“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
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 hopes, was first published in 1845. Source: Wikipedia
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ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post
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.
- Have you ever seen underaged children selling items on the street in today’s society?
- Have you (or someone you know) ever had to sell items to get money to eat or pay rent? To help your family?
- Have you met people so poor they had to sell small items on the street?
- 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.
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.
- No one had given her a single farthing.
- They were very large slippers, which her mother had hitherto worn.
- One slipper was nowhere to be found; the other had been laid hold of by an urchin.
- The poor little thing lost them as she scuffled away across the street.
- She did not venture to go home.
- Grandmother, told her that when a star falls, a soul ascends to God.
- She drew another match against the wall and in the lustre there stood the old grandmother.
- Old grandmother, so bright and radiant, so mild, and with such an expression of love.
- And the matches gave such a brilliant light that it was brighter than at noon-day.
- 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
- When does the story take place?
- Why were her slippers so large?
- Why didn’t she want to go home?
- Why did she light the first match?
- Why did she light the entire bundle of matches?
- What happened to the little girl at the end?
- 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
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
- What are some of the themes in the story?
- Provide examples of how Andersen uses imagery.
- Does Andersen provide symbolism the story? How?
Questions For Reflection
- Do you think Andersen’s personal life affected his writing this story of a poor matchstick girl? In what way?
- During the writing of this story, it was legal for underaged children to work. Can underage children still work today? Why or why not?
- What can kids who live in poverty today do to make money?
- How is what kids do today to earn money different (or the same) as the little matchstick girl?
- If you met the little Match girl how do you think you could help her?
- If you could speak to her father, what would you say to him? What would you say to her grandmother? Her mother?
- 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.