UNDERSTANDING BY DESIGN
Unit Cover Page
Unit Title: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Grade Level: Junior
Subject/Topic Area(s): English
Designed By: Heather Lutz and Bonnie Slockett
Time Frame: 4-5 weeks
School District: Pascack Valley Regional High School District
School: Pascack Hills High School
School Address and Phone: 225 West Grand Avenue
Montvale, NJ 07645
Brief Summary of Unit:
The unit will begin with an in-depth look at the development of Puritanism
and its philosophies. As an anti-transcendentalist, Nathaniel Hawthorne
criticized the theocracy in Puritan Salem through his characterization, plot,
themes, and symbols in The Scarlet Letter. Students will ponder issues of the
human heart and soul; they will empathize with characters’ inner turmoil and
the stigmas placed on them in society. In so doing, students will understand
that there are consequences for the choices they make, which affect the
individual and others with whom they interact.
Stage One – Desired Results
Understandings (Students will understand that….)
Obsession can be crippling.
Remaining true to oneself is essential in order to maintain one’s identity.
Oftentimes, people’s desires conflict with society’s expectations.
Theocracies require adherence to a strict moral code, which overshadows personal
Symbols and the structure of a novel convey the author’s ultimate intention.
(HONORS) Literary criticism is a tool to better understand varying perspectives on a text
and inter-textual connections.
How does the time in which one lives impact one’s beliefs and actions?
In what ways does society use stigmas in order to deem what is socially acceptable?
Is sin a conflict with oneself, society, or God? Should there be punishment, and if so, by
Can there be mitigating circumstances that exonerate a “sinner”?
Does love always conquer all?
Are women held to a different moral standard than men?
Students will know…
1. Symbols and structure of the novel
2. Themes and issues raised in the novel
3. Historical background and context for Puritan culture
4. Author’s perspective on Puritan culture
5. Human nature is universal; societal and personal conflicts relating to religion,
morality, love, guilt and vengeance are timeless.
Students will be able to….
1. Identify symbols and structure by analyzing and using textual evidence.
2. Connect themes and issues to contemporary, real world situations in a variety of ways
3. Infer the author’s intention in writing the novel.
4. Explain the difference between a secular government and a theocracy.
5. Demonstrate understanding of the character’s point of view and why they made the
choices they did.
6. Play the role of one of the characters and defend in a mock trial his or her choices,
actions, and resulting events in the novel.
7. (HONORS): Read a piece of literary criticism and distinguish between a legitimate
interpretation that is supported by the text and one that is based on opinion and not
merited with textual examples.
Stage Two—Assessment Evidence
In groups, you will be assigned a character (Hester, Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, the town
itself!) to defend in a mock trial. Each is accused of committing sin which caused
Dimmesdale’s death; your team must plan a defense of your character’s innocence. You
must work together to find quotes and other evidence from the novel that support your
character’s defense. In order to deflect blame on your assigned character, you must also
understand the other characters; you should provide evidence that someone else might be
more to blame for the outcome of the story!
You will each be assigned a role within your group: three prosecutors (one for each of the
other characters), one defense lawyer (for your character), one person to play the part of
your character during the trial (the defendant), and a secretary to record notes on your
group’s progress each day. All of us will act as the jury while other characters are being
questioned. At the end of the trial, there will be a class vote on who is most responsible
for Dimmesdale’s death. Each person will write a persuasive essay that states and
supports his or her opinion.
CATEGORY 4 3 2 1
Role Play Point-of-view, Point-of-view, Point-of-view, Point-of-view,
arguments, and arguments, and arguments, and arguments, and
solutions proposed were solutions proposed were solutions proposed were solutions proposed were
consistently well-acted fairly well-acted and in not presented well and poorly presented and
and in character. character. only somewhat in not in character.
Character Can clearly explain Can clearly explain Can clearly explain one Cannot explain one way
Perspective several ways in which several ways in which way in which his in which his character
his character "saw" his character "saw" character "saw" things "saw" things differently
things differently than things differently than differently than other than other characters.
other characters and can other characters, but characters. Little
clearly explain why. may not fully empathy/ understanding
understand other of other characters.
characters' point of
Historical All historical Almost all historical Most of the historical Very little of the
Accuracy information appeared to information appeared to information was historical information
be accurate and in be accurate and in accurate and in was accurate and/or in
chronological order. chronological order. chronological order. chronological order.
Used significant textual Some textual support. Little textual support. Very little or no textual
Preparation Student included more Student included Student included some Student included less
information than was substantial information information but seemed information than was
required and seemed and seemed fairly only somewhat required and
fully prepared. prepared. prepared. demonstrated little
THE PATHOLOGY OF A LIE
A lie is a living organism; it takes on a life of its own. Investigate the path a lie takes –
from its “source of germination” to its ultimate impact on the person and society
(micro/macro). You may choose to do this in a variety of ways:
1. Research and examine a real-life, infamous lie and draw conclusions about the
pathology of it. (Be sure to cite your sources using MLA format)
2. Write a memoir by recounting a personal experience that helps the reader understand
the pathology of a lie.
3. Write a short story that illustrates the pathology of a lie.
Does the writer:
Demonstrate a deep and sophisticated understanding of the pathology of a lie?
Connect with the dilemmas characters face in The Scarlet Letter?
Show the impact a lie has on a micro and/or macro level?
Use vivid language (including a strong lead) to describe the lie in detail?
Vary sentence structure, incorporate clear transitions and proofread for
grammatical and mechanical errors?
After reading and discussing the selected pieces of criticism, choose one of the following
writing prompts to develop into a clear, persuasive and well-written essay. Support your
claims by citing the novel, criticism, and (if desired) other outside resources. Be sure to
title your work and to limit your essay to a maximum of two pages (1.5 line-spacing is
1. In Three Orders: Natural, Moral, and Symbolic, Waggoner analyzes the chief
symbols in the novel, namely the cemetery, prison and rose. Interpret and discuss
the symbolic meaning of at least one other symbol (say, the forest or the scaffold).
Further, identify Hawthorne’s intentions on writing this parable and explain how
the symbol functions in illustrating them.
2. A footnote in Stubbs’s A Tale of Human Frailty and Sorrow raises the question
over “whose book The Scarlet Letter is, Hester’s or Dimmesdale’s.” State your
position and discuss why.
3. A Tale of Human Frailty and Sorrow traces Dimmesdale’s “phases” in The
Scarlet Letter. Select another character from the novel. Discuss his or her
transformation throughout the text and identify how he or she is used to show the
meaning of Hawthorne’s parable.
Requirement: Perfect Good Fair Poorly No!
10 job 7 done 5
1. Does the writer present a unique and
unwavering position with a persuasive thesis
2. Is the essay well-organized with an
introduction, support, and conclusion that
significantly advances the writer’s thesis?
3. Does the essay present a clear and
thorough understanding of The Scarlet
Letter? Does it identify or consider
Hawthorne’s ultimate intention?
4. Does the writer employ sophisticated
language and analysis (which takes into
account discussions from class, literary
criticism and/or outside resources) in order to
exhibit and support his/her ideas?
5. Do the examples and quotes contribute
significantly to the unity and development of
6. Does the writer warrant his/her claims?
Does the commentary reflect intellectual
activity and analyze the text rather than
7. Does the writer acknowledge his/her
audience by use of appropriate style? Is
sentence structure varied? Are vivid words
used? Are appropriate transitions used
between ideas and paragraphs?
8. Are quotes cited properly? Has the writer
incorporated quotes so that they further
9. Does the writer follow all directions in the
prompt - Creative title? Maximum length
10. Did the writer proofread the essay for
misspelled words, capitalization, run-on
sentences, fragments, and other punctuation
errors? Is consistent, third person singular
point of view sustained?
Final Grade: __________________
Stage Three—Learning Plan
In order to anticipate The Scarlet Letter, students will read Hawthorne’s short story,
“The Minister’s Black Veil,” which is a parable about the guilt we hide from one
another and the dangers of self absorption.
Students will conduct preliminary research on Nathaniel Hawthorne, Puritanism, and
anti-transcendentalism using the technology resources listed below and teacher-
Throughout the reading of The Scarlet Letter and in order to gain a better
understanding of Salem, Massachusetts and the time in which Hawthorne wrote,
students will be introduced to the transcendental philosophy. They will read excerpts
of work primarily by Emerson and Thoreau.
As students read the novel, they will:
o conduct in-class journal writing that encourages students to empathize with
characters’ dilemmas and to connect with real-world scenarios and situations.
o share and interpret teacher- and student-selected passages.
o take periodic reading quizzes.
o enhance their reading and understanding of the text with class discussions,
group work, and web-based activities.
Students will use the Internet and other web-sources such as:
www.literarycompanion.com: Students will conduct various activities to support
contextual vocabulary usage, reading comprehension of selected passages, and
writing skills in response to open-ended questions.
www.questia.com: Students will conduct research to locate literary criticism and gain
multiple perspectives on various aspects of the novel.
www.unitedstreaming.com: Students will access audio and video clips that relate to
Nathaniel Hawthorne, his novel, its time period, and its themes.
Historical Newspapers (Proquest): Students will research the impact of the
transcendental movement on American identity.
Sample Internet Searches:
How do stigmas in contemporary society differ for men and women?
What other primary source documents support your understanding of
What contemporary theocracies exist today? How are they similar to
Salem, Massachusetts during Puritan times?
Emulate Hester’s public humiliation and simulate “public shame”. Demonstrate self-
awareness by creating a letter symbol of a particular “weakness” such as
Procrastination, Laziness, Apathy, Disorganized, etc and present it in front of the