I like to kick off this lesson by asking kids a favorite question: If you had three wishes, what would you wish for? (No wishing for more wishes!)
Students say money, ending world hunger, to live forever, etc.
Then, I ask their classmates...could there be a downside to any of these wishes?
Today, the kids had a lot of fun with the second part. Live forever? All of your friends will die. A million dollars? What if you got it in pennies? So, then I challenged them to come up with a wish with no downside. They tried and tried, but their classmates beat them down.
That was the perfect introduction to The Monkey's Paw...
This is such a fun story to read aloud. It is in our literature book, but it is also available online.
We "bumped" the reading around to keep it interesting, and the students did a good job. One thing you might want to mention to the students is that the story is set in England, and you might want to give them some background about the colonial presence of the English in India. This might help them understand the story better. Also, some students may not understand that the "pound" is a term for currency, not weight gain (as one of my students thought.)
Since we have spent a good deal of time talking about foreshadowing, and since the foreshadowing in the story is VERY obvious, I decided to give my students a short, written assessment.
Here is the question: Discuss the author's use of foreshadowing in the story. Identify at least three examples, and provide text support for your choices.
What I was looking for was pretty straightforward: Three examples of foreshadowing (with citations and page numbers) and an intelligent discussion of those examples. I received many good responses. I have included them in Resources, along with a short screencast of me talking through one of them.
In order to drive home the story's theme "Be careful what you wish for" and to underscore the idea that no wish is without the possibility of negative consequences, I showed the students the Simpson's episode that riffs on The Monkey's Paw. In it, Homer uses his final wish to ask for a very specific turkey sandwich, but alas, the turkey is dry.
I had to purchase the episode on Amazon in order to show it. It is in Season 2 of Treehouse of Horror (their annual Halloween special.) However, there is a very short clip available on YouTube:
After we watch the episode, I ask the students to explain why the writers of The Simpsons wrote the scene wherein Homer wishes for the turkey sandwich, only to find out that it was dry. They got it, and they explained that "No wish is completely without negative consequences." Bingo!