The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Teacher Guide by Kristy Littlehale

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Five People You Meet in Heaven Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Five People You Meet in Heaven Include:

What happens when we die? This is an age-old question that Mitch Albom gives a creative, compelling, and emotional answer to in his novel The Five People You Meet in Heaven. When Eddie, an elderly maintenance man at Ruby Pier amusement park, is killed in a freak ride accident, he goes on to the next world to find out the meaning of his life. Eddie faced some very confusing and unhappy times throughout his 83 years, and often wondered, Why me? This is a thought echoed by many of us as we face trials in our own life journeys. Eddie gets to find out why with the help of five very special people who await his arrival in Heaven. He learns important lessons, including that everything is connected and that love never dies. This book is a great way to stir the imaginations of students, and to cover a topic that many kids encounter too soon: death and the afterlife.

Five People You Meet in Heaven Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

The Five People You Meet in Heaven Summary

Copy Assignment

A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the story in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.

Example The Five People You Meet in Heaven Plot Diagram


Eddie is an elderly maintenance man at Ruby Pier. He is a widower who keeps to himself, and doesn’t really like to be bothered. He will make little animals out of pipe cleaners for children, like little Amy or Annie.


A few months prior, a young man named Nicky had ridden on Freddy’s Free-Fall, and had lost his car key into the mechanism of the ride. The key jammed a pulley, which stripped the cable of the ride and caused a malfunction of the ride. As they get the people off of the ride to safety, Eddie sees little Amy or Annie at the base of the ride. She will be crushed, so he runs to save her

Rising Action

Eddie finds himself in Heaven, and he must learn several important lessons before he can move on to the next step. From the Blue Man, he discovers that all stories are connected. From his Captain, he learns the importance of sacrifice. From Ruby, he learns to forgive his father. From Marguerite, he learns that love never dies.


Eddie meets Tala, and she tells him that he burned her. Eddie is devastated to learn that he had helped set fire to a hut that she was hiding in, and she died as a result. He learns that she hadn’t been a figment of his imagination, and he was responsible for her death.

Falling Action

Tala has Eddie wash her with a rock, which cleanses her from her burns. He is still sad though, because he feels like he wasted his life. She tells him that his purpose on earth had been to keep children safe, and that while he had saved Amy or Annie, Tala had pulled Eddie to Heaven to keep him safe.


Eddie and Marguerite are reunited with each other, and Eddie waits in line for Amy or Annie to arrive in Heaven. He is going to teach her the first lesson: that everyone is connected, and all stories are one.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

  1. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Character Map Graphic Organizer for The Five People You Meet in Heaven

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As students read, a storyboard can serve as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information about important characters. When reading a novel, small attributes and details frequently become important as the plot progresses. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!

Example Character Analysis


Physical Traits:

  • 83 years old
  • walks with a limp and a cane
  • squat, white-haired older man
  • short neck
  • barrel chest

Character Traits

  • Keeps to himself
  • likes children, but dislikes teenagers
  • feels like he didn’t do enough with his life
  • feels guilt and anger over losing Marguerite to brain cancer

Quote: “I was sad because I didn’t do anything with my life. I was nothing. I accomplished nothing. I was lost."

Other characters included in this map are

  • Marguerite
  • The Blue Man (Joseph)
  • The Captain
  • Ruby
  • Tala

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.

  1. Identify the major characters in The Five People You Meet in Heaven and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a character to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  3. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  4. Fill in the Textables for Physical Traits, Character Traits, and Quote.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Themes, Symbols, and Motifs in The Five People You Meet in Heaven

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.

Themes and Ideas to Discuss

The Interconnectedness of All Life

The Blue Man teaches Eddie that all life is connected. Eddie inadvertently ended Joseph’s life when he ran out into traffic after a baseball, causing the heart attack that struck Joseph’s weakened heart. There are no coincidences. Often times, students will be able to recall experiences where it seemed like fate stepped in, or where they can see how “coincidence" happens.

The Necessity of Sacrifice

Sometimes, sacrifice is hard; it’s the surrender of one’s own dreams or plans in order to allow the dreams or plans of someone else to happen. The Captain sacrificed Eddie’s knee in order to save Eddie’s life; furthermore, the Captain sacrificed his life when he stepped on the land mine while opening the gate so that the other men of his unit could drive through to safety. Eddie made his sacrifice when he took over his father’s job at the Pier and moved into his parents’ building to keep an eye on his mother after his father died.

The Importance of Forgiveness

Eddie held onto his anger for his father for a long time; however, the only person he was hurting was himself. His father is gone, and Eddie has not come across him in Heaven – just his inanimate memory in Ruby’s diner. Once Eddie learns to forgive his father, he flushes the anger out of him, which has no place in Heaven. He doesn’t need the anger or the hatred anymore. He is able to move on and become a better version of himself, without allowing his father’s mistakes to hold him back anymore.

The Power of Love

Marguerite teaches Eddie that when a person dies, love does not; it is an eternal emotion, and it doesn’t simply get wiped away because someone leaves physically. Most students will be able to grasp this concept quite easily. Marguerite also teaches Eddie that love takes on a new form: memory. Love continues to be honored and cherished every time it is remembered.

The Purpose of Life

The meaning of life, the purpose of life… it’s the age-old question that no one knows. We hope that one day we’ll learn, but we can never be sure. For Eddie, the mundane tasks of his everyday life at Ruby Pier make him feel like a failure. He feels like he never became anything more in life, and that he let Marguerite down. He is granted a special gift when he meets Tala, because despite her devastating news, he finds that he was meant to be working at Ruby Pier – it was not an accident. His “mundane" work kept thousands of children, and as a result, their children, safe for over 50 years. His life was not a waste. It was meaningful, and he was exactly where he was supposed to be.

Motifs & Symbols to Look For

Ruby Pier

Eddie has a love-hate relationship with Ruby Pier. It is a place where he has many fond memories, but also a place where he feels he has been stuck for his entire life. For the Blue Man, Ruby Pier is the only place where he has ever felt accepted. For Ruby, the Pier represents the destruction of her beloved Emile. It is where all of their stories intersect, and where Eddie makes a sacrifice for his father, and then for Amy or Annie.

The Diner

Ruby’s diner in Heaven represents the times before Ruby Pier existed, when she and Emile had their entire lives and a world of promise stretched ahead of them. It is also where Eddie learns to forgive his father. He tells his father that he forgives him for the imprints he left on his childhood glass, and this allows Eddie to finally let go of his anger and to move on.

The Weddings

The different weddings Marguerite has in her own Heaven represent the power of love. On wedding days, everyone is filled with happiness, and their future is filled with promise. Marguerite also keeps their own wedding reception special for his arrival, because for her, it represents the start of their love which will never die.

The Rock and Washing Ritual

The rock and washing ritual that Eddie does for Tala allows him to forgive himself for his mistake all those years ago; it cleanses something inside of him, and his tangled emotions finally exhaust themselves. As he cleans away Tala’s burned, disfigured skin, he cleans away his burned, disfigured emotions that keep him chained to his life. He discovers the meaning of his life, and the way he made up for his mistake at the hut: he kept children safe.

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Character Evolution in The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Copy Assignment

Eddie changes physically and emotionally over the course of the novel as he learns different lessons and new information from his five people. Use the activity for Character Evolution with your students to help them keep track of how Eddie evolves throughout the course of the novel.

Eddie's Character Evolution Example

Exposition83-year old gentleman, dutifully maintaining rides at Ruby Pier; he walks in pain from an old injury; he keeps to himself Eddie is a widower who lost his wife when she was only 47 years old. He took over the maintenance job at Ruby Pier after his father’s death, and he blames his father for being stuck at that job. He has a knee injury that bothers him from the war.
Conflict/Rising ActionFeels young again in Heaven and not in pain; then the old injury comes back; confused; can’t figure out why he is there; guilty Eddie is transitioning through his childhood, to his time as a soldier. Along the way, he is learning lessons, but he is also learning that he accidentally killed the Blue Man, his Captain is the one who shot him, and his Captain died as they were trying to flee the coal mining village. He is also filled with anger and hatred at seeing his father, but soon learns he needs to let go.
ClimaxEddie is old and feeling like he did at the time of his death on earth again; sad; lonely; despairing Eddie has just learned that love never dies from Marguerite, but then she has left him again. He misses her. He sees Tala, and he discovers that he accidentally killed her; he is devastated, and feels like he didn’t do anything with his life.
Falling ActionHopeful; peaceful; enlightened Tala reveals to Eddie that it was no accident that he worked at Ruby Pier; he was supposed to be there, and that because of his work, he kept many children safe. In doing so, he has made up for what he did to Tala.
ResolutionEnlightened; pain-free; at home Now that Eddie has learned all that he needs to learn, he feels free and filled with understanding about his life. He is reunited with Marguerite, and he is now waiting in line to greet Amy or Annie when she arrives.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows the evolution of Eddie throughout the course of The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

  1. Use the Character Evolution Template to get started.
  2. Break the story down into Exposition, Conflict/Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution. What traits does Eddie have?
  3. Illustrate one or more of the traits for each stage of the story.
  4. Identify major events in each part of the story that affected Eddie.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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My People, Their Lessons, My Heaven Activity for The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Throughout the novel, Eddie learns five important lessons from his five people:

  1. All people are connected
  2. Sacrifice is essential
  3. The importance of forgiveness
  4. Love never dies
  5. The purpose of his life, which in Eddie’s case was to keep children safe

These are important lessons that help Eddie come to terms with his past so that he can be at peace in Heaven. Have students think about people in their own lives whom they have learned important lessons from. Ask students to pick three people they would like to meet in Heaven, and what kinds of lessons they would teach them. Then, have them decide what their own Heavens would look like. Put these elements into a five-cell spider map, like the one below.

Student Example for My People, Their Lessons, My Heaven Activity

Student Name: Kate

Cell 1
My Grandma
My Grandma has taught me many things in life, but especially compassion for others. You never know what kinds of battles other people are fighting in their personal lives, so you need to show compassion for everyone, even if they don’t always deserve it.
Cell 2
My Best Friend, Kayla
My best friend Kayla has the ability to make me laugh all the time, even when I’m sad. I’ve learned the importance of laughter and keeping a sense of humor from her, even during the rough times. It makes everything a lot easier to deal with when you can release stress through a moment of happiness.
Cell 3
My Dad
My Dad has always taught me the importance of being reliable. When you tell someone that you are going to be somewhere, or do something for them, you need to make sure you follow through. If not, you’re degrading your own name, and at the end of the day, that’s all anyone has.
Cell 4
My Heaven – Setting
My Heaven would be in outer space, so I could explore all of the planets and stars that everyone always wants to know about!
Cell 5
My Heaven – Important Things to Have
In my Heaven, all of my family and friends would be there, and my dog, Howie. I would make sure there’s plenty of candy for everyone, and a grill for my Dad to cook at, because he makes the best burgers.

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Vocabulary Lesson Plan for The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Copy Assignment

Another great way to engage your students is through the creation of storyboards that use vocabulary from The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Here is a list of a few vocabulary words commonly taught with the novel, and an example of a visual vocabulary board.

Example Vocabulary Words

  • cacophony
  • commodity
  • hoisted
  • abhorred
  • boardwalk
  • nimble
  • hydraulic
  • sever
  • restraint
  • paralysis
  • unravel
  • oddity
  • grotesque
  • ballyhoo
  • semaphore
  • influx
  • oblivion
  • pummel

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in Five People by creating visualizations.

  1. Choose three vocabulary words from the story and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary.
  3. Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word.
  4. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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A Synopsis of The Five People You Meet in Heaven (Contains Spoilers)

The novel takes place on Eddie’s 83rd birthday. Eddie is a maintenance man at Ruby Pier, and he doesn’t know that he is moments from his death. He walks with a painful limp – an old injury from his time as a soldier in World War II. A little girl comes up to him to ask him to make an animal out of pipe cleaners he keeps in his pocket. He can’t remember her name – Amy, or Annie? She runs off, and he listens to the sounds of the park again, which turn into horror as Freddy’s Free Fall malfunctions. Months earlier, a teenage boy named Nicky had lost his car key on the ride, and it had fallen into the mechanism, jamming a pulley. As a result, the cable stripped, and now four people hang precariously from the cart at the top of the ride. As Dominguez and Willie pull the people to safety, Eddie realizes that they will release the cart and the cable will snap. He sees little Amy or Annie at the base of the ride, knocked forward by the surge of the crowd. He runs toward her, dropping his cane, and then… nothing.

He wakes up in a teacup ride, finding that he is in the Ruby Pier of his childhood, some 75 years ago. He begins to run – the pain in his leg that has crippled him every day since the war is gone. He runs until he hears a voice inside the freak show tent. He walks inside and finds a man with no shirt on, whose skin was a sickly blue. Eddie learns that he has arrived in Heaven, and that he was killed in an accident. He also learns that he will be guided by five people, who will each help him understand his life on earth. The Blue Man’s skin color was caused by silver nitrate poisoning, which he was prescribed for his nerves. It also weakened his heart. When Eddie ran into the street after a new baseball he had gotten for his seventh birthday, he gave the Blue Man, who swerved to avoid hitting Eddie, a heart attack, killing him. Eddie soon finds that the Blue Man is there to teach him something: There are no random acts, and everyone is connected. The Blue Man disappears.

Eddie then finds himself as a soldier in the Philippines again, and his Captain is his second person. He discovers that shortly after they escaped from Japanese soldiers in a 6-month long captivity, his Captain had been killed when he stepped on a landmine to let their truck out of the village. The Captain was also the one who had given Eddie his limp by shooting him in the leg. They had decided to burn down the village in their escape, and Eddie thought he had seen the shadow of a child in one of the huts. He tried to go into the burning building, and the Captain thought he was losing his mind. He figured he could recover from a leg wound, so he shot him to get him out of there. The Captain is there to teach Eddie the next lesson he needs to learn on his journey: sacrifice is a part of life, and it is something to aspire to, not regret.

Eddie then finds himself at a diner in the middle of snowy mountains. He sees his father in the diner, but as much as he yells and bangs on the window, his father doesn’t react. Eddie and his father never really got along, and they never spoke again after an incident in Eddie’s twenties. Eddie still holds a lot of anger towards him. He discovers that he’s in Ruby’s – as in, Ruby Pier – heaven. She used to work at the diner and it’s where she met her husband Emile. Ruby is there to tell Eddie the truth about his father’s death. Eddie took over his father’s job and moved into his parents’ apartment building after his father’s death, and always feels like he was stuck. He had always believed that his father had gotten drunk and fallen into the ocean, causing pneumonia. It turns out, that his friend Mickey had tried to sexually assault his mother, and his father chased Mickey down to the ocean. Mickey, drunk, fell into the water, and his father had saved him. Ruby’s lesson for Eddie is to let go of his anger and hatred for his father. The harm that anger does is to the person who is angry; Eddie no longer needs to feel anger. He needs to forgive his father to move forward, which Eddie does.

Eddie finds himself in a room of doors. Every door leads to different wedding receptions from all cultures. Finally, he comes face-to-face with his wife, Marguerite. Eddie has a lot of lingering guilt over his life with Marguerite. Marguerite was eventually diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor and died at the age of 47. Marguerite tells Eddie that even though she was “gone" physically, she was never truly gone from him. Her lesson to Eddie is that while life has to end, love does not; love never dies. Eddie dances with Marguerite in the small room, where they had their own wedding reception. She changes back into the woman she was at 47 at Eddie’s request, and then, as they dance, she vanishes. Eddie is left in a sea of white, wishing for just one more moment with Marguerite.

Eddie suddenly finds himself at a river bank. A young Filipino girl, standing apart from other children playing in the river, waves Eddie over. Her name is Tala, and she speaks broken English. She tells Eddie that he burned her, that he “made fire.” Eddie is taken aback. Tala tells him that her mother had told her to hide in the hut from the soldiers, that she’d be safe there. This is the same hut that Eddie and his unit had burned down in their escape from the Japanese soldiers. Eddie realizes that he had not gone crazy – he really had seen a girl in the hut. He realizes that he is responsible for Tala’s grisly death and that he wasn’t able to save her, and he breaks down into uncontrollable sobbing.

Tala taps Eddie on the shoulder, holds out a rock, and tells Eddie to wash her with the rock. Her skin is suddenly badly burned, and her face is disfigured. Eddie gently scrubs the rock over her skin in a ritualistic cleansing, and the bad skin sloughs away to reveal healed skin. He does this until Tala is no longer disfigured by burns. Eddie tells Tala that he never felt like he did anything with his life. Tala, though, is there to tell him the meaning of his life, and the fact that he was supposed to be at Ruby Pier. With all of his maintenance, he kept children riding the rides safe. His purpose in life was to keep children safe. She then tells him, in answer to his continuing question of whether or not he pulled Amy or Annie to safety at Freddy’s Free Fall, that he did not pull Amy or Annie to safety. He pushed her to safety. Eddie is confused because he knows he had felt a child’s hands in his. Tala tells him that those hands were not Amy or Annie’s hands; they were Tala’s hands, pulling him to Heaven.

Suddenly, Eddie is pulled away from Tala by rising water. He finds himself at Ruby Pier’s ferris wheel, where a woman in a yellow dress is waiting for him in one of the carts: Marguerite. Meanwhile, while lines form at Ruby Pier on Earth once again, another line made up of five people forms for a little girl named Amy or Annie to finally answer her questions about why she lived, and what she lived for. Eddie waits there, too, to tell Amy or Annie that, “the world is full of stories, but the stories are all one."

Essential Questions for The Five People You Meet in Heaven

  1. What are some important lessons we should learn in our lives?
  2. How can people’s actions leave a permanent impression on others?
  3. What are some common beliefs for what happens after death?
  4. What kinds of experiences teach important lessons?
  5. Why is sacrifice important?
  6. How important is forgiveness?

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•   (English) The Five People You Meet in Heaven   •   (Español) Las Cinco Personas que se Encuentran en el Cielo   •   (Français) Les Cinq Personnes que Vous Rencontrez Dans le Ciel   •   (Deutsch) Die Fünf Menschen, die ihr im Himmel Begegnet   •   (Italiana) Le Cinque Persone che Incontri in Cielo   •   (Nederlands) De Vijf Mensen die je Ontmoet in de Hemel   •   (Português) As Cinco Pessoas que Você Encontra no céu   •   (עברית) חמישה האנשים שאתה פוגש בגן ​​עדן   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) وتلتقي خمسة أشخاص في السماء   •   (हिन्दी) स्वर्ग में मिले पांच लोग   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Пять Человек, Которых вы Встретили на Небесах   •   (Dansk) The Five Mennesker, du Møder i Himlen   •   (Svenska) The Five Människor du Möter i Himlen   •   (Suomi) Viisi Ihmisiä Tapaat Taivaassa   •   (Norsk) Den fem Mennesker du Møter i Himmelen   •   (Türkçe) Cennette Karşılaştığınız Beş Kişi   •   (Polski) Pięć Osób Spotkasz się w Niebie   •   (Româna) Cinci Oameni Întâlnim în Rai   •   (Ceština) The Five People Potkáte v Nebi   •   (Slovenský) Päť Ľudí, Ktorých Spoznávate na Nebi   •   (Magyar) Az öt Emberek, Akikkel Találkozol in Heaven   •   (Hrvatski) Pet Ljudi Koje Susrećete na Nebu   •   (български) Петте Хора, Които Срещате на Небето   •   (Lietuvos) Penki Žmonės Jums Susitikti Danguje   •   (Slovenščina) Petih Ljudje You Meet v Nebesih   •   (Latvijas) Five Cilvēki Jūs Meet in Heaven   •   (eesti) Viis Inimesed te Vastate Taevas