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Teaching Guide

Teaching The Yellow Wallpaper

Interior decorators needed.

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"The Yellow Wallpaper" is a classic, but teaching it over and over again might be driving you mad. We won't prescribe bed rest, but we have some exciting new techniques for teaching this tale.

Before you decide to redecorate your classroom with psychosis-inducing yellow wallpaper, try our teaching guide instead. And no, we don't mean print it out and tape it to the walls.

In this guide you will find

  • an activity psychoanalyzing the author and her characters.
  • modern pop culture connections including three film versions (one of which stars Drusilla from Buffy the Vampire Slayer—you're welcome).
  • essay questions exploring every aspect of the story, from the relationship between the narrator and her husband to that ending (you know the one).

Shmoop will make sure you're not pacing around the room like a mad-person trying to teach this story.

What's Inside Shmoop's Literature Teaching Guides

Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring literature to life.

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.

Instructions for You

Objective: Charlotte Perkins Gilman's famous Gothic short story "The Yellow Wallpaperhas been adapted to film many times over the years—in 1977, 1989, 2011, and 2012. 

In this activity, your students will compare the story to a film adaptation in order to analyze the differences and similarities in the development of characters or themes across different media. Then, they'll use their analyses to write a comparative, analytical essay that grapples with the complexities of the novel and the film.

Length of Lesson: 1 – 2 class periods + homework 

Materials Needed:

Access to one of the following film adaptations of "The Yellow Wallpaper"—you'll need to decide which film or clips you want to use in advance of class. If you are using the 1977 or 2011 film, you'll need to procure a copy from your local video store, library, or online service. The 1989 film is available online.

  • 1977 film by Marie Ashton (14 minutes)
  • 1989 Masterpiece Theater Adaptation (1 hour. This one is available online in 7 parts; part 2 features the beginning of her rest cure and the first time she notices the wallpaper.)
  • 2011 film by Stuart Hackshaw (30 minutes. This one has a horror-movie feel to it and may be too intense to show in class)
  • 4 sheets of chart paper & 4 markers

Step 1A (before class): To save time, write one of the following questions on each of the 4 sheets of chart paper and post them around the room:

  • How is the narrator portrayed (i.e., what does she look and act like)?
  • What do the house and the bedroom look like?
  • How are the other characters (if any) portrayed?
  • What is the mood/tone of the film/story?

Write the question at the top of the page, and draw a T-chart below the question. Label one column of the T-chart "film" and the other "story."

(If you don't have time to do this in advance, you can have your students handle it during Step 3).

Step 1: Introduce the objective of the day (to compare a film version of "The Yellow Wallpaper" to the original story) and mention the fact that the story has been adapted to film multiple times, including recent adaptations in both 2011 and 2012. (The 2012 film is quite a departure since it starts with a devastating fire as the reason Charlotte and John move to a country house.)

Step 2: Show "The Yellow Wallpaper" film or pre-selected clip(s) in class. 

Step 3: After the scene/film is finished, separate students into four groups, and station each group in front of a piece of chart paper with one of the four questions. (If you didn't do this part in advance—in Step 1A—you can have your students write the questions and draw the T-charts on the chart paper now.) 

Step 4: Have the students answer the question on the poster before them for both the film adaptation and the original story. Emphasize that answers in the "story" column should have supporting textual evidence. Items in the "film" column should also be substantiated by citing the dialog or actions of characters from the film. 

Step 5: Once each group is finished (allow 5 – 10 minutes), have all the groups rotate to the next station and add their thoughts to the next piece of chart paper. Repeat the process until all groups have returned to their original stations.

Step 6: Go to each station (or bring the 4 pieces of chart paper to the front of the room and go through them one at a time) and lead a discussion around each question using the ideas the students have jotted down. Emphasize that each student needs to take notes of their own so they can use the notes for their essays.

Step 7: After the class discussion, ask the students to use their notes in order to write a comparative analysis of the film and the story for homework. Their essay should address the similarities and differences between the story and film adaptation, citing evidence from the story and the film to support any claims. Additionally, the essays should state which version of the story students find more compelling and why. 

(California English Language Arts Standards Met: 9th and 10th grade Reading 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.7, 3.8, 3.9, 3.11, 3.12; Writing 2.3; Listening and Speaking 1.14. 11th and 12th grade Reading 3.2, 3.3, 3.5c, 3.8; Writing 2.2; Listening and Speaking 1.3.)

Instructions for Your Students

Most of the Harry Potter movies were pretty good, and The Hunger Games held up pretty well in film, too. If box office receipts are any indication, The Hobbit positively rocked, but then, director Peter Jackson took quite a few liberties with the story when he decided to divide it into three full-length films, and the liberties directors take don't always sit well with everyone.

Still, these are all examples of fairly successful film adaptations. Usually, people say that when it comes to film adaptations, you're better off just reading the book. So... how do you think "The Yellow Wallpaper" would fare on the big screen? 

You're about to find out. And then you're going to let us know what you think. 

Step 1: There have been many film adaptations of "The Yellow Wallpaper," including the ones below:

  • 1977 film by Marie Ashton (14 minutes)
  • 1989 Masterpiece Theater Adaptation (1 hour; this one is available online in 7 parts; part 2 features the beginning of her rest cure and the first time she notices the wallpaper)
  • 2011 film by Stuart Hackshaw (30 minutes; this one has a horror movie feel to it and may be too intense to show in class)

Today, you're going to watch one of these, or maybe just a few clips from one of them, and analyze what happens as the story moves from page to screen. 

Step 2: Watch "The Yellow Wallpaper" film or clip(s) in class. Your teacher will let you know which version you're using.

Step 3: After the scene/film is finished, divide into four groups, one at each of four stations around the room. Each station will have a piece of chart paper with one of the four questions below written at the top:

  • How is the narrator portrayed (i.e., what does she look and act like)?
  • What do the house and the bedroom look like?
  • How are the other characters (if any) portrayed?
  • What is the mood/tone of the film/story?

Below this question, there should be a T-chart with one column labeled "film" and the other "story."

(Hopefully, your teacher had time to set this up in advance. If not, you'll be taking care of it now.)

Step 4: Once you're settled with your group and your piece of chart paper, you can start answering the question before you. Choose one person in the group to record your ideas in the appropriate column on the chart. (Anything relating to the short story goes in the "story" column, and anything relating to the film adaptation goes in the "film" column.)

Be sure that your answers in the "story" column have supporting textual evidence and that items in the "film" column are substantiated using specific dialog or actions of characters from the film. 

Step 5: Once all the groups are finished, rotate to the next station and add your answers for the next question to the next piece of chart paper—with supporting evidence. Repeat the process until you're back at your original station.

Step 6: Now your teacher will bring everyone back together and go through all of the answers to each question with the whole class. 

Psst—take notes on this part! Why? Because we can see the future and yours has an essay in it. Some good class notes could come in handy. 

Step 7: After the class discussion, use your notes to write a comparative analysis of the film and the story. Your essay should point out the similarities and differences between the story and film adaptation, citing evidence from both to show where the director remained faithful to the text and where the director may have taken a few liberties. Also, be sure your essay states which version of the story found more compelling and why. 

Listen up to find out when this essay is due, and be sure you know how it needs to be formatted—written on yellow wallpaper, perhaps? 

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WANT MORE HELP TEACHING THE YELLOW WALLPAPER?

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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