Tragedy in Literature Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Use this lesson plan to teach your students about the literary tragedy. A video lesson defines the term and gives the types of literature they're found in, then describes characteristics. Students apply learning to text and take a quiz to develop full understanding.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define literary tragedy
  • explain the types of literature in which tragedies are found
  • describe characteristics of literary tragedies


1 - 1.5 hours


  • Song and printed lyrics for Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton
  • Collection of short literary tragedies, one set of the same story for each group

Key Vocabulary

  • Literary tragedy
  • Tragic flaw
  • Catharsis

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.5

Compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.2

Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.10

By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.8.1

Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Warm Up

  • Play the song Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton, then pass out the lyrics.
  • Explain to students that the song is believed to be partially about the death of Clapton's four-year-old son, Connor, who fell to his death.
  • Break students into small groups and play the song again, then ask students to discuss the song, focusing on the term 'tragedy.' Ask:
    • What is tragic about this song?
    • How does Clapton communicate his feelings?
    • What lyrics are tragic?
  • Work with students to define the word tragic.

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