Lesson Plans: Grades 6-8

A Wrinkle in Time: The Board Game

Created October 26, 2011

Tools

The Lesson

Introduction

Wrinkle in Time image

Embedded diagram of a Schwarzschild wormhole

Credit: Wikimedia

Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time presents a not unusual girl—bright, angry, clever, lonely, and a little awkward—with an unusual passage to young adulthood. With the help of some friends, family, and strangers, Meg Murry travels through different dimensions to other planets to save her father; en route, Meg learns about her own humanity and the humanity of others.

This lesson invites students to reconfigure Meg’s journey into a board game where, as in the novel itself, Meg’s progress is either thwarted or advanced by aspects of her emotional responses to situations, her changing sense of self, and her physical and intellectual experiences.

Guiding Questions

  • How do forces inside and outside Meg aid or inhibit her journey?
  • Why does Meg ultimately succeed in her quest?

Learning Objectives

  • Analyze and trace the development of a fictional character
  • Analyze the dynamic relationship between character and plot
  • Create a rational hypothesis for a fictional character's actions

Background

Madeleine L’Engle won the prestigious Newbery Award Medal for her science fiction fantasy A Wrinkle in Time. Her acceptance speech, entitled “The Expanding Universe,” states:

What a child doesn’t realize until he is grown is that in responding to fantasy, fairy tale, and myth he is responding to what Eric Fromm calls the one universal language, the one and only language in the world that cuts across all barriers of time, place, race, and culture.

A Wrinkle in Time resonates with universals that reflect and transcend the concerns of the time during which it was written. Published in 1962 after numerous rejections, A Wrinkle in Time emerged as the U.S. and Soviet Union raced to be first to reach the moon. The novel echoes the frosty political climate of that era when a Cold War was being waged between the two super powers.

Learning to express one’s individuality despite the pressure to conform is a standard initiatory trial for every young adult in every generation. As Mrs. Whatsit reflects near the end of the book, “You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.” Meg Murry’s struggle to become herself and to be true to that self is as central to the novel as the battle between good and evil in which she plays a critical role. 

Though the novel has won acclaim from critics over the years, it has also found itself the target of book challengers.  A Wrinkle in Time has been on the American Library Association’s Top 100 Banned/Challenged Book List for the last two decades, ranking 23rd on that list in the 1990s and 90th in the 2000s. Various groups have challenged it, saying the book undermines their religious beliefs. Though L’Engle’s books contain biblical references, she denied that they convey any religious message.  

Despite the controversy A Wrinkle in Time raised, L’Engle went on to complete a full series of books—often referred to as The Time Quartet/Quintet—populated with the same characters. Brimmingwith mystery, horror, and magic as well as science fiction, the other novels in this series also have Christian elements that underlie the challenges they too receive year after year.

Beyond its mystical aspects, the novel can be read as the archetypal journey of a young hero undergoing coming-of-age trials. On her quest, Meg gains insight into what it means to be a friend, a sister, a daughter and a young adult involved in the difficult work required to become a fully realized human being. The time Meg spends in a dystopia makes her home seem a utopia by comparison. To complete her mission and return home, Meg must forge her character and offer herself up as a sacrifice to save others she loves from harm.

Preparation Instructions

  • Definitions of utopia and dystopia can be found in the EDSITEment Literary glossary.

Lesson Activities

Wrinkle in Time: Activity 1

Complete worksheets 1a and 1b.

Meg’s explicit goal is to save her father, but students should also understand (perhaps with your help) that she needs to like herself more, feel more comfortable with others, become more sure of herself, and be open to grow and change. Discuss as a class what hinders Meg’s progress in achieving her goals.

Encourage students to be specific about Meg’s responses to other characters or situations. If they want to include some of the particulars of the different spaces Meg travels to, encourage students to explain what it is about that space (cold, darkness, the lack of dimension, the uniformity, etc.) that impedes her and why it does so (causes fear, causes pain, oppresses).

Students might include other internal and external impediments: fear; insecurity; anger; belligerence; physical pain; loneliness; boredom; time constraints; language inadequacies; a tendency to blame; IT itself and all they think IT stands for.

Students then should consider the inner attributes and outside forces that help Meg build her confidence and surmount obstacles on her journey. Students might include internal and external forces: friendship; Meg’s quickness of mind, her aptitude for math and ability to find her own short cuts in solving a problem; loyalty to family; stubbornness; benevolent guides (Mrs. Whatsit; Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which); courage; her “faults” including impatience; Mrs. Who’s spectacles; the periodic table of elements; Aunt Beast; and love. (See Worksheets 1a and 1b.)

Wrinkle in Time: Activity 2

1.  Make the cards

  • From these worksheet lists students will make cards—like the “Opportunity” cards from a Monopoly game—that tell a player how many steps to advance or retreat on the board in response to the card. Divide students into small groups where they can decide on an order of importance and assign those they think more important with more steps forward or backward. One card, for example, might read “Boredom: take 1 step back” and another, “Exhibits courage: take 3 steps forward,” and so on. There might also be “Thoughtless anger” and “Thoughtful anger” cards with steps forward or backward as appropriate.

2.  Create the board

  • Working in their small groups, students should decide what physical spaces to represent on the game board. (Worksheet 2 will help organize the task). Provide students time, space, and materials to produce sturdy and large boards.
  • Boards may be patterned on the template provided in Worksheet 3. An illustration of a sample assembled board can be seen below.

    diagram of wrinkle board game
  • Each space students design should be illustrated with some aspect from the novel. Complete Worksheet 2. to choose meaningful scenarios /settings from the novel for the spaces figured on the board. Students might use: Meg’s attic bedroom; Mrs. Murry’s lab; the haunted house; the wrinkles in time; the planets they land on; the column encasing Mr. Murry; and so on. Encourage students to illustrate the different dimensions of time and space described in the novel. These sites can be set out in large squares as if on a graph (to be traveled through by Meg in sequence), or in vista-like slices, one on top of the other, or in any other format students can justify. (See Worksheet 3 for a template of game board sections.)

3.  Play the game(s)

To keep the game playing under control, consider having three players per game (and in each small group). Though every player is Meg, each will need a separate playing piece and, perhaps, a different track to move along. A roll of dice can determine where a playing piece stops, with spots where players are required to pick cards every few blocks. Ideally, let groups have the chance to play their own and at least one or two other games, to experience the choices made by their peers.

Wrinkle in Time: Activity 3

Assess how and why Meg succeeded in her trials. In essence, this serves as a review and summary of the material in Activity 1. The class will discuss how Meg used her character, relationships with others, emotions, and intellect in the course of her quest and why she ultimately returns home triumphant.

Assessment

  • Game boards can be used as an assessment for students’ precision in Activities 1 and 2. Teachers may compose a rubric to assess the following:
    • How attentive were students to the book’s details in developing their lists of what facilitates and what thwarts Meg’s progress?
    • How successful were students in identifying the novel’s different settings and their significance?

Extending The Lesson

  • Some readers consider A Wrinkle in Time a Christian allegory. Teachers and students may want to research  the symbolic imagery in the novel. Alternatively, students could discuss and write about their own systems of what they consider “good” and “evil,” “virtue” and “vice.”
  • Students develop their ideas of what a utopia or dystopia might look like, either through art or writing.
  • A novel such as Lois Lowry’s, The Giver, may be used to compare/contrast young protagonists who manage to escape from a dystopia.
  • Students, along with the teacher, can select an appropriate coming of age novel in the science fantasy genre (e.g., the Harry Potter books or the Chronicles of Narnia series) to compare to A Wrinkle in Time. Have students consider these novels as examples of an archetypal hero journey. Explore how their protagonists are shaped by similar and dissimilar influences as they undergo physical and psychic trials through the process of initiation (e.g. self-doubt, incarnate evil character intent to do them in, coming awareness of parental limitations, benevolent guides who intervene at critical points to give succor and concrete help along the way). Explain how the heroes reintegrate into society and what they can offer to society now that their journeys have ended.
  • Students may research why this novel has been on the list of ALA banned books for the last two decades.  The following Thinkfinity lesson on this theme can help students complete their examination:
  • A Wrinkle in Time also won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1965. This award was given to those titles which possessed enough of the qualities of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to enable them to sit on the same book shelf. Students may engage in a discussion considering the following:
    • Do you think A Wrinkle in Time belongs on the shelf with that book?
    • What elements does this novel have in common with that classic tale?
    • How is Alice’s experience similar or different from Meg’s?
    • Are there other books you think would merit this award and a place on its shelf?
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The Basics

Subject Areas
  • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Common Core
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Common Core
  • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Novels
  • Literature and Language Arts
Skills
  • Developing a hypothesis
  • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
  • Literary analysis
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
  • Vocabulary

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