"The Monkey's Paw": Fate or Coincidence? High School English Lesson

"The Monkey's Paw": Fate or Coincidence? High School English Lesson
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What high school English teacher isn’t a fan of W.W. Jacob’s classic tale The Monkey’s Paw? It’s short, it’s too the point, and it expertly sets up an interesting discussion question: is our fate predetermined or were the events in the story mere coincidence? Enjoyable as the story may be, English teachers also know that teaching this story year after year can get tedious. How many times can we list the three wishes and the results of the wishes on the whiteboard? How many times can we ask students “What do you think was on the other side of the door?” How many times can we repeat ourselves over and over: “but that’s the way it’s SUPPOSED to end…you decide!” After awhile, all the fun of teaching this once suspenseful story is sucked right out of educators; and that shouldn’t be the case.

New Teaching Ideas

Why not spice up your lessons on The Monkey’s Paw by using some varied teaching and assessment techniques? Before even reading the story, provide students with a vocabulary list of words they may not know from the text and ask them to come up with descriptive sentences that are horror themed. Ask each student to illustrate his or her best sentence and display them around the room. Use the quiz to ensure comprehension before teaching the story.

Move on to the power point, the reading of the tale, and then the reading comprehension quiz.

Once students know the story backward and forward, it’s time to have some fun. Use the downloadable handout on how to compare the story to a truly chilling episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which can be found on NetFlix. The episode, which still sends chills down this veteran educator’s spine, is quite the dramatic retelling of Jacob’s tale, complete with the “it’s up to you” ending. All of your students will be on the edge of their seats, and once their compare and contrast chart is complete, they will be able to write thoughtful, engaging essays on the video and short story.

Have any extremely advanced students? Clue them in to the fact that Stephen King did indeed create an ending to Jacob’s story, an ending over four hundred pages long. Point them in the direction of his horror novel Pet Semetary and offer extra credit for those brave souls who actually manage to read the entire novel!

This post is part of the series: Gothic Horror to Teach Literature

How do you get your 9th grade English class interested in literature? Try this unit on Gothic Horror. Students will be engaged in the creepy stories and learn literary devices such as figurative language, simile, metaphor and more.

  1. An Incident in the Rose Garden: Figurative Language and Gothic Horror
  2. The Monkey’s Paw: Fate or Coincidence?
  3. The Haunting of Hill House: Shirley Jackson’s Haunting Tale
  4. A Masterful Story by Saki and the Horror of Human Nature by Shirley Jackson