Analyzing the Author's Use of Symbolism in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

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SWBAT identify and analyze patterns of symbolism by completing a chart of examples of symbols in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian.

Big Idea

What can Kentucky Fried Chicken symbolize in a story about poverty?


10 minutes

I want my students to begin to think about what a symbol is and how it communicates a message. I begin this lesson with an activator that is meaningful to their daily lives by asking them to brainstorm a list of logos for sports teams, clothing/products in advertising or other popular movements.  To check for understanding, after about five minutes I ask students to share their answers while I make a master list on the board.


Building Background Knowledge

20 minutes

I use the Symbolism Power Point as an introduction and lead-in to filling out the Symbolism chart they will use during the student activity.  Modeling how a symbol such as the death of "Oscar" can exemplify a theme of the novel addresses the standard RI.9-10.2  which requires students to determine the central ideas of the text and analyze their development.

I first ask each student to take out their Theme Chart while encouraging them to choose the theme that they think Oscar exemplifies. I then model in slides #7 and 8 how the symbol of Oscar's death exemplifies the theme of Poverty. We then discuss the event on pages 10-13 and how the shooting of Oscar has deeper meaning for Junior and his life on the reservation.

Student Learning Activity

35 minutes

Next I ask my students to complete the Symbolism Chart stating what the following symbolize: Oscar, Kentucky Fried Chicken, the Geometry book, Basketball, and Turtle Lake. While they work on this task I  circulate among students checking for understanding and keeping them focused on the task.

I ask them to find the chapter in which the symbol is used and read the event addressing the standard RL.9-10.1. They need to analyze the event and paraphrase the evidence which supports their answers.  This lesson can occur anytime within the reading of the novel.  I choose to address symbolism after they've understood the main events and how the characters advance the theme.

Wrap Up

10 minutes


To help students summarize what they've learned about the author's use of symbolism,  I compile a few student's answers by writing a master chart filling in a blank symbolism chart with the meanings students share. I  facilitate a class discussion on symbol's meanings and how they connect to the chosen themes.