James Joyce Lesson Plan

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Educate your students about the legendary Irish author James Joyce with this helpful lesson plan. Your students will first view a video lesson, take a related follow-up quiz, and participate in three activities to reinforce major concepts.

Learning Objectives

After studying this lesson, your students will be able to:

  • Describe how the author's writing style changed from novel to novel
  • Name some of the famous works written by James Joyce
  • Recap the personal life of the renowned author


1-1.5 Hours


Key Vocabulary

  • Bloomsday
  • Dubliners
  • Epiphanies
  • Finnegans Wake
  • Modernist movement
  • Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • Stream of consciousness
  • Ulysses

Curriculum Standards


Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.


Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)


  • Inform your pupils they will be studying James Joyce.
  • Display an image of James Joyce.
  • Ask your students if anyone is familiar with him or his works.
  • Review vocabulary terms.
  • Hand out copies of the lesson Introduction to James Joyce: Life and Evolution of Style.
  • Start the video and pause for the first time at 2:14.
    • What day is Bloomsday?
    • What does it celebrate?
    • In what movement is Ulysses a key book?
    • When was the Modernist movement?
    • How do his novels change over time?
    • What is stream of consciousness?
    • Does Joyce give meaning and intention to this process?
  • Now, restart the video and pause again at 6:37.
    • When was Joyce born?
    • What other famous author was born the same year?
    • Was he from a large family?
    • Where does he attend schools?
    • Why does he return from Paris?
    • What is his wife's name?
    • How does he die? What year?
  • Next, restart the video and play it to the conclusion.
    • What are four of Joyce's most revered works?
    • What is one type of character common to all four of the works?
    • What are two of the best-known short stories from Dubliners?
    • Which of the works is semi-autobiographical?
    • What are two words he appeared to have invented?
    • What are some of the themes of the four novels?
    • What are some of the concepts of Modernism?
  • Review the entire lesson and answer any pertinent questions.
  • Have your students take the lesson quiz to demonstrate their grasp of the material.

Activity One

  • Inform your students they are going to study three works by James Joyce.
  • Divide the students up into three groups.
    • Group One will be Team Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Group Two will be Team Ulysses. Group Three will be Team Finnegans Wake.
    • Now, research each of your assigned works. You can use the Internet, any research materials, or any books from the school library (if permitted.)
    • What is the plot of your novel?
    • What is the theme of your novel?
    • Who are the main characters in your novel?
  • When the students are through, have each group elect a spokesperson to give a presentation to the class.

Activity Two

  • Tell your students they are going to study 'Araby.' This is one of the 15 short stories in Dubliners.
  • Play the audio version of the story. It is less than 14 minutes long and is readily available for free online.
    • Who is the narrator in the story? (a young Irish boy.)
    • On what girl does he have a crush? (Mangan.)
    • Who used to live in the house of his aunt and uncle? (a deceased priest.)
    • What is Araby? (a bazaar where items are sold.)
    • Why can't Mangan go to the bazaar (religious activities at school.)
    • What does he intend to do? (go to the bazaar and buy her a gift.)
    • What does he do instead? (goes to the bazaar and doesn't buy anything.)
    • Why doesn't he buy anything? (this is left open to the reader's interpretation.)
    • Finally, why do you think he didn't buy anything?

Activity Three

  • Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories. Inform your students they are going to have a competition to see who can correctly match up the story name with the plot and the theme, and then some of the main characters from each of the stories.
  • Hand out preprinted worksheets featuring the following three sets of items. Divide your students up into small groups of 4-6.

Names of the Short Stories:

1) 'The Sisters'

2) 'An Encounter'

3) 'Araby'

4) 'Eveline'

5) 'After the Race'

6) 'Two Gallants'

7) 'The Boarding House'

8) 'A Little Cloud'

9) 'Counterparts'

10) 'Clay'

11) 'A Painful Case'

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