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More Gift Giving: The Last Leaf By O. Henry


“The Last Leaf” is a short story by O. Henry published in his 1907 collection The Trimmed Lamp and Other Stories. The story first appeared on October 15, 1905, in the New York World. The story is set in Greenwich Village during a pneumonia epidemic. It tells the story of an old artist who saves the life of a young neighboring artist, dying of pneumonia, by giving her a very special gift: the will to live.” ~Wikipedia~

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Lesson Plan for The Last Leaf By O. Henry

Level: Intermediate -Advanced

Language Skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: approximately 2 hours.

Materials: student handouts (from this lesson) access to short story and video (see below). Also examples  of components for literary analysis  

Objectives:   Students will  read and discuss the short story The Last Leaf by O. Henry. Students will achieve a better understanding of the story by learning literary devices and terms  (e.g., imagery, symbolism, protagonist, antagonist, setting)  used for analyzing stories.  They will also learn how to  analyze the relationship between characters, and events in the story by using these literary devices.

Short Story

Biography of O. Henry

 San Antonio College: Elements of Literary Analysis: 

I. Pre-Reading Tasks

A.  Stimulating Background Knowledge

Directions: In groups, have students generate ideas that may be connected to the following list of words from the story:  artist, studio, Pneumonia, thermometer, pharmacopeia, New York City, Greenwich Village.

B.  Pre-reading Discussion Questions

Directions: Have students discuss the following questions.

  1. Did you ever have to take care of a good friend when they were very ill? If you have, describe the situation. How did you feel?
  2. Have you ever been very ill? If yes, describe what it was like.  Did someone take care of you? Describe this person.
  3. If a good friend of your got sick, would you take care of them? Explain why or why not.
  4. In which season are people more likely to get sick? Why?

II. While Reading Tasks

1.  Word Inference

Directions:  Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold (taken from the article) and use a dictionary or thesaurus for assistance.They can use a dictionary to check their answers. Highlight any other unknown words they may come across.

  1. In a little district west of Washington Square the streets have run crazy and broken.
  2. Suppose a collector with a bill for paints, paper and canvas should, in traversing this route, suddenly meet himself?
  3. People went to quaint old Greenwich Village.
  4. They had met at the table and found their tastes in art, chicory salad and bishop sleeves so congenial that the joint studio resulted.
  5. In November a cold, unseen stranger, whom the doctors called Pneumonia, stalked about the colony.
  6. Mr. Pneumonia was not what you would call a chivalric old gentleman.
  7. Then she swaggered into Johnsy’s room with her drawing board, whistling ragtime.
  8. As Sue was sketching a pair of elegant horses and riding trousers and a monocle on the figure of the hero.
  9. Sue looked solicitously out the window.
  10. When it was light enough Johnsy, the merciless, commanded that the shades be raised.

Vocabulary Cluster By


Questions for Comprehension

Directions: After students have reviewed Components for Literary Analysis have them answer the following questions from the story.

  1. From whose point of view is the story being told?
  2. Who is the protagonist in this story?  
  3. Who is the antagonist?
  4. Where does the story take place? (Hint: Washington Square, Greenwich Village)
  5. Identify the main characters in the story.
  6. What are the professions of Sue and Johnsy?
  7. What is the following piece of writing an example of? “Pneumonia, stalked about the colony, touching one here and there with his icy fingers. Over on the east side this ravager strode boldly, smiting his victims by scores, but his feet trod slowly through the maze of the narrow and moss-grown “places.”
  8. How was Sue taking her illness? Was she trying to get better?  Explain why or why not.
  9. What did Mr. Behrman paint before he died?

III. Post-Reading:

Questions for Reflection

Directions: Students discuss the following questions.

  1. What are some of  the conflicts in the story?
  2. What are some of the themes in the story?
  3.  What are some of the symbols in the story?
  4. Identify one example of how O. Henry used imagery.
  5. Near the end of the story Johnsy states, “I’ve been a bad girl, Sudie… “Something has made that last leaf stay there to show me how wicked I was. It is a sin to want to die.”  What does she mean?
  6. Why does Sue refer to The Last Leaf as Behrman’s masterpiece?

Writing Assignment 

Directions: Students choose a topic and write an essay to share with the class.

  1. Some of the themes in the story are death, friendship, love, and sacrifice. Choose one of these themes and write an essay describing your thoughts about the theme.
  2. Write a description for each character in the story.
  3. O. Henry, gives a surprise ending to this story. See if you can write a different ending for the story.

IV. Listening Activity 

Directions: Students are to view the film and answer the following questions.

Video Clip: Adaption of the Last Leaf by Matt Gatlin & Co.

Questions for Discussion

  1. After viewing this version of the story, do you feel that you understand it better?   If yes, describe in what way. If no, explain why not.
  2. Do you prefer the written version? Explain why or why not.


Christmas Day in the Morning By Pearl S. Buck

To begin the holiday season ESL-Voices has added a wonderful new story to our Classic Short Story Library. This little known short story is by Pearl S. Buck entitled ‘Christmas Day in the Morning’. As always there is a full lesson plan and  Answer Key. See below. Enjoy!

Pearl Sydenstricker Buck [June 26, 1892 – March 6, 1973]Pearl Sydenstricker Buck (June 26, 1892 – March 6, 1973), was an American writer and novelist. She is best known for The Good Earth which was the best-selling novel in the United States in 1931 and 1932 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932.

Christmas Day in the Morning  [by Pearl S. Buck] is as gorgeous as the day it celebrates. And unlike so many other presents, the real gift isn’t the book itself, it’s the simple, pure message. If you give anything this year, give love.” ~Jason F. Wright, New York Times best-selling author of ‘Christmas Jars’ 

“In this adaptation of “Christmas Day in the Morning” Rob looks back on his boyhood and remembers giving an unusual gift of self, a gift that filled him with Christmas joy. Now, fifty years later, Rob realizes he can still give a gift from his heart.” 


Category: Education

Navajo Blessing Prayer: ‘Walk In Beauty’

“The following traditional Prayer originated from the Navajo Nation Blessing Way Ceremony and can be found in many places. The original author of this beautiful prayer is unknown.  Some say that reading the words bring  peace and calm. Many have found this to be true.”  Courtesy: Talking-Feather Blog

Chaco Canyon NM, Courtesy Philip Greenspan

Walking in Beauty: Closing Prayer from the Navajo Blessing Way Ceremony

In beauty I walk
With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
With beauty above me I walk
With beauty around me I walk
It has become beauty again

Today I will walk out, today everything negative will leave me
I will be as I was before, I will have a cool breeze over my body.
I will have a light body, I will be happy forever, nothing will hinder me.

I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me.
I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me.
I walk with beauty around me. My words will be beautiful.
In beauty all day long may I walk. Through the returning seasons, may I walk.

On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With dew about my feet, may I walk.
With beauty before me may I walk.
With beauty behind me may I walk.
With beauty below me may I walk.
With beauty above me may I walk.
With beauty all around me may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.

In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
My words will be beautiful.

 Photo: Corn Flower. The pollen of the corn is dusted off the tassels and used in ceremonies as a blessing, and is offered in prayer.

*Scroll down to listen to Navajo Historian Wally Brown discuss “Walking In Beauty”  

Short Lesson for Navajo Prayer


Directions: Look up the meanings for the following vocabulary words from the Prayer and create sentences using the words.  Look up any additional vocabulary from the prayer. Share as a class.







Questions  For Reflection

What does the word  “beauty” mean to you?

Give examples of how you use the word beauty.

What do you think it means to “walk in beauty”? Provide  examples.

Explain what the following lines from the prayer mean to you:

 Today I will walk out, today everything negative will leave me 

I will be as I was before, I will have a cool breeze over my body.

I will have a light body, I will be happy forever, nothing will hinder me.

I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me.

I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me.

Art/Research Projects 

Look up the Navajo Blessing Way Ceremony. What is the significance of the Blessing Way Ceremony?

How is this prayer  “Walking In Beauty” connected to the ceremony?

If you had an opportunity to meet a member of the Navajo Nation, what questions would you ask them about this wonderful prayer? Share your questions with class members.

Find photos (maybe some of  your own) to go with the words from this special Prayer and create a special “Beauty” collage. 

Are there any Prayers that you know from your own culture similar to the Navajo Beauty Prayer? What about Prayers from other cultures?

Share your information with your class members.


Listen as Navajo Historian Wally Brown discusses “Walking In Beauty” and teaches a little about harmony in life. Write a short essay on what new ideas  you’ve learned from this video.




NOVEMBER 8, 2022

See Teaching ideas for Voting Here 


Remembering Our Veterans

November 10, 2022

ACTIVITES FOR VETERAN’S DAY By Jordan Friedman and Brenda Iasevoli

Some Veterans Day Activities for High School Students

Some Examples from this wonderful site for teachers and students:

  1. Write a Letter to a Veteran
  2. Read Books About Soldiers’ Experiences
  3. Bring a Soldier’s Story to Life
  4. Invite a Veteran to Speak to Your Class


Additional Resources for Teaching the Importance of Voting!


“Below are resources that educators can use to teach about voting and the Midterm Election. They are provided for informational purposes only. Educators should review them thoroughly and determine their appropriateness for their students.” San Diego County of Education [SDCOE]

Lessons Across All Grade Levels 


Learn With PBS KIDS

Lessons For young children


Teaching The 2022 Midterm Elections

*The following Lesson Plan is from The New York Times Learning Network:

Photo illustration: Pablo Delcan; Photo: Samuel Corum for The New York Times

Understanding the Issues of the 2022 Midterm Elections

“In this lesson, students will explore what is at stake in November’s [2022] vote.”

Lesson Overview:

“The United States midterm elections are coming up on Nov. 8. In this year’s midterms, Americans will vote on members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Many states and local governments will also hold their own elections. There is a lot at stake.” New York Times Learning Network

NOTE: Visit ESL Voices Lesson Plan 2018: Explaining the Midterm Elections To Students

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