LESSON PLAN FOR O HENRY’S THE LAST LEAF
The aim of this lesson plan is to make the students understand the story and to make them aware of the concept, nuance and the meaning underlying it...The importance of our life and how it means to the people who love us. We should not give up on life at the most trying times.
Students should be able to comprehend and write comprehensively about the characters, events and the glossary of the story. Point out the gist of the story. Learn the language and new words.
Teaching tools Images of winter snow flakes, Monalisa, the last supper, Venus sculpture and perhaps a picture of O Henry himself! (Displayed at relevant teaching time)
Are there artists in this class? What do you paint?
What is art?
What is a masterpiece? Give me some example?
What’s your masterpiece? Tell me about it and why it is your masterpiece?
Who are the people you care and concerned about most? Why
How far would you go to help them? Would you lay your life for them?
Have you done anything for them when they were ill?
Elements of the story
Have any of you been to New York?
The Last Leaf takes place in New York City, the largest city in America. The
location of the story is a small part of New York known as Greenwich Village (pronounced "grennitch",
It depicts New York in the light of struggling artists
How many seasons are there in your country?
What are the main seasons?
What time of year do they occur?
Which season do you like best?
Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
In which season is it easiest to fall ill?
Cold, rainy, windy night
Tone- melancholy or sad.
Have you nursed a very ill person? How was his response? How was it like?
Have you been ill for a prolonged time? What did you suffer from? Elaborate
This story taps similar instances from life
Pneumonia is a dangerous disease which causes severe inflammation of the lungs.
Brief Account of the Author
O. Henry，pseudonym of William Sydney Porter，was born in Greensborn， North Carolina on September 11，1862. He worked as apprentice, pharmacist, cowboy, clerk, book keeper since fifteen years old. Accused of embezzling funds from bank, he fled to Honduras. On hearing his wife’s illness, he came back, but was sentenced to a three-year imprisonment. The tough life experience laid a deep foundation of his writing career. After released in 1901, he moved to New York, wholly devoted himself to literature. The ten years ever since is his last ten years and his splendid ten years. Writing at the rate of more than one story per week, he published ten collections of stories and over 600 short stories during his lifetime, all of which are about the life of ordinary people in New York City. "The Last Leaf”, first published in 1905, then edited into The Trimmed Lamp is one of them.
To approach is to move towards. It is often used with seasons and special occasions (New Year, Christmas, birthdays) as in the example here, as well as with people and moving objects (vehicles, etc).
Becomes (verb) In this example, becomes has the same meaning as "gets". With illnesses, we often use "to fall", or "to be taken": Johnsy fell ill/Johnsy was taken ill
Pneumonia (noun) Pneumonia is a serious illness of the lungs.
Vine (noun) A vine is like a branch (of a tree), but is actually a stem of a climbing plant (it may also be used to describe the climbing plant itself, e.g. grape vine).
Braves (verb) To brave as a verb, means to face an adverse or difficult situation, even though the person may not be brave (as in the meaning of the adjective: courageous).
Survive (verb) To survive something is to overcome a problem, illness or adverse situation. It may also be, simply, to stay alive. The noun is survivor.
Masterpiece (noun) A masterpiece is a great work of art, like a painting, sculpture or piece of music or writing (poetry, fiction, etc.)
Artists are people who paint for a living.
Models are people who pose for artists to draw them.
The setting is Greenwich Village, New York, 1905. Johnsy, Sue and Behrman are three of the impoverished artists. One autumn, Johnsy suffers from Pneumonia that has killed so many people at that time. Johnsy is in despair that she depends her life on the ivy leaves outside the window. She believes that the moment the last leaf falls she will die. Her friend, Sue doesn’t know what to do except worrying and constant nursing. Then on a cold, rainy, windy night, when it is quite apparent that the last leaf is “dying”, Old Behrman, who regards himself as “special mastiff-in-waiting to protect the two young artists”, defies the cold, wet night to paint a leaf on the outdoor vine to restore the dying Johnsy's will to live. The doctor tells Sue that Mr. Berhman died of pneumonia during the night. "They found his body in your alley, next to a ladder and a lantern, and a palette of green and yellow paints. Heaven knows what he was doing out there." The last leaf, which raises Johnsy’s hope of living when she sees it the next morning, is Behrman’s masterpiece that eluded him in life.
Characters- Behrman, Johnsy and Sue are artists
Though the hero appears only once and speaks twice in the whole story but he, successfully reveals his affection to two young artists and his noble spirit.
Though he was hard in the outside, he was full of gentle feelings in heart, His love towards Johnsy and Sue was fraternal or fatherly affections.
She suffers from pneumonia in this story. Her wish for death and her dialogues reflect her disparity for life. She refuses to cooperate with Sue because of her illness.When Johnsy spies through the window and counts backward the ivy leaves, dialogues between she and Sue reflect her disparity for life and wish for death. Johnsy doesn’t answer Sue but goes on counting. She is still talking to Sue, her words has no direct relation with Sue’s question, which shows her state of mind, the blank mind. It’s a vivid description of a dying Johnsy.
Sue who is caring nursing, tolerating, through perseverance and gentleness shows her fondness for her weak friend. She does her duty as a concerned friend.
Friendship, sacrifice, fraternal love, love, struggling artists, lower class society
The theme of the story is related to an abstract concept—friendship. According to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, friendship is 1. A relationship between friends; 2. The feeling and behaviour that exist between friends. From these two explanations, one thing we are sure is that friendship is a kind of mutual behaviour. In the “The Last Leaf”, Johnsy is terribly ill that she is not able to have any other physical behaviour but speech .The dialogues between characters come to the most apparent and the most significant tool to reflect character relationship---friendship.
The last leaf—the masterpiece, sings the praise of the sincere friendship and the noble spirit---selfless sacrifice of ordinary people. They give support to each other, even without hesitation to sacrifice their own life. Their life will not be less splendid than that of the upper class because of poverty. On the contrary, they are great because of their fraternal love and the priceless friendship as the evergreen ivy leaf, which constitute their noble spirit.
Friendship between Johnsy and Sue
Sue and Johnsy, a pair of six-month friends gave mutual help and relief in time of poverty and that Sue have heartfelt eagerness to go through thick and thin with Johnsy.
A sacrifice is the act of giving up something, or not having something or doing something yourself, to help somebody else. We saw how Mr Behrman gave his life to help Johnsy in The Last Leaf. He made the greatest sacrifice anybody could make. But sacrifices are not always as great as Mr Behrman's. We make small sacrifices almost every day.
Impoverished life of Artists
The three artists have the life of the improvised, unpublished, would-be “great artists”. They are at the lower class of the society and strive for success, strive to accomplish a great masterpiece.
A masterpiece is a great work of art, like a painting, sculpture or piece of music or writing (poetry, fiction, etc.)
It is the height of someone’s artistic abilities. It is his highest achievement and the best in his ability as an artist. It’s a fantastic creation created at the peak of one’s career.
Give me some examples of master pieces?
Examples-Da Vinci’s Monalisa
When a patient is critically or chronically ill for a long time, he loses the jest for life and loses all hopes of recovery. He loses the will to live and survive. Ultimately it is faith that cures! You need to be cheery to make the atmosphere cheerful and positive and that will change his outlook towards life. You must make him look forward to speedy recovery.
Behrman kept sues hopes alive by painting the leaf in the tree. By doing this he saved Sue’s life and that was his master piece. He was not successful as an artist but he succeeded in saving a dear old friend and that was his master stroke!- It was not a greatest work of art but his greatest achievement as an artist was saving a friends life through his art. But in doing so he loses his life! This story makes us ponder about people who would go at any extent or length to save a dear friend. This story talks about the value of friendship. It is a greatest human value in it.
We become aware of how silly we are of not valuing our life and how important it is to our loved ones. We don’t give importance to our life and don’t think about what will happen to the people who love and care when we die.
This story points out that there are caring people in this world. Love is very much present in the most trying times.
Checks for understanding
A masterpiece is the greatest piece of art an artist creates. The Mona Lisa, for example, is Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece.
1. There are 3 painters in this story. What are their names?
2. How would you describe Mr Pneumonia?
The O' Henry Twist
O' Henry is famous for surprise endings or "twists" in his stories. In The Last Leaf, Johnsy seems to be dying of pneumonia when the story begins, but it is Mr Behrman who dies in the end, while Johnsy survives. Now we know how Mr Behrman died, think of his sacrifice and discuss them with a friend:
Give a new twist in the story.
2. Here are ten lines from the end of the story. Put them into the correct order to find out how Mr Behrman created his masterpiece.
a) There was a light he had taken outside. ___
b) Mr Behrman died of pneumonia today in the hospital. ___
c) There was green and yellow paint. ___
d) He was helpless with pain. ___
e) He painted his great masterpiece before the last leaf fell. ___
f) And they found some things. ___
g) The night had been so cold and wild. ___
h) Someone found him in his room. ___
i) There were materials for painting. ___
j) His clothes were as wet and cold as ice. ___
• What did Mr. Behrman paint before he died?
• Try to describe his masterpiece.
• What did Mr. Behrman's painting do for Johnsy to help her survive?
• What feeling did it give her?
• Why does Sue call "The Last Leaf" Behrman's masterpiece?
4. Write new sentences using the following words.
Art and Artists: suffixes
6. What do you call the people who perform or create these arts?
There are five suffixes that we commonly use for artists.
-ist -er -or -ian -ess
• Sculpture ___________________________________
• dance ___________________________________
• Poetry ___________________________________
• Drama (acting) ___________________________________
• painting ___________________________________
• Music ___________________________________
• Fashion design ___________________________________
• Movie making ___________________________________
• Short stories ___________________________________
• Novels ___________________________________
• Photography ___________________________________
• cartoons (animation) ___________________________________
6.What kind of artist is...?
• What kind of artists are the following people?
• What are they famous for?
Choose one of these artists, or one of your own favorite artists and describe what you think their "masterpiece" is.
Steven Spielberg ___________________________________
O' Henry ___________________________________
Ralph Lauren ___________________________________
Michael Jackson ___________________________________
Pablo Picasso ___________________________________
William Shakespeare ___________________________________
Leonardo Da Vinci ___________________________________
Harrison Ford ___________________________________
Read similar stories. E.G. Earnest Hemingway’s A day’s wait.
Assessment and follow up
A Rainy Season Setting
1. Write a one page composition describing the following place and time: your home during the rainy season. Think of some of the sounds, smells and sights inside and outside your house, both during the day and during the night. Think of some of the real situations you have had to face. Alternatively, you could use some experiences that friends or family have had and still use them with you as the main character.
2. What is the greatest sacrifice you have ever made for your family or friends? An example of this may be when you have stayed at home to help your family instead of going out with friends. Write a short story about something you decided not to do, so that you could help somebody else.
3. Rewrite the story by giving it a new end.
Other interesting activities
Ask them to enact the story by giving it a new end in class. Role play help students know to use the language beyond the story and explore the issues, problems and moral dilemmas it contains.
Interest-Did the story engage the student’s curiosity, interest and attention, why and why not?
Participation-Did the children participate eagerly and actively in the activities given to them? What factors encouraged or discouraged them?
How did the children respond to the mime and acting? Did they feel for the character’s they portrayed?
Collaboration-Did the children collaborate and work well together?
Enjoyment-did the children enjoy the story and related activities?