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Teaching Guide

Teaching A Christmas Carol

What the Dickens?

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Mistletoe hung from doorways, hot chocolate poured by the gallon, twinkling lights strung all around…It really is the most wonderful time of the year. And what better way to spend this holiday season than curled up with a copy of A Christmas Carol? Or you know, in front of a classroom teaching it.

In this guide you will find

  • reading quizzes that help students keep their ghosts in order.
  • an endless supply of modern-day versions of Dickens' iconic novel to bring the story into the 21st century.
  • a classroom activity that breaks down the many lessons we can learn from Scrooge and company and then guides students in writing their very own parable.

And much more! Wrap it up, tie it in a bow, and make this classic novel a memorable reading experience for your students.

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Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop’s teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Objective: Lessons are everywhere, and Charles Dickens is not so subtle with his. And by not so subtle, we mean he hammers home his meaning by beating you over the head with it.

There's no denying that A Christmas Carol is pretty heavy handed in its desire to change behavior. But what's great about this is that it means the story is the perfect example of a parable. Teachable moment, anyone?

In this brief lesson, students will learn the qualities of a parable and write one of their own. You can expect to use about 60 minutes of in class time, give or take a chunk if you decide to assign the parable portion for homework.

Materials Needed: Pen, paper, and wits.

Step 1: We'll start off nice and easy on this one. All you need to do is ask your students to create a list of places where Charles Dickens is trying to teach us a lesson in A Christmas Carol. Write the students' suggestions up on the board.

Easy enough, right? Still, you might want to help them get started by listing some of the following examples:

  • Tiny Tim prays for others. This teaches us to always think of others even though we might have problems of our own. 
  • Scrooge chooses to give away some of his fortune rather than keep it for himself. This teaches us to share and not hoard. 
  • Fred asks Scrooge to come to dinner. This teaches us to spend time with loved ones and family. 
  • The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge a sad, lonely funeral and grave. This teaches us to focus on people rather than wealth.

Once you have compiled a class list of lessons, ask the class to choose the greatest lesson. In other words, which one did Dickens most want us to learn? Make sure that when they choose the lesson, they explain why they think it's the most important one.

Step 2: Let's give your students a little context. Show them Shmoop's definition of parable:

Similar to a fable (except parables feature human characters, not animals) or an apologue, a parable is a short, didactic tale meant to convey a moral lesson. The New Testament is filled with parables, like "The Good Samaritan" and "The Prodigal Son."

Feel free to write it up on the trusty chalkboard, or show them the definition on the projector. Either way, you'll want to connect the parable genre with A Christmas Carol by asking your students,

  • How is A Christmas Carol like a parable? What's the moral lesson it's meant to convey?

As they suss things out, be sure to remind them to refer to specific points in the story as evidence of their conclusions.

Step 3: Now your students should be good and ready to take a stab at writing their own parables, Dickens style. You can assign this step for homework, or use it for an in-class activity, but either way, be sure to give the class the following prompt:

"Just as Dickens used the parable genre to teach Victorian Englanders a lesson about giving, you're going to write a parable for your day and age, in which you teach your readers a very important lesson.

Your parable should

  • be unique, creative, and interesting
  • focus on one main, universal lesson
  • be set in modern day
  • follow Freytag's pyramid
  • include all the typical elements of good old fashioned fiction—dialogue, action, and description with language that shows rather than tells

1-2 pages, please."

Step 4: Are your students done with their polished parables? Well, then it's time to share and share alike. If you have enough time in class for everyone to share, by all means, go at it. But if you've only got a few minutes to squeeze in some sharing, break them up into groups, and have each student share with a couple of people simultaneously.

Want to expand their audience? Find an elementary school class and have the students read to the youngsters. Choose whatever method words best for your class. Just let those authors share their work with somebody, so they can see the lesson-learning in action.

Instructions for Your Students

Your whole life people have been teaching you things. Your parents. Your teachers. Your community… Everywhere you look lessons are surrounding you.

And if you're sick of all the lesson-learning you've been doing, well, maybe it's high time you turned the tables. In this activity, the student (that's you) will become the master (yep, that's you again), as you explore the lessons in A Christmas Carol, and create a lesson of your own.

Step 1: Let's get listy. With the help of your classmates, list every place in A Christmas Carol where we readers learn a lesson. Your teacher will write these up on the board, and if you're really lucky, your teacher might even get things started with an example or two.

Once you've got a nice long list up there, you and your classmates should choose which lesson you believe is the greatest. In other words, which lesson do you think Dickens would most want his readers to have learned by the time they turn the last page of the story? And why do you think it's so important?

Step 2: Here's the thing: A Christmas Carol is more than just a story that teaches. It just so happens to be a parable. Yep, that fancy word has a showy meaning, and if you need a refresher, check out Shmoop's definition of the term:

Similar to a fable (except parables feature human characters, not animals) or an apologue, a parable is a short, didactic tale meant to convey a moral lesson. The New Testament is filled with parables, like "The Good Samaritan" and "The Prodigal Son."

Next, compare this definition to A Christmas Carol. Did Dickens write a good parable? Why? Why not?

Step 3: Take a cue from Dickens and write a parable of your own, using this prompt to guide you:

Just as Dickens used the parable genre to teach Victorian Englanders a lesson about giving, you're going to write a parable for your day and age, in which you teach your readers a very important lesson.

Your parable should

  • be unique, creative, and interesting
  • focus on one main, universal lesson
  • be set in modern day
  • follow Freytag's pyramid
  • include all the typical elements of good old fashioned fiction—dialogue, action, and description with language that shows rather than tells

1-2 pages, please.

Step 4: Get ready. Get set. Go read your parable to an audience. Do your best to be a good reader. Use voices. Speak loudly. Get excited. You are an author now. Whether your teacher has you share with your classmates, or read your story to a whole different group of people, the idea here is to see how well your parable goes over with an audience. Did they learn the lesson you wanted them to?

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Common Core Standards  

The following standards are covered in this course:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3

WANT MORE HELP TEACHING A CHRISTMAS CAROL?

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Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Quizzes    Flashcards    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
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