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Holes by Louis Sachar

Teacher Guide by Rebecca Ray

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our Elementary School Category!

Student Activities for Holes Include:

I absolutely love novels that come full circle, and Holes by Louis Sachar is one of those novels. The multiple plot lines can be confusing at first, but it all comes together in the end. This excites readers and gives them a sense of accomplishment as they realize how each plot is intertwined.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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A Quick Synopsis of Holes (Contains Plot Spoilers)

Stanley Yelnats believes his family has been cursed. A story passed from generation to generation says that Elya, his great-great grandfather failed to fulfill a promise to an old gypsy woman, who cursed him and his family. After being mistakenly convicted for stealing a pair of shoes, Stanley is sent to Camp Green Lake. The name is deceptive, the camp is a detention center for boys in the middle of the Texan desert.

Stanley is thrown into tent D with a diverse mix of other juvenile delinquents, including a quiet boy named Zero. The “campers” are made to dig holes, under the watchful eye of Mr. Sir, the counselor. Mr. Sir claims it is to build character but, Stanley uncovers that the Warden is using the boys to help her search for something.

In a secondary plot, readers learn that Green Lake used to be a well-to-do area, rich and abundant, on the edge of a large lake. Kate, the school teacher falls in love with Sam, a local medicinal salesman. When the two are caught kissing, the town is in an uproar because Sam is black. Charles Walker, a member of the town’s richest family, wanted to court Kate. He leads the town in hunting down Sam, whose is killed. Kate is becomes a ruthless outlaw, “Kissing Kate Barlow”. As a bandit, she coincidentally robbed a man named Stanley Yelnats, the young protagonist’s great grandfather.

This first Stanley Yelnats also believed this is because of the Yelnats family curse. In Latvia, his father Elya fell in love, and wished to marry a young woman named Myra. Seeking the advice of Madame Zeroni, he was given a pig and told to carry it to the top of a mountain, allowing it to drink from the river. Once the pig grew, he could take it to Myra as a dowry. To repay Madame Zeroni, he was to carry her up the mountain to make her strong as well. When he goes to Myra, he is disgusted by her personality. Elya leaves for America, forgetting his end of the bargain.

These three stories collide when Zero and Stanley run away from the camp. After being in the desert for some time, they climb a mountain in search of water. Zero becomes weak and Stanley must carry him. When they reach the top they drink the water and Stanley sings a song taught to him by his family. Zero’s real name is Hector Zeroni, and he’s a descendant of Madame Zeroni. When Stanley carries him up the mountain and sings to him, the promise is fulfilled and the curse lifted. The boys then figure out that the Warden is a descendant of the Walker family and is in search of Kissing Kate’s buried Treasure, hence the endless digging of holes. They go back to a hole where Stanley found a lipstick container and find a box of treasure. The authorities are called in, the camp is shut down, and the boys live happily thereafter

Essential Questions for Holes

  1. What makes a good friend?
  2. What is fate, and do you believe in it?
  3. How do your own actions shape your life?
  4. What is fairness? How does each plot line develop this theme?

Holes Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Holes Summary


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An exceptional way to help your students follow a story is to have them track the events from it. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of a plot, it also reinforces major events, and helps students develop greater understanding of literary structures. For a novel that has multiple plots, this is an excellent way for students to keep them all straight. At the elementary level, there are numerous ways to plot the Parts of a Story.

Teachers can ask students to create a storyboard that captures the concept of the narrative arc in a novel by using any of the examples which come with templates found on the Parts of a Story article.



Example Holes Plot Summary

Introduction

Stanley Yelnats believes his family is cursed because of his great- great-grandfather's failure to fulfill a promise to Madame Zeroni.


Problem

Stanley is accused of stealing a pair of shoes and is sent to a boy's detention camp.


Events

At the camp, the boys are made to dig holes all day. Stanley makes a friend named Zero, and he finds a lipstick container.


Climax

The curse of this family is lifted when he carries Zero to the top of the mountain.


Resolution

The boys spend a week away from the camp, eating onions, before they decide to go back and look for the treasure.


Conclusion

With the curse lifted, the two boys’ luck turns around; they find the treasure, get out of the camp, Stanley’s dad invents a foot odor eliminator, Zero finds his mom, the camp is shut down, and everything is just perfect!


Holes Plot Diagram

Example

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


Student Instructions

Create a visual Event Arch of Holes.


  1. Separate the story into the Introduction, Problem, Events, Climax, Problem is Resolved, and Conclusion.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story parts.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the Event Arch.



Event Arch

Example

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





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Holes Characters


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As students read, a storyboard can serves 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!

It’s a great idea to create a copy of this generic character map and edit it with the specific questions about characters you want your students to answer. For younger readers (Grades 2-5) it helps to be more specific.

Major Holes Characters

Story of Stanley Yelnats IV

StanleyProtagonist, heavy, has few friends
Clyde LivingstonOwner of shoes that were stolen
Derrick DunneBully that picks on Stanley at school
ZeroHector Zeroni, smallest of camp members, digs holes fastest
X-RayLeader of boys, black, wears glasses
ArmpitBefriends Stanley, named for his smell
Magnet Named for his ability to steal anything<
ZigZagBoy at Camp Green Lake
SquidBoy at Camp Green Lake
WardenFemale descendant of the Walker family, ruthless and cruel
Mr. SirCamp counselor
Mr. PendanskiCounselor at Camp Green Lake. The kids, call him "Doctor", but he is not a doctor

Story of Stanley Yelnats I

Stanley IStanley's great-grandfather, robbed by Kissing Kate
Kissing Kate BarlowFormer school teacher turned outlaw
SamBlack, onion seller, medicine man
Charles WalkerSon of a rich landowner on Green Lake

Story of Elya Yelnats

Elya YelnatsStanley's great-great grandfather
Madame ZeroniGypsy woman who curses the Yelnats family

Holes - Character Map

Example

(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 Holes and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a character to represent each of the story 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 to answer the questions or prompts.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.


Character Map Template

Example

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





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Holes Themes, Symbols, and Motifs


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Valuable aspects of any literary work 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 anatomize without assistance. Using a storyboard, students can visually demonstrate their understanding of these concepts, and master analysis of literary elements. For best practices, see our article with specific lesson plan steps on setting up your classroom and activities to teach themes, symbols, and motifs.


Holes Themes, Motifs, and Imagery to Look for and Discuss

The Benefits of Friendship

Ask students to depict each time a friendship benefits someone in the novel. Afterwards, have a discussion about how each friendship was good and mutually helped both parties.


The Destructive Power of Cruelty

Each time students see someone being mean or cruel they should make a note of this and depict it. After, have them look at what each of these events has in common. See if your students can articulate the theme on their own. Hopefully, they will conclude that mean or destructive people are not rewarded in the novel.


The Legacy of History

Ask students to track how Stanley’s history continues to come up in his daily life. Episodes like Stanley I surviving the desert after being robbed by Kate, or the discovery of the treasure chest. Tracking these events will show students the importance of personal histories. This will also aid in uncovering some mysteries when reading, and add to excitement as students start making predictions.


The Intervention of Fate

Fate often determines the course of events in Stanley’s life. Although Stanley believes he is cursed, it is fate that seems to bring the Zeroni and Yelnats families together. Have students track all the different ways they see fate in Stanley’s life.


Storyboard Example: Cruelty in Holes

EXAMPLEEXPLANATION
The WardenThe Warden is cruel and mean. She demonstrates her cruel authority with rattlesnake venom nail polish. In the end, her cruelty is rewarded with her arrest.
Kissing KateKate starts as a nice school teacher, but when her love, Sam, is killed, she turns to revenge. She robs and steals, ultimately dying from the bite of a yellow spotted lizard.
Yellow Spotted LizardsYellow Spotted Lizards are deadly. They are a sign of nature’s cruelty, brought on by the drought. However, their weakness is onions.

Holes - Theme

Example

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


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies themes in Holes. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify the theme(s) from Holes you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for an example that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.



Template: Theme

Example

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





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Depicting Conflict in Holes


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Literary conflicts are often taught during ELA units. Building on prior knowledge to achieve mastery level with our students is important. An excellent way to focus on the various types of literary conflict is through storyboarding. Having students choose an example of each literary conflict and depict it using the Storyboard Creator is a great way to reinforce your lesson!

Examples of Conflict from Holes

MAN vs. NATURE

Everyone at Camp Green Lake must be very careful not to come across a yellow spotted lizard. If they are bitten, they will die.


MAN vs. SOCIETY

Kissing Kate becomes an outlaw after the townsfolk kill Sam.


MAN vs. MAN

Zero hits Mr. Pendanski with a shovel because he is mean to him, and calls him dumb.


Holes Literary Conflict

Example

(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 at least three forms of literary conflict in Holes.


  1. Identify conflicts in Holes.
  2. Categorize each conflict as Character vs. Character, Character vs. Self, Character vs. Society, Character vs. Nature, or Character vs. Technology.
  3. Illustrate conflicts in the cells, using characters from the story.
  4. Write a short description of the conflict below the cell.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.



Literary Conflict Template

Example

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





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Cause and Effect in Holes


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An important part of any story are the cause and effect relationships that drive the plot. Students can enhance prediction and problem-solving, by demonstrating their understanding of chain reactions in the novel. Creating a storyboard that shows the cause and effect in events will increase their understanding of these relationships.

For this activity, create a storyboard template with the "causes" of events already filled in, and ask students to depict the "effect". Alternatively, have students complete both cause and effect for a given event or series of events.


Example Events:

  • Stanley is hit by a pair of shoes
  • Stanley is arrested
  • Stanley finds Kissing Kate’s lipstick container
  • Stanley and Zero climb the mountain
  • Stanley and Zero eat the onions

Holes Cause & Effect

Example

(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 cause and effect relationships in Holes. Each cause and effect pair will be shown in the same row.


  1. On the left side of the T-Chart, illustrate events that show cause (why).
  2. On the right side of the T-Chart, illustrate events that show effect of each cause (direct results).
  3. Write a description below each cause.
  4. In the description under each effect, show how the cause and effect are related.



Cause and Effect in Plot - Template

Example

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





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Holes Vocabulary


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Another great way to engage your students is by creating a storyboard with vocabulary from Holes. Here is a list of a few vocabulary words commonly taught with the novel, and an example of a visual vocabulary board.

Vocabulary Words from Holes

  • parch
  • raspy
  • contaminate
  • snicker
  • dawdle
  • splatter
  • indentation
  • fume
  • despicable
  • unearth
  • preposterous
  • afflict
  • drought
  • foul
  • gruff
  • evict

In the vocabulary board students can choose between coming up with their use of the vocabulary board, finding the specific example from the text, or depicting it without words.

Holes - Vocabulary

Example

(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 Holes 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.



Vocabulary Template Blank

Example

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Other Lesson Plan Ideas

  1. Using storyboards, depict the water cycle and explain why water is important.
  2. Show yellow spotted lizards in their natural habitat and answer questions about them. What do they eat? Where do they live? What are their predators? Etc.
  3. Make up their your own family curse and depict it.
  4. Using the storyboard creator, make a board game for Holes.

From our Artist: Stephanie (Head of Creativity)

Holes is a coming of age story about family history and fate. I enjoyed the book and the movie. Both gave me great artistic ideas, and it was fun to make sure we had all the right period scenes. From Latvia to Texas, I am sure you will find what you are looking for!

  • Pro Tip: Storyboard That has characters that fit all historical eras! Be sure to check out the different categories under Characters to find which work best for your storyboard!
  • Did you know storyboards are sizable? Just look for the toolbar in the storyboard creator and click on the 'cell size' widget.

Search Tip: Use the term "Yelnats" or "Holes" to find items you'll need for your Holes storyboard, including shovels, yellow-spotted lizards, and, of course, the holes themselves.


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•   (English) Holes   •   (Español) Agujeros   •   (Français) des Trous   •   (Deutsch) Löcher   •   (Italiana) Fori   •   (Nederlands) Gaten   •   (Português) Buracos   •   (עברית) חורים   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) ثقوب   •   (हिन्दी) छेद   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Отверстия   •   (Dansk) Huller   •   (Svenska) hål   •   (Suomi) Reiät   •   (Norsk) Holes   •   (Türkçe) Delikler   •   (Polski) Dziury   •   (Româna) Găuri   •   (Ceština) Díry   •   (Slovenský) Diery   •   (Magyar) Holes   •   (Hrvatski) Rupe   •   (български) Дупки   •   (Lietuvos) Skylės   •   (Slovenščina) Luknje   •   (Latvijas) Caurumi   •   (eesti) Augud