The Scarlet Letter Unit Plan

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

If you are teaching 'The Scarlet Letter' to your students, it can be helpful to have a unit plan to work with. This lesson offers you an outline that you can doctor to make your own.

Teaching The Scarlet Letter

Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is an important novel that tells so much about American history and culture. The novel introduces themes like shame, the role of cultural norms, and the relationship between a person's drives and the surrounding culture. It also introduces important ideas about the connection between religion and the rest of society. Yet, this novel is a complicated one to read with students. The language can seem very old-fashioned, and the plot is unusual for the contemporary reader. For that reason, it is especially important for you to work with a unit plan that is well organized and keeps you on track. The unit plan in this lesson offers you an outline of how you might teach this novel, and you will want to modify it according to your own instructional hopes and your students' needs. This unit is organized into five weeks. However, some students might really need a longer stretch of time to work with Hawthorne; if possible, be flexible and allow them to read slowly enough to maximize their comprehension and enjoyment of the text.

Unit Plan

Week One

The first few days of week one of this unit should be devoted to pre-reading activities. In the case of The Scarlet Letter, it can be especially helpful to do activities reminding your students of what they know about Puritanism and its values. You might also want to make sure that all of your students understand the concept of adultery and why it is such a big deal, as well as why women might be blamed more fervently than men.

This week, you should also have your students read about The Custom House and the first two chapters of the novel. Let them start slowly with frequent checks to monitor their comprehension and respond to what they are learning. Having your students sketch the Custom House can also be a great way to get them engaged in the setting.

Week Two

This week, your students will be growing a bit more accustomed to Hawthorne's language and style. They should read chapters 3-7 of the novel this week. Continue your monitoring of their comprehension via discussions and written responses.

Your students start to get to know the character of Hester Prynne this week. Ask them to form their own opinion about Hester and write about whether they agree with the general social judgement on her character. Engage your students in a debate about Hester's behavior and how she is being treated.

Week Three

During this week, have your students read chapters 8-13. Since this is a lot of reading material, you will probably assign some of it to be completed as homework. When students read at home, make sure they write brief chapter summaries to show that they understand how the plot is unfolding.

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