“The Open Boat” Lesson Plans, Summary, and Analysis

I’ll save you the trouble of scrolling. Here’s the pdf download lesson plan and graphic organizer: Setting and Plot in The Open Boat. You can still read this awesome post, but make sure you get something you can use right now by downloading the lesson plan.


“NONE of them knew the color of the classroom walls. Their eyes glanced level, and were fastened upon the desk top that lay directly in front of them. This class was of the hue of slate, of foaming boredom, and all of the students knew the colors of the desk as they lay their heads face down on it. The scene narrowed and widened, and dipped and rose, and at all times its edge was jagged with boredom that seemed thrust up in points like rocks.”

It was time for new “Open Boat” lesson plans because the current ones were swamping the class with boredom.

“The Open Boat” Summary

"The Open Boat" Lesson Plans--Picture of four men in a boat struggling to stay afloat.

We’ve all had those moments when we’ve wanted to throw those anachronistic, big time publisher lesson plans overboard. Luckily there’s “The Open Boat” lesson plans unit from ELACommonCoreLessonPlans.com.

The story begins with 4 men on a life boat attempting to row their way to safety off the coast of Florida. The four men include the captain, the cook, the correspondent, and Billy. Billy is the oiler. If you were on the boat, you would think it sucked. The boat’s no bigger than a bathtub and the waves are relentless.

It appears the men will be saved as they spot a man on shore waving his coat. As it turns out, that’s all he’s doing because he does nothing to rescue them. The four are forced to spend all night in the boat. They want to punch the man in the face for not realizing their desperate state. I want to punch the man in the face, too. It’s like they’re trapped at sea and all you’re doing is waving a coat.

The next morning, they realize a boat rescue is not going to happen. Their only choice is to row in as far as they can and swim to shore once the boat is capsized.

“The Open Boat” Analysis

"The Open Boat" lesson plans picture

“Many a man ought to have a bath-tub larger than the boat which here rode upon the sea.”

I read “The Open Boat” again about 36 minutes ago. It’s even better than I remember. Here are some topics for discussion.

  1. Naturalism. If there’s anything in this story that needs pointed out, it’s the indifference of nature –a major tenet of Naturalism. In fact, a discussion of Naturalism provides a foundation for analyzing and teaching the story.
  2. Setting. See #1.
  3. Suspense. So there’s four guys in a boat. Doesn’t sound very intense. But it is. Discuss and analyze how the masters create suspense and then observe how Stephen Crane does it.
  4. Character Analysis. Many of the themes in “The Open Boat” revolve around the randomness of life and indifference of nature. But there’s more to it than the cold January water. The men’s determination to survive the journey and their decision to face their fate with dignity shows them to be manly in a Hemingwayish manner.
  5. Style and Tone. Crane’s direct and dispassionate style reflects the indifference the ocean feels toward the men in the boat: Form reflects content.

“The Open Boat” Lesson Plans

"The Open Boat" Analysis

“If we don’t all get ashore—” said the captain. “If we don’t all get ashore, I suppose you fellows know where to send news of my finish?”

A story as great as “The Open Boat” deserves more than a cursory read the story and answer the questions lesson plan. Here are some ideas. You’ll notice it mirrors the analysis section.

  1. Setting and Plot Lesson Plan. The setting plays a key role in all aspects of the story’s plot. Download the pdf lesson plan and graphic organizer: Setting and Plot in The Open Boat
  2. Analysis Lesson Plan. It’s one thing to define Naturalism. Take it to the next level by identifying elements of Naturalism. And then take it to the next level by analyzing the significance of the examples to the overall theme of the story. This assignment is most easily accomplished with a 3-column chart.
  3. Suspense Analysis Chart. I’m a big fan of suspense. I’m a big fan of charts. I’m a really big fan of charts that analyze suspense.
  4. Themes. OK, I’m not even going to pretend that every single lesson plan I create doesn’t involve a graphic organizer of some type. I’ll also own up to using graphic organizers to trick students into thinking analytically. And I’ll also fess up to teaching students how to write analysis using the graphic organizers they complete. Guilty as charged. There are several themes in “The Open Boat.” Find evidence for each one by (you guessed it) creating a two column chart instructing students to find evidence to support various themes in the story.
  5. Character Analysis. There are four characters in this boat. Each plays a role.

 

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