This unit in our 8th grade Reading curriculum, covers 'Flowers for Algernon' and includes great ideas for teaching the short story.
Novel or Short Story Version?
"Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes originated as a short story that he published and then later developed in to a full-blown novel. You may be tempted to teach only the novel, but at the middle school level, I find that the short story captivates a student's attention and is very effective at hitting home the theme of the much longer novel. Students are intrigued from page one of the short story, and you will be able to incorporate more activities in a shorter amount of time by using just the story.
Questions & Vocab
No matter which version you decide, you can use any of the activities and resources for your "Flowers" Unit listed below:
1. "Flowers for Algernon" Study Guide questions - use these questions while reading the short story to further your students understanding.
2. "Flowers for Algernon" Short Story Vocabulary - teaching vocabulary within the context of the story benefits students greatly, so attempt to cover these words with your students as you read the text.
"Flowers for Algernon" Team Challenges
Teaching literature shouldn't be all about vocabulary and heavy questions. Have a little bit of fun with the story by inspiring a little bit of healthy competition among your students! In my "Team Challenge" activities, you will be creating groups of students who will be called "Team Charlie" and "Team Algernon". Through several activities, the teams will compete for points and endeavor to out perform the other team...much like the characters in the story! Check out the activities below:
Tone and Mood Lesson
"Flowers for Algernon" is a perfect story to use as a tool to teach tone and mood. After implementing the "Tone and Mood Lesson" (provided in the previous link), be sure that you point out the shifts in tone as Charlie gains intelligence, and subsequently loses it. Alert students to the wide range of emotions exhibited through Charlie's writing in reports post-surgery, versus report he written prior to his "change". Also having students high light tone words will not only enable them to further their tone word vocabulary, but will open their eyes to Charlie's changing emotional behavior that coincides with his gains in intelligence.
I do not have a written lesson on this activity because it is pretty self-explanatory, but you can require your students to write progress reports of their own throughout the unit. Before reading the story, have students look at the format of the work. They should immediately be able to tell you that the story is written like a diary or journal. Based on that observation, what can they infer this story will be about? Middle school and high school students need practice analyzing the format and organization of a work. Be sure you use this opportunity to have them do just that. It would also benefit students to learn a similar writing style by creating their own journal. You could have students simply write a set amount of progress reports or have them type up their reports on laptops or in the computer lab. Either way, having students practice this particular writing style will greatly benefit their understanding of the work.
The movie version of the novel is an American classic cinematic production. Although it includes scenarios from the novel (and a few psychedelic 60's scenes), students tend to enjoy visual productions of any text. You may only choose to watch scenes from the film, which you can find on YouTube, or watch the movie in its entirety. Have students create a venn diagram comparing the flilm to the text, or write a comparative progress report while they watch the film.