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


Tuesdays with Morrie Themes to Look For and Discuss

Living a Meaningful Life

When Mitch graduated from college, he believed he was a man with ambition and convictions, and he imagined himself following these. However, he got wrapped up in work and making more money, which hasn’t left him feeling fulfilled. Morrie, however, has figured out the things that create a meaningful life, such as rejecting the culture of money, focusing on family and love, and living every day as if it is his last. By doing this, he learns how to live once he learns how to die.


The Importance of Forgiveness

Mitch feels intense guilt over the life he has led. Morrie, however, knows that learning to forgive oneself for our past decisions is just as important as forgiving others for what they have done to us. There are two reasons why forgiveness is important, according to Morrie: the first is that regrets don’t help people when they’re at the end. The second is that not everyone is lucky enough to get the time that Morrie has in order to forgive. Unresolved guilt is a powerful distraction from living a meaningful life.


Overcoming Fear

Morrie and Mitch talk about two kinds of fear: the fear of dying, which Morrie works through with his “detachment” method, and the fear of aging. Not only does our culture attempt to ignore aging in advertising, but many people look back on their youth in their older ages with desire to be that age again. Morrie embraces aging. He finds that he has learned and grown more from aging, and even despite his illness, he is enjoying it. He tells Mitch, “If you’re always battling getting older, you’re always going to be unhappy, because it will happen anyhow.”


Acknowledging Emotions

Morrie works through his fear and overwhelming emotions by “detaching”; rather, he acknowledges what they are, feels them completely, and then lets them go. By not burying his feelings below, he can keep himself from becoming overwhelmed by emotions such as fear, loneliness, and grief. Mitch finds this an important lesson personally because he tries to bury his own emotions and holds back from others, which has caused a wedge between himself, his wife, and even his brother.



Tuesdays with Morrie Motifs & Symbols to Look For and Discuss

The Hibiscus Plant

The hibiscus plant in Morrie’s study is something that Mitch seems to notice as he visits with Morrie. It’s small, but durable, and while Morrie withers, the plant holds on. Morrie uses the plant as a chance to demonstrate that people are connected with nature, and as with all things in nature, people and plants both die. The thing that separates humans from the plants, however, that humans have a chance to be remembered because of the love we create and share.


Food

Every Tuesday, Mitch brings food from the local supermarket with him when he visits Morrie. While Morrie soon can no longer eat most solid foods, his eyes light up at the sight of the bags Mitch brings anyways. For the two men, it reminds them of their lunches they used to have back when Mitch was a student, and Mitch enjoys the fact that Morrie is not particularly careful while he eats.


School and Professors

Morrie’s story is told to Mitch as sort of a “final thesis”. Mitch Albom structures the memoir as a final class, with each Tuesday meeting covering a different topic. Morrie himself wants to be remembered as a “Teacher to the Last”, and he values his time with Mitch as an opportunity to share his lessons from his “experiment” with dying.


The O. J. Simpson Trial

As Mitch is visiting Morrie in his final months, it is right in the middle of the O. J. Simpson murder trial which captured the nation’s attention for almost an entire year. Mitch often sees coverage of the trial during his travels, and the verdict even comes during a visit to Morrie. However, Mitch uses the trial to juxtapose the fact that the entire country is concerned with a murder trial, but no one is really focusing on living for what matters, like Morrie.


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 Tuesdays with Morrie. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s) from Tuesdays with Morrie 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.
  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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