“Gift of the Magi” and Context Clues

Purpose: Using context clues for unknown vocabulary words; expanding vocabulary; making inferences. Last day – Discussion of themes and ironies.


Context Clues

For middle school:

For High School:


Discuss the different types of context clues and work through only the first three examples on the activity and quiz worksheet. Discuss all answers.

Next, pair students up to practice with the remaining questions on the worksheet (pairs will either be assigned to complete odds or evens). After 10 minutes, students share their answers. Encourage questioning and/or respectful disagreement from the classmates as each pair shares an answer.


Using Context Clues in “The Gift of the Magi”

Explain to students they will practice using context clues with this short story.

Listen to an audio version of the story in class. Students follow along with their own copies. (Have them first number each paragraph chronologically).

Show the context clues chart on the board, and practice as a class using the first two answers provided. Students return to their pairs and are assigned two different consecutive words on the chart. After 10 minutes, have students complete the rest of the chart independently.

Formative Assessment

Choose only one entry (the same word) on each student’s chart to assess. As you assess, make a running list of common chart errors. The next day, have each student choose one word to share to the class, explaining how they arrived at that definition.


Students list and explain at least three different types of context clues.

Summative Assessment

Students will choose four words from the vocabulary list and construct four original sentences with each sentence using one of the chosen words and each sentence using one of the four context clue types. Students will label the type of context clue he or she used at the end of the sentence with the code previously identified during the Quiz & Activity. Students will write an additional sentence explaining how their sentence is an example of that context clue.


“The Gift of the Magi” Discussion

Story board, plot diagram, activities, and graphic organizers.

Vocab and study guide. More vocabulary practice.


What is The American Dream?


Brainstorm what comes to mind with the word “success.” Write the words and phrases on the board. Then have students complete the anticipation guide.


Next, watch the following video. Students are required to take notes from the video, which they will turn in at the end of class (they must have at least four major points).

Discuss key points.

Read “American Dream Faces Harsh New Reality.”


Come up with several discussion questions for the article. List each question on the board for all students to see. In small groups, students discuss each question with their peers. (You may need to point students to certain parts of the article that will help students to answer the question.) Then, each group is assigned one question to answer in writing. Finally, as an entire class, each group shares their written paragraph. Discuss.

Extension Activity

Make connections about what the class has just discussed about the American Dream to literature.


Take a look at the anticipation guide again. Would the students now make any changes to their original answers?




Logical Fallacies

Short story: “Love is a Fallacy” by Max Shulman (written in the 1950’s)

Short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

Key Vocabulary terms

  • Argument: A conclusion together with the premises that support it.
  • Premise: A reason offered as support for another claim.
  • Conclusion: A claim that is supported by a premise.
  • Valid: An argument whose premises genuinely support its conclusion.
  • Unsound: An argument that has at least one false premise.
  • Fallacy: An argument that relies upon faulty reasoning.
  • Booby-trap: An argument that, while not a fallacy itself, might lead an inattentive reader to commit a fallacy.


Handout 1

Sample Fallacies and Teacher’s Answer Guide












Playlist of logical fallacies

West Wing scene – After it, therefore, because of it – don’t simply assume that because one thing follows another, the first thing caused the second thing to happen. A classic scene from the second episode of The West Wing, where Jed Bartlett implies that the reason he lost Texas was because he believed Texans would never elect a president who spoke latin.

Dodge Charger Ad – Slippery slope. It’s not logical to assume that self-parking cars will lead to robots harvesting our bodies.

South Park “You Hate Children” – False choice

Friend’s – Joey’s Fridge – Post Hoc

South Park – the Chewbacca Defense – Red herring (*language)

“Seven” campaign ad for Barak Obama – Red herring. It starts by claiming Mccain doesn’t understand the fundamentals of the economy. But then it diverts attention from the economy to how many houses he owns.

2:53-4:07 SNL’s “You Lie” – the bandwagon fallacy

0:39-0:46 Tom Cruise on Psychiatry –  false authority. he claims to have done research, but he is not an authority on the subject.

Sony Commercial – appeal to false authority

Big Bang Theory’s Superman Argument

Big Bang Theory – post hoc ergo propter hoc

Direct TV commercials – slippery slope

Mean Girls – Hasty generalization?

Big Bang Theory – reductio ad absurdum




As a group activity, have students “sell” a product* using as many fallacies as they can. Encourage students to go overboard here to make the fallacies as outrageous and therefore transparent as possible.   While (or after) each group presents, the other class members should try to identify the fallacies. An option is to keep score and award a prize to the “team” naming the most fallacies or naming them the fastest.



Great Animations – Film as Lit

These are writing and discussion activities based off short animated films:

Geri’s Game – Pixar Short, 1997

  • Great for teaching dialogue or POV.
  • Write a description of Geri. How can you change the description to make it seem like there are two different players?
  • Write a dialogue between the “two” players.
  • Experiment with 3rd and 1st person narrative.  One of the players could be described by 3rd person narrative whilst the 2nd player uses 1st person narrative.
  • What makes this an interesting short film to watch? Why do you think there are no words?


Book of Butterflies – Michael Leunig

  • Great for teaching description and imagery. 
  • Watch once as a class. Have students make a T-chart with one side labeled “before the book comes to life” and the other labeled “after the book comes to life.”
  • Watch a second time. Give students time to list descriptive words and phrases that could go in each side of the chart.
  • Have students write their own descriptions of books come to life… a book of lions/fish/other animals, a cookbook, a favorite childhood book (Dr. Suess, etc.). Focus on using strong adjectives and vivid descriptions. What does it look like? What happens? What is the “reader’s” reaction? Do the escaped “items” ever get back into the book?


The Happy Duckling

  • Great for teaching twist endings or fables.
  • Pause throughout the video to let students make predictions about the story. Why is the boy trying to get rid of the duck?
  • Have kids write stories about other ducks the boy may have saved and how he saved them…
  • Write a story from the duck’s point of view.


A Shadow of Blue – Carlos Lascano

  • Great for teaching drawing inferences, creating mood in stories, and using vivid imagery.
  • Note: This beautiful animation mixes together models and real life to create a stunning visual effect! This might work best as something taught over 2-3 lessons.
  • 2:48 – Who is the girl? Why is she all alone in the park? What do you think she is like? Why does she seem so thoughtful/sad? What do you think she is thinking?
  • 3:06 – What has just happened? What do you think will happen next?
  • 5:21-5:40 – What is the music like? How does it make you feel? Have students write descriptions of the scene here with rich imagery. Can students capture the tension of the music in their writing? (Discuss how using a pattern of several long, descriptive sentences followed by short, snappy ones could help build tension like the music.)
  • 7:42-8:46 – What are the range of emotions she is feeling?
  • 8:45 – Who is this lady watching? What can we tell from her dress? Her expression? What is she doing?
  • 9:30 – Why is she carrying the girl like that? Do we have any more ideas about who this lady is?
  • 9:34 – NOW what have we just learned? How does this change your perspective of everything that’s just happened? Why does her shadow have to have the adventure?
  • What does the butterfly do at the end? (Maybe spreading the girl’s passion for life around the hospital/orphanage?)
  • Activity: write a journal entry from the girl’s point of view about the day she had in this film.
  • Activity: write the story about what happened to the girl before what we see in the film (why she is in a wheelchair).


Don’t Go

  • Great for teaching antonyms and action verbs.
  • Compare the cat and the pink visitor using antonyms.
  • Write sentences using strong action verbs to describe several things that happen in the film.
  • Create a world for the pink visitor. Where is he from? What is it like?
  • Devise a set of instructions to avoid being caught by the cat.


The Rocketeer

  • Great for teaching newspaper journalism and character sketching/development.
  • Write a newspaper report for the events in this film.
  • Design an enemy for The Rocketeer to defeat, write a wanted poster for the bad guy.
  • Write your own adventure of the Rocketeer.
  • Write The Rocketeer’s back story, how did he become a hero?  Why does he risk his own life?  Why does he fight crime rather than get rich with his powers?  Use drama techniques to draw these ideas from the children.



Day and Night

  • Compare/contrast essay



The Meaning of Life

  • Exestentialism


  • Discrimination

The Maker

  • Life is short – it is what you make of it.


  • Spooky!

French Roast

  • Wealth/giving/appearances


  • Time

The Blue and the Beyond

  • Conformity

Wire Cutters

  • Greed, broken relationship