08 SEPTEMBER 2014
Things to do with 'Lord of the Flies'
Some texts lend themselves to a wide range of directed activities which develop both language and literary skills, and William Golding's Lord of the Flies is one of them. It is as relevant today as it was when it was written in 1953: war, nuclear threat, bullying, corruption, tribalism, leadership contests, religious conflict ... none of these issues have gone away.
This novel - accessible to years 9 to 11 - provides a scheme of work for several weeks. The activities below - integrating reading, writing, speaking and listening - can be carried out before, during or after a reading of the text. They can be selected and ordered according to the depth of study required, differentiated for ability, and applied to a variety of groupings: individual, paired, small group and whole class.
1. Make a mind map of connotations of the word Island; list books and films set on islands; predict what will happen in the novel after explaining that a group of schoolboys crash land on an island without adults.
2. Summarise Gaia theory (James Lovelock); explain how Golding came to write the novel (belief in Gaia; disillusionment as a teacher; role as naval officer in Second WW; dropping of atomic bombs on Japan in 1945.)
3. Discuss significance of number 12 in literary and other contexts; introduce idea of this being an epic novel in 12 chapters. Consider the number 3: several events occur three times in the novel, including deaths).
4. Research meaning of novel's title; compare it to the novel to which this is a rebuttal: Coral Island. Discuss meaning of dystopia.
1. Write chapter summaries of only one (complex) sentence each, which include the essential plot information.
2. Keep personal log to describe experience of reading the novel: what you felt about events and characters.
3. Write diary entry for Samneric at a key point in the novel. e.g. after a death or their defection.
4. Write a letter from Piggy to his aunt, describing where he is, what happened to the plane, his relationships with other boys, how he feels about the island, and his 'ass-mar'.
5. Look at a descriptive passage about the island. Underline personifications and images; explain what effects they evoke.
6. Fill the gaps in a descriptive passage about the sea, using suitable and powerful language.
7. Create a symbolism grid and add explanations of what each of the following represent:
island; pigs; choir; plane crash; the beast; Simon; light; jungle; conch; Piggy's glasses; the twins; dead pilot.
8. Compare and contrast language and style of a passage from the novel with a parallel passage from Coral Island.
1. Label a map of the island with geographical features and events which take place there.
2. Design a character 'family tree' which shows the relationships of the boys.
3. Put a jumbled list of chapter titles in the right order. What does the progression show?
4. Write letter to William Golding asking him questions about the novel which you would like answered.
5. Write Ralph's memoir as an adult of the time spent on the island.
6. Write a playscript for the dialogue between Ralph and Jack on the naval ship on way home.
7. Re-read the relevant part of the final chapter. Write a descriptive piece about a fire sweeping across a landscape.
8. The original reader for the publisher Faber rejected the novel because it was 'an absurd and uninteresting fantasy ... rubbish and dull. Pointless'. Write your own review of the novel explaining why you recommend it for publication
9. List the novel's themes; use these as sub-headings for the recurring imagery and references in the novel, e.g. under Savagery put 'sharpened stick'; Jack's knife; painted faces; ululation, etc.
10. Write a short story called 'The Beast' using some ideas from the novel. (Notice how something unknown and indescribable is more horrific for the reader and narrator than a gory monster).
11. Write a poem called 'The Island', inspired by the novel.
12. Debate the motion: 'This House believes that the events of Lord of the Flies would have been different if there had been girls on the island.'
13. Write character sketches for Ralph, Jack, Piggy, Simon, and Roger, giving details and quotations to support your descriptions.
14. Write the report made by the naval officer to his superiors after the rescue. Use an appropriate voice and viewpoint.
15. Watch the original b&w film (1963 by Peter Brook) and then American colour version (1990). Keep active viewing notes as you watch; compare and evaluate the films. Consider how the four changes to the novel made by the later film affect understanding of it.
16. What is Golding saying in the novel about human nature and society? Use references to support your answer. Do you agree with his view of 'the darkness of men's hearts'?
17. Devise a quiz of 10 questions, using Who said? and Who did? and quotations with a missing word. Swap and do each other's quizzes.
18. Hot seat an enquiry into the deaths on the island. Ralph, Jack and Roger face a team of judges who ask questions.
19. List characters, events and features in boxes under the headings Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Summarise the significance of the four elements in the novel.
20. Look at the series of front covers the novel has had. Design a cover; write a blurb and puffs for the back.
21. Watch the YouTube video of Hiroshima based on John Hersey's book (prepare for a strong emotional reaction.) Hold a class discussion on the nature of war / the war on nature.
22. Read and discuss Golding's comments on Lord of the Flies in his essay Fable in his collection of essays Hot Gates. Discuss the ways in which the novel is a fable, and what its moral is.
23. Give the island a name and write a guidebook entry for it in an appropriate style.
24. Watch the 50-minute documentary called Time Flies (1996). Discuss the effect that taking part in the 1963 film had on the boy actors involved. Guess in advance, with reasons, which boy refused to take part in the reunion, and which boy seemed to have been most disturbed by being in the film.
25. Carry out the island role-play project. This provides a range of descriptive, narrative and argumentative outcomes as well as individual and group speaking and listening activities. It can form part of a cross-curricular project with Geography, Drama or Art.
Wider Reading: The Tempest; Swiss Family Robinson; Robinson Crusoe; Treasure Island; The Islanders; Blue Remembered Hills; Second World War poetry; William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience.
Marian Cox is an experienced teacher and author of First Language English and Literature. She has been an author for 30 years. She is also an examiner with experience of writing English exam papers.
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