An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge: 6 Critical Thinking Lesson Plans (w/Story)

Reluctant Reader Books
Grade Levels
6th - 12th
Resource Type
Formats Included
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17 pages
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Reluctant Reader Books


These lesson plans are for Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge". The various components can be done in combination or individually.

The story is included with the lesson plans.

The lesson plans are broken into the following sections:


Each of our lesson plans begins with a short intro page giving a brief review of the story and its publication history: when it was first published and where.

Story in Context

Brief background is provided for certain concepts that students may be unfamiliar with. Enough to encourage class discussion, but not enough to be distracting to the story itself.

Here we provide background on hanging during the Civil War and note that the type of hanging Bierce describes in his story did not come into use until after the war ended.

Stories in Conversation

Stories do not exist in a vacuum. Our lesson plans try to connect the dots between the story itself and other stories, movies, and media that came before and after.

Here we connect the dots between Bierce's realist fiction and the work of writers who would come after him: Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage, and Ernest Hemingway, author of The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

Interrogating Characters

Interrogating Characters presents students with a way to engage with specific characters in the story. We select characters other than the main character or narrator so that students can ponder other points of view.

Here ask students to take a closer look at Peyton Farquhar himself. Why is Farquhar so eager to help the Southern cause? What are we to make of a man in his thirties who still clings to a boy's view of war and death?

Missing in Action

Every story has gaps or missing points of view. In Missing in Action, we ask students to consider those neglected viewpoints in order to gain a better understanding of what the author has left out.

Here we ask students to consider the character of the Federal Scout. Why was he motivated to set up Farquhar? What does he think about his actions now that they led to a man's hanging?

Analyzing Language

Analyzing Language provides 6 questions that look specifically at the language the author has used and asks students to consider those choices to better understand the story.


Each lesson plan has one Activity. Some are solo projects, others are done with partners or in groups. Activities engage students with the text in ways that are analytical but not based on essay responses.

Here we ask students to ponder the passage of time. Why does time seem to slow down for some things and speed up during others?


Launchpad asks students to write their own stories using the story selection as a starting point. Usually this is a continuation of the tale that asks students to use their imaginations.

Here we ask students to write about the aftermath of Farquhar's death. What happens to his family now? Are his wife and children left alone by the Union soldiers? Or are they taken into custody too?

Total Pages
17 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.
Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama.
Analyze how an author develops and contrasts the points of view of different characters or narrators in a text.


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