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Lesson Plan: The Little Match Girl By Hans Christian Andersen

“Hans Christian Andersen,(April 1805 – 4 August 1875), in Denmark usually called H.C. Andersen, was a Danish author. Although a prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, he is best remembered for his fairy tales. Andersen’s popularity is not limited to children; his stories express themes that transcend age and nationality. The Little Match Girl is among his most famous stories.” Wikipedia

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Han Christian Andersen

Excerpt: “Andersen’s fairy tales, of which no fewer than 3381 works have been translated into more than 125 languages, have become culturally embedded in the West’s collective consciousness, readily accessible to children, but presenting lessons of virtue and resilience in the face of adversity for mature readers as well.

Early Life Andersen’s father, who had received an elementary school education, introduced his son to literature, reading to him the Arabian Nights.Andersen’s mother, Anne Marie Andersdatter, was an illiterate washerwoman. Following her husband’s death in 1816, she remarried in 1818.

Andersen was sent to a local school for poor children where he received a basic education and had to support himself, working as an apprentice to a weaver and, later, to a tailor. At fourteen, he moved to Copenhagen to seek employment as an actor.

Having an excellent soprano voice, he was accepted into the Royal Danish Theatre, but his voice soon changed.

A colleague at the theatre told him that he considered Andersen a poet. Taking the suggestion seriously, Andersen began to focus on writing.

He later said his years in school were the darkest and most bitter of his life. At one school, he lived at his schoolmaster’s home, where he was abused, being told that it was “to improve his character”. He later said the faculty had discouraged him from writing, driving him into a depression…”

The Little Match Girl is a short story by Hans Christian Andersen. The story, about a poor, dying child’s dreams and hope, was first published in 1845.

Source: Wikipedia 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: intermediate-advanced

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

Time:  approximately 2  hours.

Objectives: Students will achieve a better understanding of the story The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen, through  learning literary devices and terms  (e.g., imagery, symbolism, protagonist, themes)  used for analyzing stories.  They will also learn how to  analyze the relationship between characters, and events in the story using these literary devices.

Reading Strategies: Students will make predictions based on the title; draw conclusions and make generalizations about what they have read by utilizing background knowledge, looking for the main ideas, making notes, highlighting or underlining specific information, and by answering discussion questions. They will learn new vocabulary through inference, highlighting unknown words, and using the dictionary.


A copy of the story The Little Match Girl

Biography of Hans Christian Andersen.

Examples of  Components for Literary Analysis

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Directions: In groups have students read the brief biography of Hans C. Andersen. Have students focus on his childhood. Some highlights from the life of Hans Christian Andersen will help students make connections to the story.

Students should also know when the story was written: This story was written in the midst of the United States’ and Europe’s industrial revolution (1820-1870’s), during which child labor was commonplace, and there was no “safety net” for destitute children in poor health and homeless.

Source: History of Child Labor

Pre-reading Discussion Questions

Directions: Place students in groups and let them discuss the following questions.

  1. Have you ever seen underaged children selling items on the street in today’s society?
  2. Have you (or someone you know) ever had to sell items to get money to eat or pay rent? To help your family?
  3. Have you met people so poor they had to sell small items on the street?
  4. If you could help some people during the Christmas or New Years season would you?


Stimulating Background Knowledge

Prediction Organizer Charts

Directions: Students may use these reading charts by Pace High School as  pre-reading, while-reading and post-reading tools to aid their comprehension of the events and characters in the story.

Prediction Outcomes Chart


II. While Reading

Vocabulary Word Inference

Directions: Place students in groups and have them infer the meanings of the words in bold font taken from the story.

  1. No one had given her a single farthing.
  2. They were very large slippers, which her mother had hitherto worn.
  3. One slipper was nowhere to be found; the other had been laid hold of by an urchin.
  4. The poor little thing lost them as she scuffled away across the street.
  5. She did not venture to go home.
  6. Grandmother, told her that when a star falls, a soul ascends to God.
  7. She drew another match against the wall nd in the lustre there stood the old grandmother.
  8. Old grandmother, so bright and radiant, so mild, and with such an expression of love.
  9. And the matches gave such a brilliant light that it was brighter than at noon-day.
  10. No one even dreamed of the splendour in which, with her grandmother she had entered on the joys of a new year.

Reading Comprehension: Questions From the Story

  1. When does the story take place?
  2. Why were her slippers so large?
  3. Why didn’t she want to go home?
  4. Why did she light the first match?
  5. Why did she light the entire bundle of matches?
  6. What happened to the little girl at the end?
  7. What did the little girl see before she died?

Using Charts for Guidance

Directions: Use the following chart to help make predictions about the characters in the story


Character Prediction Chart


Questions forCharacter Analysis

From whose point of view is the story being told?

Who is the protagonist in this story?

Give a brief description of the following characters using the chart above:

The Father:What kind of man do you think he is?

The Mother: What do you think the mother was like?

The Grandmother: Describe the grandmother.

The Little Match girl: What kind of person is she?


Questions for Literary Analysis

  1.  What are some of  the themes in the story?
  2. Provide examples of how  Andersen uses imagery.
  3. Does  Andersen provide symbolism the story? How?


Questions For Reflection

  1. Do you think Andersen’s personal life affected his writing  this story of a poor matchstick girl? In what way?
  2. During the writing of this story, it was legal for underaged children to work. Can underage  children still work today? Why or why not?
  3. What  can kids who live in poverty today do to make money?
  4. How is what kids do today to earn money different (or the same) as the little matchstick girl?
  5. If you met the little Match girl how do you think you could help her?
  6. If you could speak to her father, what would you say to him?  What would you say to her grandmother? Her mother?
  7. How did the ending make you feel?  Is this how you expected the story to end? Why or why not?

Ideas for Writing Assignment

Write a story where the grandmother is still alive.

Write a story where the little girl’s mother is still alive.

Write an ending describing the father’s reaction when he discovers his daughter is dead.

Write a different ending for the story.


‘Love You Forever’ A Sweet-Sad Story…for Children?

“When Love You Forever was published in 1986, parents across the country sang its sweet refrain to their children at bedtime…But before Love You Forever was a nursery staple, it was a simple, four-line poem that children’s book author Robert Munsch would sing silently to himself after his wife gave birth to a stillborn baby. It was the second stillbirth the couple had to mourn.” C. Herreria, Huffington Post

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Pictures from I'll Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch

Pictures from I’ll Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch

Excerpt: The Heartbreaking Story Behind Iconic Children’s Book…Carla Herreria, Huffington Post

“Munsch says the song was too painful to sing out loud. For a long time, he couldn’t even share it with his wife.

[The song] was my way of crying, Munsch told The Huffington Post.

I’ll love you forever,

I’ll like you for always,

As long as I’m living

my baby you’ll be.

After the second stillbirth, doctors told the couple that they would never be able to conceive — news that devastated Munsch, who had worked in orphanages, received a master’s degree in Child Studies, and dedicated his life to writing children’s books…The couple went on to adopt three children, but Munsch used his song as a way to grieve their two previous losses. He would sing it to himself like a silent lullaby, never writing it down or saying it out loud. 

Munsch, in 2003, at a literacy event. Photo- Peter Powers via Getty Images

Munsch, in 2003, at a literacy event. Photo- Peter Powers via Getty Images

Unlike his past work, which could take years of performing to flesh out, this one came out whole. Munsch told his audience about a mother who would sing her son the same lullaby at night throughout every phase of his life — even sneaking into his room to sing it when he’s fully grown. 

Author Robert Munsch

Author Robert Munsch

When Munsch brought the story to his publisher to be produced as a book, they turned it down, saying it was too dark for the children’s genre. His distributer decided to publish the book instead…Munsch believes the story resonates with readers because it affects both parents and children. For someone who picks up the book, it’s their story, not mine, Munsch said.”

Guest  Elementary Lesson Plan for this book

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

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

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. After the second stillbirth, the couple cried.
  2. They felt that they would never be able to conceive.
  3. The news devastated Munsch.
  4. It felt like  someone gave him  a punch in the solar plexus.
  5. He made up a story to accompany the song on the spot.
  6. It was the first time anyone heard the now iconic song.
  7. The story was about a mother who would sing her son the same lullaby at night. 
  8. Some publishers thought the story was too dark for the children’s genre.
  9. Some readers were moved by  the mother’s unconditional love.
  10. Munsch retired from storytelling after he suffered a stroke in 2008. Word Chart By Education Oasis

Reading Comprehension


Directions: The following sentences are from the article. Choose the correct word for each blank space from the word list  or make up your own words.

He ___from ___after he suffered a stroke in 2008 and says he now___ himself ___to the mother in Love You Forever when she’s old and ___at the end of the st story ory.

He’s still ___of the book, not only because it’s his most___, but because he___ it offers ___for others just as it did for him. For ___who picks up the book, it’s their___, not mine.

Word List: relating, someone, retired, storytelling, finds, successful, solace, proud,  sick, hopes.

Grammar: Using Adjectives  to describe pictures    

Directions: Have students choose a picture from the article  and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion/Writing Activities

Directions: Place students in groups  and  have each group compose a letter or note to Robert Munsch asking him something they  would like to know  about the  topic.


Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.


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