Skip to Main Content

W.W. Jacobs "The Monkey's Paw": Theme

Lesson Plan

W.W. Jacobs "The Monkey's Paw": Theme

Grade Levels

9th Grade

Course, Subject

English Language Arts
Related Academic Standards


fate - something that unavoidably happens to a person

coincidence - a striking occurrence of two or more events at one time apparently by chance




Abstract:  This lesson will challenge students to identify the theme of "The Monkey's Paw" by WW Jacobs and connect it to what they know by participating in a debate and written expression.


Students will organize and express the meaning of fate and coincidence and apply knowledge to the theme of the story through participation in a debate, 

• The students will:

o      Investigate the definitions of fate and coincidence

o      Organize prior knowledge to support his or her belief of fate or coincidence

o      Identify the theme of the story in relation to our concepts of fate and coincidence

o      Engage in a meaningful debate while including definitions and prior knowledge associated with fate and coincidence

 o     Identify and explain the message (theme) the author wants the reader to get from the story:  What controls destiny, fate or coincidence?



Lesson Essential Question(s)

What experiences in your life lead you to believe that fate or coincidence control your destiny?

Do you think that the events in your life happen at random or on purpose?


This lesson will last approximately 45 minutes.  The follow-up activity will be ongoing throughout the reading of the story.


You will need:

Question / Comment Cards (enough for your class): On index cards, label one side Question and one side Comment.  You will collect these throughout the debate in order to track everyone's participation.

SmartBoard or projector for organizing students' responses and scores.

Copy of "The Monkey's Paw" by WW Jacobs

Pens/Pencils, Paper

 Monkey's Paw Rubric.doc

Suggested Instructional Strategies

o W = Before, during and after our project, students are reminded of the purpose of our activity: to explore the ideas of fate and coincidence and how they apply to us as well as the story we are reading.  Additionally, the objective / essential question will be posted on the board throughout the lesson for reference.

o H = The students' interest will be hooked by making connections to their own experiences and sharing personal stories.  It will be held because they will be participating in a debate.  Their competitiveness and insight will promote high level thinking and expression.

o E = Students will begin the lesson with personal connections.  They will engage in conversations with peers about their past experiences with coincidence and fate.  Students will be able to pre-write in order to prepare their thoughts for the debate.  They can use their notes in order to provide effective points and poignant questions.  

o R =  Students will reflect throughout the process by thinking, discussing and sharing.  They will revisit our question of fate vs. coincidence throughout the unit as we read.  They will revise their T charts throughout the lesson while listening to peers and identifying good points.  As we read, students will rethink the concepts of fate and coincidence and the application to "The Monkey's Paw".

o E = Students will express their understanding  in multiple venues.  First, through written expression in response to the question on the board.  They will orally share their responses in small groups.  Then they will refine their ideas in bullet point form in order to express them verbally in a large group setting.  The self-evaluation will be continuous throughout the process.  They will eventually apply their own experiences to those in "The Monkey's Paw" through written expression.

o T = The instruction attached to the lesson can meet each child's needs.  For those who need more support, model with examples provided in Step 1.  During the planning portion of the lesson, note specific points that certain students can make.  Allow supported students to be one of the first comments/questions to boost confidence.  For the writing assignment, provide an adaptation that contains benchmarks such as a topic sentence and transitions.  If needed, model the first few sentences or provide a sample writing piece.

o O = How will you organize learning experiences so that students move from teacher-guided and concrete activities to independent applications that emphasize growing conceptual understandings as opposed to superficial coverage?  This activity is structured by independent work, small group work, and large group work.  Through multiple opportunities, students will be able to test out their ideas and refine the concept of theme.  Eventually students will be able to solidify their thoughts through an independent writing assignment that expresses students' understand of fate and coincidence and its connection to the theme of "The Monkey's Paw".

Instructional Procedures

1. When the students enter the classroom, have this question posted on the board:

"Do you think that the events in your life happen at random or on purpose? Support your answer with examples from your own experiences."

Give the students three minutes to answer the question.  After three minutes, have students share in their neighborhoods (pre-established areas around their desk in which they do not have to move).  After a minute or so, encourage students to share their examples with the whole group.  Encourage links to prior knowledge.

Examples for fate:  
1. I think things in my life happen on purpose.  Last year I didn't make the volleyball team, but because of that, I was able to meet my best friend in ski club.
2. I think things in my life happen on purpose.  Over the summer I broke my leg playing softball, but because of that, I was able to read 19 books!
3. I think things in my life happen on purpose.  I got an F on my test, but because of that, my teacher tutored me and I became an A student.

Example for coincidence:  
1. I think things in my life happen at random.  This morning I missed the bus, but thankfully my friend, who missed the bus too, was driving by and picked me up.
2. I think things in my life happen at random.  I went to the movies over the weekend.  I was supposed to meet my friend there but she didn't show up.  My cousin was there with her friends, so I didn't have to sit alone.
3. I think things in my life happen at random.  I grew up next door to a boy my age which is why we became best friends.


2. Identify and explain what coincidence and fate are (see definitions below).  Have students label their belief in fate or coincidence.  Tally results.  Explain to them that we will be reading a story that can be viewed through the perspective of fate or the perspective of coincidence; and their task, while we read, is to choose and support with examples from the text.  Explain that this concept of fate and coincidence is the theme of the story.

coincidence - a striking occurence of two or more events at one time apparently by chance
fate - something that unavoidable happens to a person


3.  Group the students by their belief: fate or coincidence.  Pass out the appropriate Idea Organizer for each group.  Give the students 5-10 minutes to brainstorm on the T-Chart.  Please see attached.

Coincidence Idea Organizer.docFate Idea Organizer.doc


4.  Explain to students that they will be participating in a debate.  Create rules as a class.  Although it is class created, be sure they include the big ones:
* You must take turns
* Please address the idea not the person
* Raise your hand if you have something to add
* Points are scored by sharing a comment or a question
* Record good points from both sides of the debate on T-Chart


5.  Divide students into two teams: those who believe fate guides our lives and those who believe that events are merely coincidental.  They will be required to express their ideas on the role fate or coincidence plays in our lives.  Their task is to come up with more valid arguments / points than the competing group.  Each member of the group must provide at least one question or comment supporting their team.  Keep score by tally on the board.  Ensure 100% participation by collecting question/comment cards.  Encourage students to note on T chart additional good ideas that their team had.  Record various ideas to be discussed post-debate.


6.  Announce the winner and illuminate some of the points that were made.  Explain how our perspectives determine whether something occurs because of fate or coincidence.  Remind the students that the story we are about to read can be looked at one of those two ways.  As the students read, have them keep a "bookmark" where they can record their perspective of the story by answering this question regarding the theme:

"Is it fate or coincidence that control the events in the White's lives?"  

After reading the story (lesson 3), require students to answer the question in proper paragraph form with support from the text as well as connections to their own experiences.  Encourage them to use new vocabulary words as well.  Please review rubric at this time:

Monkey's Paw Rubric.doc

Formative Assessment

Students will demonstrate their knowledge, skills and creativity by:

o T-Chart completion

Participation in debate

Written response to essential question

o Observation during collaborative work


Tools used to evaluate student knowledge:

o Rubric containing the following criteria - please provide this to students before they begin the writing task:

Monkey Paw Rubric.doc

o Question/Comment Cards

Related Materials & Resources

WW Jacobs, "The Monkey's Paw"


Date Published

March 01, 2010
Please wait...