Lesson Plans: Grades 6-8

Lesson 3: Theme Analysis

Created November 4, 2014


The Lesson


The experience of the three visions in A Christmas Carol causes such a great change in Scrooge’s thoughts and behavior that he is no longer a “Bah, humbug” man. Unlike earlier staves, stave 5 is full of laughter and happiness. In his brief preface, Dickens states that he wanted to raise an “Idea.” In other words, he had a clear theme or themes in mind. This lesson leads students beyond a summary and discussion of characters and events to an understanding of the major themes of the novel. (CCSS RL 8.2.).

This lesson is part of an EDSITEment curriculum unit about A Christmas Carol which includes background notes and a summative unit assessment along with lesson extenders.

Learning Objectives

  • Distinguish plot summary from theme articulation
  • Analyze themes in A Christmas Carol

Preparation and Resources

Lesson Activities

Activity 1. Theme Analysis

Dickens centered his novel A Christmas Carol on Christmas, but it is not essentially a religious text. Similar stories use settings of other festivals or observances from diverse cultural traditions. Popular expressions from the novel can be tapped to describe other occasions for example, a disgruntled citizen or family member might say, “Bah, humbug!” about Fourth of July fireworks or picnics.

Review with students the difference between a plot (sequence of events) and a theme (inference about life, people, or reality). If necessary, provide an example or two from students’ previous reading or viewing experiences.

To clarify the nature of the plot, ask students to provide an objective summary of A Christmas Carol. Then point out its simple organization—a stave that serves as a sort of prologue, three chapters or staves describing the visions, and a stave that serves as a kind of epilogue.

Ask students to describe how the Scrooge in stave 5 differs from the one in stave 1. Note the repeated references to laughter and happiness. What causes this change—fear, hope, insight, regret? Is it possible for a person to make such a dramatic shift?

Review the definition of a theme with students. Reiterate examples from past readings with them.  Remind them that a theme goes beyond events to convey an author’s insights into how the world works or how the author views life. 

Read aloud Dickens’ brief preface, and stress his use of the singular word “Idea.” Note that in a given novel there can be multiple themes, although there is usually a single major theme that binds together all the essential elements of a narrative. Major and minor themes can offer readers a better understanding of the main character’s conflicts, discoveries, and emotions. Authors often use the main characters’ experiences to deliver their theme(s) to the reading audience.

Have the class complete Worksheet 3. Follow with discussion using the teacher's version of Worksheet 3.

Activity follow-up discussion:

Movie versions of A Christmas Carol are a popular staple during the December holiday season, and there have been numerous adaptations and spin-offs, including the 2009 version starring Jim Carey. “Bah, humbug” is a phrase familiar even to those who do not know the novel and it is common knowledge that being called a “Scrooge” is no compliment.

  • Why do people view A Christmas Carol year after year when they are already familiar with the story?
  • The Puritan takeover during the 1600s resulted in the suppression of holiday festivities. Some people have said that Charles Dickens single-handedly created what we today call the Christmas holiday season by writing this book. In what sense could that be true?

What might be included in a sequel to A Christmas Carol?


Assign students short argumentative speeches that Scrooge (in stave 5) might give in addressing a specific audience, for example, young students, businesspersons or retailers. Convey the themes covered in your discussions through the suggestions Scrooge imparts to his listeners in his testimonial.

The Basics

Time Required

1 class periods

Subject Areas
  • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Common Core
  • Literature and Language Arts
  • Compare and contrast
  • Creative writing
  • Critical thinking
  • Discussion
  • Essay writing
  • Interpretation
  • Literary analysis
  • Summarizing
  • Textual analysis
  • Writing skills
  • Mary Anne Kovacs