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Lesson Ideas: Don Quixote

By Linda M. Rhinehart Neas

Stumped on literature lesson plans? Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha is a good choice, especially if you want to work collaboratively with the history and philosophy curriculum. Whether reading Cervantes' novel or the musical written by Dale Wasserman, Don Quixote opens the door for varied discussion.

Tilting With Windmills

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One of the most famous scenes from Don Quixote is that of the old, wizened knight tilting with the windmills. It is just one of the scenes that could be used to connect the literature lesson on The Man of La Mancha with history and philosophy.

Objective: To have students find connections and comparisons between Cervantes' novel and Wasserman's play, The Man of La Mancha. To find connections to Spanish history, world history and philosophy. To create presentations on knowledge gained.

Standards: While standards vary from state to state and country to country, it is pretty universal that students must read some world literature and be able to relate what they have read to the present as well as the past. In addition, they must be able to analyze and compare the work they are reading for universal themes. This lesson plan meets these standards.

Prior Knowledge: Discuss with students what they know of the Spanish Inquisition, the Knights Templar and the Crusades. Ask what are idealism, romanticism and chivalry.

Materials: Cervantes' novel, Don Quixote - excerpts can be used in conjunction with Wasserman's play; The Man of La Mancha by Dale Wasserman; materials for presentations, i.e., computers for PowerPoint presentations, poster board, video cameras, projectors, etc.

Lesson: Mind-Map prior knowledge with students. What do they know about the topics listed above? Have students read corresponding chapters and scenes from the novel and play. Have them prepare a compare and contrast list. (Click here for handout.) Discuss findings in small groups, then have groups report findings to entire class. Ask students about universal themes - what are they and where do you find evidence for them within the text?

Give the long-term assignment for groups to create a presentation of their choosing on one of the topics that cross-link with history or philosophy. Students must identify the subject, show what they have learned as well as how it connects to both literature and either history or philosophy of that time, and be prepared to answer questions.

Impossible Dream

Another way to present Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha to students is to have them read either the novel or the play. Discuss with Don Quixote them what "ideals" are within the story. What is Quixote's ideal of a woman - of chivalry - of loyalty? Do people today have ideals? What or where do we find modern ideals? Create a mind map.

Once you have discussed and brainstormed ideals/idealism with the students, have them listen to and read the words to the song, Impossible Dream. Ask them to discuss why this song touches people. What does this song say to them, personally? Is it important to dream impossible dreams? Why?

The phrase "Tilting with Windmills" and the word "quixotic" were both born of this tale. What do they mean? Can students give examples of them in today's society?


With older students (seniors in high school), a discussion on delusions could also be presented to the class. In reading about Don Quixote, what is Quixote's first delusion? Why do the students think he has become deluded? Why is his delusion of Aldonza/Dulcinea important to the story? What about the delusion of Sancho?

I, Don Quixote!

If it is possible, take students to see a production of The Man of La Mancha, or, rent a video of The Man of La Mancha starring Peter O'Toole and Sophia Loren. While the movie is dated, it will give the students a clear idea of what the story is about as well as aid in their discussions for the lesson plans: Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha.