Level: Intermediate -Advanced
Language Skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: approximately 2 hours.
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, 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.
I. Pre-Reading Exercises
Stimulating Background Knowledge
Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Ask students to read the title of the short story. Then, have them examine the photo carefully. Based on these sources, ask students to create a list of words and ideas that they think might be related to this article.
Pre-reading Discussion Questions
Directions: Have students discuss the following questions.
- 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?
- Have you ever been very ill? If yes, describe what it was like. Did someone take care of you? Describe this person.
- If a good friend of your got sick, would you take care of them? Explain why or why not.
- In which season are people more likely to get sick? Why?
Prediction and Character Organizer Charts
Directions: Students may use these Prediction and Character profile charts by Pace High School as pre-reading, while-reading and post-reading tools to aid in their comprehension of the events and of the characters in the story.
II. While Reading Tasks
Directions: Place students in groups and have them infer the meanings of the words in bold font taken from the story. They can use this great Vocabulary Chart by Learnnc.org as a guide.
- In a little district west of Washington Square the streets have run crazy and broken.
- Suppose a collector with a bill for paints, paper and canvas should, in traversing this route, suddenly meet himself.
- To quaint old Greenwich Village the art people soon came prowling.
- They had met at the table and found their tastes in art, chicory salad and bishop sleeves so congenial that the joint studio resulted.
- In November a cold, unseen stranger, whom the doctors called Pneumonia, stalked about the colony.
- Mr. Pneumonia was not what you would call a chivalric old gentleman.
- Then she swaggered into Johnsy’s room with her drawing board, whistling ragtime.
- Sue was sketching a pair of elegant horses how riding trousers and a monocle on the figure of the hero.
- Sue looked solicitously out the window.
- When it was light enough Johnsy, the merciless, commanded that the shade be raised.
Questions for Comprehension
Directions: After students have reviewed Components for Literary Analysis have them answer the following questions from the story. They can use their Character Profile chart as a guide.
- Where does the story take place?
- Identify the main characters in the story.
- What are the professions of Sue and Johnsy?
- What did Mr. Behrman paint before he died?
III. Post-Reading Exercises
Questions for Reflection
Directions: In groups have students discuss the following questions.
- What are some of the themes in the story?
- What are some of the symbols in the story?
- Identify one example of how O. Henry used imagery.
- Why does Sue refer to the painting of the “Last Leaf “as Behrman’s masterpiece?
Directions: Have students choose a topic and write an essay.
- 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.
- Write a description for each character in the story.
- O. Henry is famous for the surprise endings in his stories. In The Last Leaf, one of the surprises is that the last leaf was not real but a painting. See if you can write a different “surprise” ending for the story.
IV. Listening Activity
Video Clip: Adaption of the Last Leaf by Matt Gatlin & Co.
“Adaptation of O. Henry’s “The Last Leaf”. Starring Mary Huse, Peter Xifo, Demi Dustman and Jonathan Salisbury. Directed by Matt Gatlin. Shot for Prof. Bloom’s MFA class at Cal State L.A. Shot with a crew of 3 people (incl. myself). Locations were at the studio at Cal State L.A., an apartment building in Highland Park, and street scene shot at Wall St. in downtown L.A.” -Matt Gatlin-
Questions for Discussion
- 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.
- Do you prefer the written or visual version of The Last Leaf ? Provide reasons for your choice.