The Most Dangerous Game Lesson Plans

Published in 1924, "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell is a fascinating short story about a big game hunter, Sanger Rainsford, and his fateful meeting on a deserted island with the deranged General Zaroff. It is a story that is filled with mystique and suspense. With deft pacing, the story builds tension and action as the hunter becomes the hunted! "The Most Dangerous Game" lesson plans at Storyboard That are sure to keep your students engaged and wanting to learn more!

Student Activities for The Most Dangerous Game

"The Most Dangerous Game" Questions

  1. How can an author build suspense? How is this achieved in "The Most Dangerous Game" short story?
  2. What are the main themes of this story?
  3. Who is General Zaroff in "The Most Dangerous Game"? Who or what does he symbolize?
  4. What does General Zaroff want to do with Rainsford?
  5. Who are the other characters in this story? Why are they important?
  6. What is the setting of this story? Be sure to consider the location and the time period in which the story takes place. Why is setting so important?

"The Most Dangerous Game" Summary

Beware! This short summary contains spoilers! Teachers should use this summary as a reference and it should not be shared with students.

Sanger Rainsford, a big game hunter, is on his way to the Amazon by boat, accompanied by his friend Whitney and crew. The men stay up late, discussing their beliefs about predator and prey as they sail past the mysterious and dark “Ship-Trap Island”. After Whitney goes to sleep, Rainsford hears gunshots coming from the island, and falls off the boat while trying to get a better look and dropping his pipe.

He swims to the island from where he heard the gunshots, as his boat sails away into the distance. He finds his way to a rather large chateau, where he encounters Ivan, a large and burly man who is holding a gun. Ivan refuses to allow Rainsford inside, but soon the proprietor of the house, General Zaroff, appears and immediately recognizes Rainsford. Knowing that Rainsford is the famous hunter, General Zaroff warmly welcomes him and invites him for dinner. Zaroff claims to be a hunter himself, and as they are enjoying their dinner, he tells Rainsford that the sport has simply become too easy and he needs more of a challenge. Rainsford is shocked and terrified when he comes to understand what Zaroff wants and needs: to hunt human beings.

The next day, Zaroff tells Rainsford that hunting humans has become too easy, as the sailors who are lured onto the island no longer give him the satisfaction of the hunt. When Rainsford demands to leave the island, Zaroff tells him he will be set free if he can survive the next three days: Rainsford is Zaroff’s new prey. Rainsford is provided some essentials such as food, clothing, and a knife, presumably to make the game “fair”, and sets off into the night creating a twisted path in the jungle to throw Zaroff off track. Although Zaroff is able to find Rainsford easily, he does not capture him right away, hoping to prolong the excitement of the hunt.

For three days and two nights, Rainsford manages to outwit Zaroff, setting elaborate traps involving quicksand, wooden stakes, and foliage brush to delay the hunter. When Zaroff’s hound dogs corner him without escape, Rainsford makes the decision to jump into the rough and rocky water below. Disappointed that the hunt did not end the way he wanted it to, Zaroff returns home where Rainsford awaits him in the darkness of his bedroom. In the end, Rainsford wins the battle and Zaroff becomes the prey.

”The Most Dangerous Game” is a story of suspense and adventure that also encourages readers to ponder moral questions about right and wrong. Many adaptations of the story have been made, including television episodes, movies, and novels, and it is a story that continues to horrify and entertain students and adults of all ages.

Themes in “The Most Dangerous Game”

The theme of a story is an important idea that is woven throughout the events of the story. There are many themes in the story, and it is written in such a way that it encourages discussion and certainly differing opinions. With this in mind, it is important to understand and discuss the various themes that the author was trying to get across. We have provided some thought provoking questions for some of what we think are the most prominent themes in the story.

  1. The Difference Between Humans and Animals: How are animals and humans different? How are they similar? Is it more ethical to “hunt” an animal than it is to “hunt” a human, as Zaroff does in the story?

  2. Instinct vs. Reason: Instinct is defined as a natural response to something without having to think about it. Reasoning is defined as thinking about something in a logical, methodical manner. How are these both present in the story as Rainsford tries to survive Zaroff’s dangerous game?

  3. The Meaning of Civilization: Think about what a “civilized human being” looks like to you. General Zaroff is known as a sophisticated person. He has wealth and class, and good looks and elegance. Rainsford, on the other hand, is an exiled Cossack who comes from a very different civilization. What do their characteristics say about what kind of men they are? Who is civilized and who is not?

As an extension activity, have students choose a theme in the story and find examples of where this theme is prevalent within the text. Students can create a storyboard that compares the various themes, or a focus on one theme and map out where it appears in the text.

About the Author

Richard Connell was an American journalist and author, who was born in 1893 and died in 1949. In addition to being a journalist and being one of the most well known short story writers of his time, Connell was a screenwriter and even won the “Best Original Story” Academy Award for the movie, “Meet John Doe” in 1941. Connell went to Harvard University, where he was one of the editors for the college newspaper, The Harvard Crimson. While serving in World War I, Connell was the editor of his section’s newspaper. Throughout his lifetime, Connell wrote over 300 short stories, including “A Friend of Napoleon”, “Hero of the Devil’s Kitchen”, and “Big Lord Fauntleroy”. He is best known for “The Most Dangerous Game”.

Discussion Questions to Use in Pairs or Groups

These questions may be used during reading, or upon completion of the novel. While it is best to get students discussing what they’ve read, these questions can also be answered individually in a reader’s notebook. It is always such a joy to hear the different opinions that students have, even though they are reading the same novel!

  1. The story begins with some dialogue between Rainsford and his friend, Whitney. The two men discuss their views on predators and prey, and whether or not the hunted actually feel fear. After reading this story, why do you think this is such an important conversation and part of the story itself?

  2. Rainsford, the protagonist in the story, faces internal and external conflicts. What are the conflicts that he faces? Which one do you think is his biggest conflict?

  3. Zaroff, the antagonist in the story, also faces internal and external conflicts. What are the conflicts that he faces?

  4. What are the multiple meanings of the word “game”? Think about the title of the story, “The Most Dangerous Game”. Which meaning do you think the author intended for the title and throughout the story? Explain your reasoning.

  5. What is instinct? When General Zaroff says, “instinct is no match for reason”, what does he mean? Do you agree with this? Try to find some examples from the story where reason was used and where instinct was used to survive.

  6. Rainsford is a survivor. How does he survive and “win” this game that Zaroff creates? Discuss his strategies with your group. What would you have done differently? The same?

  7. What are your personal views on hunting? Do you think animals know they are being hunted? Discuss with your group.
  8. What does “survival of the fittest” mean? How does this relate to the story?

  9. Define the word, “irony”. What is ironic about this story and how it ended? Be sure to use specific examples from the story to support your reasoning.

  10. What do you think would’ve happened if the story had ended differently? What if Zaroff had “won the game”?

  11. So much has happened in the world since this story was originally published in 1924. Can you think of another book or movie that has a similar storyline? How does this story relate to today’s current events?

Ideas for Post-Reading Activities

Storyboard That is an excellent tool for students to create fun and engaging projects as a culminating activity after finishing a novel. In addition to our premade activities, here are some ideas that teachers can customize and assign to students to spark creativity in individual students, pairs, or small groups for a final project. Several of these ideas include Storyboard That templates that can be printed out or copied into your teacher dashboard and assigned digitally. All final projects can be printed out, presented as a slide show, or, for an extra challenge, as an animated GIF!

  1. For Groups: Choose a scene from the story and write a short play to reenact to the class. Use the traditional storyboard layout to plan out your scenes. You can add text to your storyboards, or simply use the cells to visualize each scene of your play.

  2. Using the timeline layout, retell the story in chronological order. Our timeline layout gives you the options to include year, month, day, and even hour! You may also choose to omit these altogether.

  3. Choose a setting from the story and create a map of the setting using the small poster or worksheet layout. Use free form or other text boxes to include a key or label the different parts of the map.

  4. Using one of Storyboard That’s board game templates, create a game based on the book for your classmates to play!

  5. For Groups: Divide the chapters of the book amongst your group members. Each member of the group creates a storyboard for their assigned chapter. This can be done as a collaborative project, or separately for longer novels.

  6. Using the worksheet layout and Storyboard That’s worksheet assets, create a test or a quiz for other students in the class. You can create all kinds of questions such as multiple choice, short answer, and even matching! When you are done, be sure to make an answer key.

  7. Using one of Storyboard That’s biography poster templates, create a poster about the character of your choice. Be sure to include important biographical features such as: place and date of birth, family life, accomplishments, etc.

  8. Choose a chapter from the novel and create a storyboard that shows that chapter from another character’s point of view. For an extra challenge, use the T-chart layout to compare the original point of view with another character’s point of view!

  9. Create a book jacket of the novel using one of Storyboard That’s book jacket templates. Use Storyboard That art to create the cover, and write a summary of the story on the back, just like real books have!

  10. Using one of Storyboard That’s social media templates as a starting point, create a social media page for one or more of the characters in the novel. Be sure to think how the character thinks while creating this page.

  11. Create a scrapbook page made by one of the characters in the novel. Storyboard That has lots of premade templates that you can use as is, or change to fit your character’s personality! Check out our scrapbook templates today!

Even MORE! “The Most Dangerous Game” Activities!

  1. Storyboard your favorite quote or scene from the short story and explain why it resonates with you.

  2. Author of "The Most Dangerous Game", Richard Connell, was a famed American author and journalist who is considered one of the most popular short story writers of his time. Conduct an "author study" and research his life and the other books he has written. Create a worksheet or poster sized storyboard with images and text to display your findings. This is a great pre-reading activity!

  3. Zaroff from "The Most Dangerous Game", is an antagonist. Find antagonists from other stories that you like, and compare and contrast them.

  4. Analyze various symbols and motifs present in "The Most Dangerous Game" and depict them in a storyboard with images and descriptions.

  5. This story has been modified and retold in many ways. Have students create a poster that advertises the movie version of the story. Students may want to include a brief summary, quotes, reviews, etc. Make it like the posters we see at the theaters!
  6. After the class has read the story, watch the movie version. Have students take notes as they watch, making sure to notice major differences and similarities.

Buy The Most Dangerous Game on Amazon

How to Explore the Symbols and Themes in "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell


Identify the Symbols

Read "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell carefully and identify the symbols used throughout the story. Symbols can be objects, actions, or characters that represent deeper meanings or ideas. Look for symbols related to hunting, animals, and the island.


Analyze the Symbolism

Analyze the symbolism in "The Most Dangerous Game" by considering the context in which the symbols appear and their potential interpretations. Reflect on how the symbols contribute to the overall themes and message of the story, such as the blurred line between hunter and prey.


Identify the Main Themes

Identify the main themes present in "The Most Dangerous Game." Themes can be recurring ideas, concepts, or emotions that the author explores in the story. Look for themes related to survival, morality, the thrill of the hunt, and the nature of evil.


Analyze the Themes

Analyze the themes in "The Most Dangerous Game" by examining how they are developed throughout the story. Consider how the characters' actions, dialogue, and conflicts contribute to the exploration of these themes. Reflect on the author's intended message or commentary on these themes.


Create a Storyboard

Create a storyboard using Storyboard That's customizable templates to visually represent the symbols and themes in "The Most Dangerous Game." Choose appropriate scenes, characters, and symbols to depict the key moments and ideas in the story. Add captions or descriptions to explain the significance of each element.

Frequently Asked Questions about "The Most Dangerous Game"

Who is Zaroff from “The Most Dangerous Game”?

General Zaroff is a wealthy and entitled man who isn’t what he appears to be. A well-spoken man with impeccable manners, one would think that Zaroff is one of the good guys. However, Zaroff is a deranged maniac who derives pleasure from watching others suffer.

What does General Zaroff want to do with Rainsford?

General Zaroff wants to play a little game with Rainsford, a big game hunter on the deserted island. Zaroff tells Rainsford that, if he can survive being “hunted” by Zaroff for three days, he will be allowed to leave the island. Zaroff sees this as a fun game, while it is truly a life or death situation for Rainsford.

Who are the main characters in “The Most Dangerous Game” short story?

There are two main characters in this story. Sanger Rainsford is a big game hunter and the protagonist of the story. General Zaroff, on the other hand, claims to be a hunter but is really just interested in the thrill of the chase; he is the antagonist.

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