Symbolism on the Island

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TSWBAT analyze how symbolism helps the author communicate his message beyond the limits of language.

Big Idea

Symbolism is an extension of an author's vision.

Warm Up

15 minutes

The significance of symbolism, a way for an author to bring layers of meaning to the novel, presents higher level thinking skills to the students, and when they grasp the idea of it in literature, it deepens comprehension. They uncover literal or figurative meanings, and determine the implication of words and phrases used in the text that support the meaning, CCS RL.5.4.

This Smart Board overview of Symbolism is comprehensive and easy for the kids to understand.  It's a great method of introducing the topic.  They also enjoy the interactive opportunity.  Although not everyone has the chance to come to the Smart Board during the initial lesson, I make it available to try out when they finish independent work. 


30 minutes

I pass out the Symbolism Graphic Organizer . A class discussion about symbols from the novel is a good idea following the warm up activity.  The kids are thoroughly aware and ready to identify the symbols they've read in Island of the Blue Dolphins.  They select a symbol (i.e. RED) to write at the top of the page, and this will be the focus symbol.  They'll cite various symbolic ideas, but since some are more evident than others, the following list is good to have handy. 

Red - symbolizing violence or danger...Aleutian sails, blood from Chief Chowig, Ramo, bull elephants, wild dogs, tidal waves crashing.

Secret Names - powerful...Symbol of trust and when Chief Chowig gives Capt Orlov his secret name, it seems to the natives that it has weakened him...when Karana gives it to Tutok, it shows her trust in Tutok.

Dolphins - good fortune...They appear at the end of Chapter 10 as a good omen to Karana and then again at the very end of the book as she is leaving the island for the final time.  She feels hopeful.

Thin Line of Blue Clay on Face - hope for new life...An unmarried women wears this as a symbol when she is ready to marry, and it also identifies women as part of the Ghalas-at tribe. When Karana puts it on before she leaves the island it is to show that she's hopeful for her new life.

Tumaiyowit - subtle symbol of death and ancestory (students needing a challenge can explore this one.)

As a first time activity, it can be difficult to decide just what is a symbol?  For this reason, allowing the students to work in their table groups, rather than individually, is a perfect solution.  They help each other with understanding, while having productive fun designing their Symbolism Graphic Organizer.

Mini slideshow of Symbolism work here.  Clicking on the slideshow takes you to



15 minutes

Students make a T-Chart in their literature notebook/spirals or use the T-chart worksheet.  On left side they put CONCRETE OBJECT as the category and on the right side WHAT IT MAY SYMBOLIZE.  They create a list of objects and what they symbolize.  I like to close the lesson this way- moving back to "their world," as opposed to the Island of the Blue Dolphins, to demonstrate understanding.  

I ask my students to steer clear of the symbols that were shown in the warm up Smart Board activity (i.e. stop sign) and those from Island of the Blue Dolphins.  This is a chance for them to think creatively.

Regardless of how the list is used, it will be a good way to quickly see comprehension of the lesson.