Like links in a chain: Analyzing cause and effect relationships in "The Necklace"

26 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT analyze how complex characters advance the plot of a text by charting causes and effects in "The Necklace".

Big Idea

Hindsight is 20/20 as students decide where Madame Loisel could have changed her future by examining their cause and effect chains.

Do Now

10 minutes

For the "Do Now" today, I am asking my students to draw a cause and effect organizer. The organizer has several boxes joined by arrows. It can be found on pg. 26 of McDougal Littell's Language of Literature for 10th grade. We are reading "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant.  We are reading this story because it is part of our unit on Actions and Reactions. More importantly, the story fits well with our essential question: How do perceptions and circumstances affect actions? I am asking them to draw only 4 boxes right now, but I will caution them that they will have at least 10 boxes by the end of the story. As they read, they will use the cause and effect organizer to write down causes and effects in the story. 

In the past when I have taught cause and effect, I have given them an organizer worksheet. I am having them draw the diagram rather than giving them a handout because I want them to understand that organizers are a tool for them to use when they need them. They are not just worksheets to be completed because the teacher told them so. I have to admit that it also saves paper, and I am very thrifty--that's code for cheap.


Building Knowledge: Modeling the Cause and Effect Chart

20 minutes

To introduce the story, I will tell my students that we will be reading another story that shows how perceptions affect actions. This story is set in Paris, France in the 19th century when a woman's social status was heavily dependent upon whether she married a wealthy husband or was born into a wealthy family.  I will also explain the different classes in this society (upper, middle, and lower) and how a woman's life differed in each class. I am explaining this because students are sometimes only aware of their own social class and may not understand that views towards women have not always been as they are today.

This is a great opportunity to have some students share what they think of the idea that women are only as important as their husbands just to generate some thought and discussion on the topic and to compare life in France during this period to life in American now.

Next, I will explain to them that we will complete the cause and effect chain in order to connect the major events in the story that lead to other events and ultimately to the outcome. We will use this chain of events to understand how Madame Loisel and Monsieur Loisel interact with the other characters in the story and advance the plot CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3. This will help us answer the question: Where could Madame Loisel have changed her fate?

I am asking them to answer this question because it will help the students to see that perceptions do, in fact, affect actions. This relates back to our essential question for this unit. We will constantly be referring back to our question during this quarter as we continue to read.

I will begin by reading the first page of the story in order to model how I select the major events to add to my cause and effect chain. For my chain, I will add the following two events:

1. Madame Loisel is unhappy with her social status and seems to want more than she has.

2. Madame Loisel's husband is sensitive to her desires for more and goes through the trouble of getting her an invitation to a party.

During this part, it is important that I model how I stop when I get to a difficult word to either use context clues (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4a) to figure it out or look at the words to know or footnotes to make meaning (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4a). I have noticed that students generally just read over words they don't know, so I am hoping that my modeling with change that behavior.

I am expecting students to read at least page 27-30 in class. If they finish early, they can finish the story and chart. If not, the rest will become homework.


Application: Reading and Charting Causes and Effects

40 minutes

During this part of the lesson, I will ask my students to work with a partner to read the text and complete the cause and effect chain. I am having them read with a partner because they get to discuss their major events before charting them. They also get to help each other make meaning by asking questions and coming to a shared understanding of how complex characters interact with other characters to advance the plot (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3). O. Henry's writing may be a bit challenging for students, so working with a partner will aid in their understanding.

Here's a video of two students that I "interrupted" to check for understanding as they were charting out the major events in the story.  I was specifically interested in hearing about Madame Loisel's perceptions and circumstances because I want this lesson to stay true to the essential question. Connecting back to the essential question often this year has proven invaluable in showing the connections between the texts we are reading. Students seem to truly understand why we are reading these stories and are able to discuss characters, themes, and actions across texts. Connecting to the essential question is a way of putting together the puzzle of meaning with students after each reading/writing lesson. If only I knew these things as a new teacher, I would have been fierce!

Here's another student sample of the a student's cause and effect boxes.


10 minutes

For the closure activity, I will ask students to predict what will happen to Madame Loisel given her circumstances and perceptions. Since this isn't the end of the story, this will be a brief oral closure that we will explore more in our discussions during the next lesson. What actions will Madame Loisel take to deal with her circumstance?

For the next lesson, students should be able to decide if and when Madame Loisel could have taken different actions to change the outcome. I am expecting to hear lots of interesting theories about how Madame Loisel could have done things differently.