Lesson Plan

Understanding the Use of Symbolism


Grade Levels

Related Academic Standards

Assessment Anchors

Eligible Content

Big Ideas




This lesson introduces students to symbolism. Students will:

  • identify examples of symbolism in fictional texts and interpret their meaning.
  • identify the effects of symbolism on the plots of fictional texts.
  • identify the effects of symbolism on characters in fictional texts.
  • demonstrate understanding of symbolism by completing a graphic organizer.

Essential Questions

  • How do strategic readers create meaning from informational and literary text?
  • How does interaction with text provoke thinking and response?
  • How does what readers read influence how they should read?
  • Why learn new words?
  • What strategies and resources do readers use to figure out unknown vocabulary?
  •  How do learners develop and refine their vocabulary?


  • Fiction: Any story that is the product of imagination rather than a documentation of fact. Characters and events in such narratives may be based in real life, but they are a creation of the author.
  • Plot: The structure of a story. The sequence in which the author arranges events in a story. The structure often includes the rising action, the climax, the falling action, and the resolution.
  • Resolution: The portion of a story following the climax, in which the conflict is resolved.
  • Symbolism: A device in literature where an object represents an idea.


4590 minutes/1–2 class periods

Prerequisite Skills


Note: Use these suggested books or other books with strong symbolism.

  • The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco. Aladdin, 2001. This is a beautifully written book that shows how a blanket has been passed down from generation to generation and becomes symbolic of a family’s love, faith, and endurance.
  • An Angel for Solomon Singerby Cynthia Rylant. Orchard Paperbacks, 1996. This book allows readers to infer and reflect on the symbolic objects (menu), people (Angel, the waiter), and places (Westway Café) being depicted throughout the story. (You will need multiple copies of this book.) Alternative books with strong symbolism include the following:
    • The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy. Peachtree Publishers, 2000.
    • The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco. Puffin Books, 2009.
    • The Three Golden Keys by Peter Sís. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.
    • The Bird, the Frog, and the Light by Avi. Orchard Books, 1994.
    • Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting. Clarion Books, 1991.
    • The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble. Atheneum, 2001.
    • Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say. Sandpiper, 2008.

Teachers may substitute other books to provide a range of reading and level of text complexity.

Related Unit and Lesson Plans

Related Materials & Resources

The possible inclusion of commercial websites below is not an implied endorsement of their products, which are not free, and are not required for this lesson plan.

  • The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland. Voyager Books, 1997.
  • The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 1991.
  • Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold. Dragonfly Books, 1996.
  • Rumplestiltskin’s Daughter by Diane Stanley. HarperCollins, 2002.
  • The Bracelet by Yoshiko Uchida. Putnam, 1996.

Formative Assessment


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Instructional Procedures


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  • Current Rating





I love that the book "The Keeping Quilt" is used as a resource for this lesson. It is a great example of symbolism. I also like that several different texts are listed as resources this gives the ability to adapt the lesson to meet the needs of the individual classroom.

Posted more than a year ago
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