“Popular Mechanics” Short Story Lesson Plan

E A R L Y that day the weather turned, and the snow was melting into dirty water. Streaks of it ran down from the little shoulder-high window that faced the school parking lot. Cars slushed by on the street outside, where it was getting dark. But it was getting dark on the inside too. He was in the classroom pushing belongings into a cardboard box when she came to the door. I’m glad you’re leaving! I’m glad you’re leaving! She said. Do you hear? “Your lessons are weak!” He kept on putting his things into the cardboard box…including the greatest “Popular Mechanics” short story lesson plan I’ve ever seen.

“Popular Mechanics” short story lesson plan: Analyzing Symbolism in “Popular Mechanics”

"Popular Mechanics" lesson plans

A short short story can produce excellent topics for discussion, if you have the right lesson plans.

If you came here looking for Popular Mechanics, the magazine, sorry. If you’re looking for a “Popular Mechanics” by Raymond Carver short story lesson plan, this is the right place. You’ll also find a “Popular Mechanics” short story summary and analysis.

If you’re teaching the story and not familiar with the famous magazine, you may not realize the pun in the story’s title. Good thing you came here, then.

“Popular Mechanics” Summary

A married couple is fighting. We don’t know why. He’s leaving–packing his suitcase. She’s glad and says as much. There’s a baby. They both want the baby. They argue about who gets the baby. They fight over the baby, literally. It’s not clear what happens to the baby, but there’s ample evidence that it isn’t good.

Popular Mechanics Analysis

An analysis of “Popular Mechanics” produces the following discussion topics and observations:

  • Theme – Innocents get hurt during conflict—children in a divorce, for example, but this theme can be applied on a macro-level. What happens to the powerless when those in power wage war?
  • Conflict – This story is nothing but conflict, a rather unsettling conflict at that. It is mostly person vs. person.
  • The Title. The title alludes to a popular magazine that deals with all things mechanical. The popular mechanics reference in the story does not refer what happens to a machine, but what happens to a baby undergoing the laws of physics.
  • Anxiety. It’s hard not to feel anxiety when reading this. Carver does a great job of transferring the emotions of a fight to the readers.
  • Comparison. Compare this story to “Solomon Makes a Difficult Decision” from the Old Testament.
  • Symbolism. Am I getting too English teacheriesh by suggesting this story may be an allegory?

“Popular Mechanics” Lesson Plan Standards

You have downloaded the symbolism lesson plan, right?

  • Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
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