lying to Nancy, it inevitably costs Godfrey what was truly important to him. Overall, these themes are important to the story, demonstrating corrupt deeds are never rewarded.


Trust

Silas has a very hard time learning to trust people. Having been framed and then stolen from, Silas does not find trusting people to be an easy task. It is only in the end when Eppie proves her love to Silas that he believes in love and the people he loves.


Money

Silas’ money becomes a symbol of his own demise. He begins to worship his gold coins and believes that the faces on each are his friends. His attachment to inanimate object shows his lack of trust in others. He fixates on the gold coins because, unlike people, they cannot betray him, leave him, or forsake him.


The Loom

Silas’ loom is a major symbol in his life. Despite being his means of income, the loom also symbolizes Silas’ solitude and his industrious nature. It also aids in portraying Silas’ desolate life and adds to the metaphor of Silas as a spider: hunched over his loom, with his rather large, protruding eyes, weaving constantly.


The Hearth

As a universal symbol, hearths typically represent the warmth and happiness of a home. For Silas, it symbolizes much more. It represents the gift that came to him, his child Eppie, and the love that he found after he had been forsaken and stolen from.


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/11-12/1] Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/11-12/2] Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text
  • [ELA-Literacy/SL/11-12/2] Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data


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 Silas Marner. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


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