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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.


The Wednesday Wars Themes

People are not always what they seem

As he matures, Holling changes his opinions about the people around him. At first, he believes Mrs. Baker is an evil teaching machine, but later discovers that she is a former Olympic athlete with a soft heart. Holling also discovers that his idol, Mickey Mantle, is not actually a nice guy. Finally, he realizes that his father is not as wise as he once assumed. Other characters bear out this theme as well. Heather discovers that her boyfriend is not the wonderful person she had thought after he leaves her on her own in Minneapolis. Holling’s school community, and particularly Mrs. Bigio, also learn that it is wrong to judge Mai Thi based on her Vietnamese origins. Although they associate her with their enemies overseas, they eventually realize that, on the inside, she is no different from any of the American girls her age.


We must choose our own identities

Throughout The Wednesday Wars, Holling is struggling to find his identity. At home, he is the Hoodhood heir, dutiful successor to his father’s architectural firm. At school, however, he begins to explore his strengths and think for himself as he reads the Shakespeare Mrs. Baker assigns. Like the sprite Ariel, who longs to be free, Holling must escape the confines of expectation in order to live out his destiny. By the end of the book, he has begun to realize this when he decides that he does not want to be like his father. He proves his independence of mind when he boldly tells his father what it means to be a man after Danny’s bar mitzvah.



The Wednesday Wars Motifs & Symbols

Holling’s yellow tights with white feathers

The tights Holling is forced to wear for his role of Ariel represent humiliation. Doug Swieteck's brother humiliates Holling when he plasters the newspaper photo of Holling's in his tights all over the school. The tights also lead Mickey Mantle, Holling’s hero, to mock him and refuse to provide an autograph. The tights are also a sign of Holling's insecurities and lack of confidence early in the year. He obsesses over what others will think of him and discourages his friends from attending the play due to his costume.


The collapsed ceiling in the perfect house

The collapsed ceiling represents the destruction of the "perfect house." As Mr. Hoodhood continues to pursue his career while ignoring the needs of his children, Holling begins to realize that his home is far from perfect. In fact, the tensions in his home have made his family quite fragile. This becomes increasingly clear when Heather runs away and Holling’s parents stop talking to each other. The collapse of Holling’s house mirrors the collapse of his family.


Shakespeare’s plays

Shakespearean plays are a recurring motif throughout The Wednesday Wars. Shakespeare's plays address many of the issues Holling faces in his daily life, including love, justice, betrayal, fear, hope, and identity. Mrs. Baker assigns Holling only comedies and tragedies, fitting for a book that mixes the comic foibles of Holling's seventh grade with the serious matters of the Vietnam war, the civil rights movement, and the deaths of MLK and RFK. The novel is clearly marked as a comedy, however, by its conclusion. Mrs. Baker tells Holling that “comedy is about characters who dare to know that they may choose a happy ending after all”. In the last chapter, Holling dares to stand up to his father and choose his own future. Even more tellingly, the novel’s last scene shows Mrs. Baker joyfully reuniting with her husband, paralleling the romantic conclusions of Shakespeare’s comedies.


Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 6-8

Difficulty Level 5 (Advanced / Mastery)

Type of Assignment Individual, Partner, or Group

Type of Activity: Themes, Symbols & Motifs

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/6/2] Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/6/4] Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/6/5] Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/7/2] Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/7/4] Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/8/2] Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/8/4] Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts


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 The Wednesday Wars. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s) from The Wednesday Wars 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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