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Page by Page: Reading The Turn of the Screw

By Sarah Degnan Moje

The story is told in a flashback. There is a narrator who is hosting a party at Christmas. He wants all his guests to tell a ghost story; this is an English Christmas tradition.

Douglas, one of the guests, agrees to tell the story of what happened. He was friends with the Governess… and so, our story begins.

Tips for Planning Classroom Activities and Discussions

Turn of the Screw book cover The Turn of the Screw is not a ghost story in the most modern sense of the word. There are no zombies or vampires lurking outside windows or under dim streetlights. There are no witches flying over the moon or werewolves biting people for the sheer lust of it. What this story does contain is a possibility – and in that possibility lies both the fun and the horror of the novel.

Although it is a short novel, it is best broken down by chapter sets, with quizzes between each set and reviews via PowerPoint on the major happenings in the novel. The language of James and the setting of Victorian England may be unfamiliar and confusing to some students and so, in order to ensure that each student gets the full benefit of each part of the story, it is essential that the teacher go slowly and work with them to ensure comprehension.

However, don’t do all of the work for them. Toward the end of the novel, put your students in groups and assign them a creative project. Have them make a PowerPoint presentation that sums up the novel from Chapter 13 to the end. This will allow you to assess their comprehension of the end of the story and also get an idea about where their thoughts lie in relation to whether or not the people in the novel were truly being haunted. It also allows students who are more visual learners to have a chance to shine, by making an interactive presentation.

But, first things first. Download the chapter PowerPoint presentations for the chapter sets and the quizzes for after each set. Answer keys are included for easy grading. Happy haunting, everyone!