The Scarlet Letter

 This is a unit plan I created for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. The plan is aimed for high school students, specifically 9th grade, but can be adapted for any secondary level. The Unit Plan includes a background/introduction to the topic and three main themes:

  1. scarletAlienation
  2. Appearance vs. Reality
  3. Breaking Society’s Rules

To see the lesson plans, click on the blue-text links.

                                                  Unit 1 Idea:

High School, Ninth Grade

The Scarlet Letter

Lesson 1: Background 

Anticipatory Set: July 4 (Independence Day, Hawthorne’s birthday)

Instruction: PowerPoint:

Background of The Scarlet Letter

  • background of Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • background of time period in which book was written


  1. Why is it important that we study the context of The Scarlet Letter?
  2. Why is it important that we understand the Puritan religion and culture?
  3. What makes the Puritan beliefs so different than present-day beliefs?
  4. Why do we study literature from other time periods?
  5. Why do we study different religions?


Lesson 2: Pre-Reading/Introduction

Anticipatory Set: Free-Write

  1. What have you heard about The Scarlet Letter?
  2. What does the word ‘scarlet’ bring to mind?
  3. What is adultery?
    • Small Group (3-4 members): Share answers with peers
    • Whole Group: Discuss answers as a class


  1. How would Hester be treated in today’s society?
  2. How does that differ from how she was treated in the novel?

Lesson 3: Introduction to the Themes of The Scarlet Letter

Instruction: Chalkboard/Whiteboard/Smartboard

The Themes of The Scarlet Letter

  1. Alienation
  • Activity: “Ostracized” vs. “Community Member” labels
  • Class Discussion: What happened in the game? How did certain students feel? What does it mean to be alienated?
  • Independent Practice: Journal about a time when you were left out.


  1. What labels still exist in more recent history, in present day?
  2. How does Hester Prynne’s life compare to a minority group?

Lesson 4: Chapters 1-4 Review 

Anticipatory Set: Free-Write

  1. Write about a time when someone was different than how she/he seemed

Instruction: Theme – Appearance vs. Reality

  • Small Group (3-4 members)
  • discuss characters that weren’t how they seemed
  • textual examples of characters
  • present information to class
    • Whole Group: Discuss evidence as a class


  1. What does it mean to ‘not judge a book by it’s cover’?
  2. How does this relate to The Scarlet Letter?


 Lesson 5: Theme – Breaking Society’s Rules

  • good vs. bad
  • historical examples: Boston Tea Party, Rosa Parks


  1. Is breaking the rules always a bad thing?
  2. What are some historical examples of breaking the rules?
  3. Do you believe that it is okay to break the rules sometimes? Why or why not?

The following are future lessons that I plan to use in this unit:

Lesson 6: Language

  • vocabulary list
  • Puritan speech

Lesson 7: Characters

  • character journals
  • quotes in character’s perspective
  • character dress-up day; speak quotes of dialogue

Lesson 8: Mood

Lesson 9: Symbolism

Lesson 10: Irony

Leave a Reply