The Selfish Giant Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

This lesson plan will help students identify the theme, recognize symbolism, and understand the use of figurative language as they read 'The Selfish Giant' by Oscar Wilde.

Learning Objective

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Determine the theme and symbolism of The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde
  • Identify figurative language and the reasons for the author's word choice


1-2 hours

Curriculum Standards


Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.


Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.


  • bitterly
  • cloak
  • companion
  • delicate
  • determined
  • feeble
  • linnet
  • pleased
  • prosecuted
  • slates
  • trespassers
  • wound


  • copy of the book The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde
  • chart paper
  • markers
  • paper
  • pencil
  • crayons
  • sentence strips
  • picture cards
  • word cards

Day 1

  • Prior to starting the lesson, review the vocab words.
  • Read The Selfish Giant Summary as a class.
  • After reading 'The Giant Comes Home' discuss:
    • What happened while the giant was away visiting his friend?
    • How does the giant keep the children out of his garden?
    • Why doesn't spring come to the giant's garden?
  • Read 'A Change of Heart' then discuss:
    • What causes spring to finally come?
    • Why is the little boy crying?
    • How does the giant's experience with the little boy change him?
  • Read the rest of the lesson, then discuss:
    • Who is the little boy?
    • Why does he finally return to the garden?

The Theme

Materials: copy of The Selfish Giant, paper, pencils, chart paper, markers

  • Read The Selfish Giant to students.
  • Give students 5 minutes to work independently to brainstorm all the possible lessons the author might be trying to send to the reader in this story.
  • Divide students into small groups to discuss their answers.
  • As a class, create an anchor chart on chart paper that explains that the theme is the main point that the author is trying to make. Choose themes from the story to list as examples.

Day 2

  • As a review of themes and the story, read The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde: Theme and Analysis as a class then discuss:
  • What message does the author pass on to the reader?
  • What does winter symbolize in this story?
  • What does spring symbolize in this story?
  • What are some symbols of Christianity in this story?


Materials: a set of picture cards for each pair of students with the following symbols from the story: children, spring, winter, tree, little boy, white blossoms, wall, garden; a set of word cards for each pair of students with the following symbolic meanings from the story: Jesus wants welcoming children, Happy times, Loneliness, Jesus' cross, Jesus, Heaven, The giant's heart, Isolation; paper, pencil, crayons

  • Reiterate that symbols are things that represent bigger ideas in the story.
  • Provide each pair of students with a set of picture cards and word cards.
  • Have students match each picture symbol with the words that describe its symbolic meaning in the story.
  • Have each pair select a symbol to write about and illustrate for a class story (repeats are okay).
  • Compile the pages into a book and place it in the classroom library.

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