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This is Twain’s first hit and one of his most anthologized and memorable short stories. It was an instant classic and remains as playfully implausible as ever. The story is replete with the ethos of a gambling culture that typifies the Wild West.
To keep students engaged, I have rendered this story in a script format, for use in the classroom or onstage for up to ten voices. If you have twenty + students, you could have two groups reading it at the same time.
Twain didn’t skimp on his word choices, so the vocabulary is somewhat challenging, especially when the narrator, with his refined Eastern speech patterns, describes characters. I have identified 26 challenging vocabulary words and more that are defined to make the reading clearer. There is a list following the story, arranged in two ways – by the sequence in the story, and by parts of speech. Then there is a matching vocabulary activity – words with definitions, and another one where students fill in the words into sentences that use the words in context. Teachers in many schools are struggling to rise to the expectation that ELL students need significant help with vocabulary work. I am trying to respond to that expectation. There is a Word Wheel activity based on the word "determined" that is helpful for brainstorming about characterization and theme in the story. This activity could profitably fill several days of class time.
Common Core Connections: * Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
* Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.