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Teaching Guide

Teaching The Story of an Hour

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"The Story of an Hour" takes way less than an hour to read and way more than an hour to teach. We have so much material on this story that it's more like "The Story of a Week."

In this guide you will find

  • activities analyzing Chopin's writing style, imagery, and language.
  • biographical resources on the life of Kate Chopin.
  • reading quizzes to make sure students made it all the way to the surprise ending.

And much more.

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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: A story this short and this poetic just seems to beg for an artsy response, don't you think? Mrs. Mallard sitting at the window, grieving but also rejoicing at the fresh freedom before her just gets us. We feel like painting or sketching or photographing that scene, and that strikes us as an appropriate response to a story so brief it really is more like a quick sketch or a snapshot of just one fleck of life. The imagery in this story is powerful stuff, and it seems to resonate most powerfully around the theme of freedom and confinement. Though the story is short, there are tons of ways this theme manifests itself, so let's explore them with a bit of artistic flair, shall we?

For this lesson, students will identify different ways the theme of freedom and confinement is at work in the text. Then, they'll create a photo essay (supported by text evidence and their own reflections, of course) that connects the theme from the story to their own lives and experiences.

This lesson will take two to three days to complete.

Materials Needed:

  • Copies of "The Story of an Hour"
  • Access to computers, cameras, and/or art supplies for students to create their images.

Step 1: Start by asking students to identify all the examples of freedom and confinement in the story. They'll get the obvious ones easily, but help them see the not-so-obvious ones too, like the way Mrs. Mallard is confined by her heart condition. Also, remember not all of these examples are black and white. For example, does death represent freedom or confinement for Mrs. Mallard? We think you could make an argument either way. See Shmoop's guide to freedom and confinement for more ideas.

Step 2: Each student will choose one example of freedom and one of confinement from the story and find/take/create an image to represent it. Their representation might be literal or figurative, but they'll need to support their choice with text evidence and a brief explanation of why the image fits each particular thematic example.

Step 3: A short story about a woman dreaming of being free from her husband may seem irrelevant to your students at first, but adolescence is practically defined by the tension between freedom and confinement. Most teenagers feel in some way trapped or are just dying to be free from school, from their parents, from their hometown, from their crummy afterschool job, etc. We think students will have a lot to connect with and say about this theme once you point them in the right direction.

So in that vein, students will choose examples of freedom and confinement from their own lives and create images for those examples as well. Encourage students to think beyond the physical and explore ways they might have experienced mental or emotional freedom/confinement. Once again, their images can be literal or figurative and should be accompanied by a brief reflection or explanation of the image and its connection to their lives.

Step 4: A bit more art: Students should come up with a creative way to present their photo essays to the class. They might create a slideshow, a video, a poster, a broadside, or a collage, but whatever the method, their presentation should include both their images and the text evidence and personal connections for each one.

Step 5: Show and tell: Set aside a day in class for students to present and discuss their photo essays. At this point, they've been thinking about this theme for several days, so you should be able to get them to dig a little deeper in discussion here. Help students realize why this short-short story matters and how it's relevant to them.

  • What does Mrs. Mallard believe confines her? Do you agree that she is confined by these things, or is it all a matter of perception?
  • What is it that makes Mrs. Mallard free? Is it her husband's death, or her epiphany? Or do you believe she has always been free?
  • Is her death a form of freedom or confinement? Why do you think so?
  • There are some conflict in the idea of freedom and confinement here. For example, when Mrs. Mallard confines herself physically to her room, she finally feels free. What do we make of these paradoxes? What do they say about the idea of freedom vs. confinement?
  • We've talked a lot about Mrs. Mallard, but what about the other characters? What kinds of freedoms and confinements do they experience?
  • Do you think physical or non-physical confinements are more difficult to bear? Why?
  • Is it possible to be physically confined but still free? Why or why not?
  • Had Mrs. Mallard lived, could she have still been free even though her husband is still alive? Would she have to leave her husband to be free? Why or why not?
  • What does this story teach us about the kinds of things that confine us? What kinds of confinement do you see in your own life or in those close to you?
  • Based on either your experience or the story (or both), what do you think it takes to be free? Is freedom something we have control over, or is it out of our control?
  • In what way might Chopin's story be seen as a call to action? What action do you think she advocates?

Instructions for Your Students

How many of you are thinking that a short story about a woman dreaming of being free from her husband is irrelevant to you at this point in your lives? We get that it might seem that way at first, but adolescence is practically defined by the tension between freedom and confinement, and that's what "The Story of an Hour" is all about. We're guessing that most of you feel or have felt in some way trapped or are just dying to be free from school, from your parents, from your hometown, from your crummy after school job, etc. Sound familiar? If so, you have a lot in common with Mrs. Mallard.

The imagery in this story is powerful stuff, and it seems to resonate most powerfully around the theme of freedom and confinement (this is where you ought to be able to relate to our main character). Though the story is short, there are tons of ways this theme manifests itself, so let's explore them with a bit of artistic flair, shall we?

For this lesson, you will identify different ways the theme of freedom and confinement is at work in the text. Then, you'll create a photo essay (supported by text evidence and your own reflections, of course) that connects the theme from the story to your own lives and experiences.

Step 1: Let's start by finding all the examples of freedom and confinement in the story. There are a ton, so think about the obvious and the not-so-obvious ones, like the way Mrs. Mallard is confined by her heart condition. Also, remember not all of these examples are black and white. For example, how might death represent both freedom and confinement for Mrs. Mallard?

Step 2: Time to get your artistic vibe on. You will each choose one example of freedom and one of confinement from the story and find/take/create an image to represent it. Your representation might be literal or figurative, but you'll need to support your choice with text evidence (obviously) and a brief explanation of why the image fits each particular thematic example.

Step 3: Then you will choose examples of freedom and confinement from your own lives and create images for those examples as well. Remember to think beyond the physical and explore ways you might have experienced mental or emotional freedom/confinement (like feeling trapped by an inability to get motivated or feeling the freedom of a period of depression lifting). Once again, your images can be literal or figurative and should be accompanied by a brief reflection or explanation of the image and its connection to your lives.

Step 4: A bit more art: Next, you will come up with a creative way to present your photo essays to the class. You might create a slideshow, a video, a poster, a broadside, or a collage, but whatever the method, your presentation should include both your images and the text evidence and personal connections for each one.

Step 5: Show and tell: Today you will present and discuss your photo essays. At this point, you've been thinking about this theme for several days, so you should be ready to go a little deeper in discussion here. Pull out your shovels and safety goggles; let's dig in:

  • What does Mrs. Mallard believe confines her? Do you agree that she is confined by these things, or is it all a matter of perception?
  • What is it that makes Mrs. Mallard free? Is it her husband's death, or her epiphany? Or do you believe she has always been free?
  • Is her death a form of freedom or confinement? Why do you think so?
  • There's some conflict in the idea of freedom and confinement here. For example, when Mrs. Mallard confines herself physically to her room, she finally feels free. What do we make of these paradoxes? What do they say about the idea of freedom vs. confinement?
  • We've talked a lot about Mrs. Mallard, but what about the other characters? What kinds of freedoms and confinements do they experience?
  • Do you think physical or non-physical confinements are more difficult to bear? Why?
  • Is it possible to be physically confined but still free? Why or why not?
  • Had Mrs. Mallard lived, could she have still been free even though her husband is still alive? Would she have to leave her husband to be free? Why or why not?
  • What does this story teach us about the kinds of things that confine us? What kinds of confinement do you see in your own life or in those close to you?
  • Based on either your experience or the story (or both), what do you think it takes to be free? Is freedom something we have control over, or is it out of our control?
  • In what way might Chopin's story be seen as a call to action? What action do you think she advocates?

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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.SL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4
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.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1
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.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8
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.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.10

WANT MORE HELP TEACHING THE STORY OF AN HOUR?

Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

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