Essential Steps: Creating Motifs in Literature Lessons
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Identify potential motifs in the text
  2. Analyze how the motif contributes to the theme
  3. Create lesson plans that highlight the motif
  4. Design activities to explore the motif
  5. Evaluate student understanding of the motif
  6. Reinforce the motif in subsequent lessons

Imagine teaching an immersive literature class where the words leap off the page and spark imagination. Bringing motifs to life can transform a standard literature lesson into a dynamic exploration of themes and symbols. Crafting lesson plans around motifs in literature can be a game-changer in your teaching journey. Let's get started with the first step!

Identify potential motifs in the text

Before you can create a motifs in literature lesson plan, you need to identify the motifs present in the text. A motif is not just a repeated symbol, but an idea or theme that recurs throughout a piece of literature.

Recognizing Motifs

Recognizing motifs requires a keen eye. You're not just looking for repetitive symbols, but for recurring ideas or themes. Here are some tips:

  • Look for repetition: Anything that appears more than once could be a motif. It might be a phrase, an object, a character, or a situation.
  • Consider symbolic meanings: Motifs often carry symbolic meanings. An object or situation might represent an idea or theme in the story.
  • Think about the big picture: Motifs are linked to the main themes of the story. If you understand the theme, it's easier to spot the motifs.

Examples of Motifs

Understanding motifs becomes easier with examples. Let's look at a few:

  1. Weather in 'The Great Gatsby': The weather in this novel often reflects the emotional climate of the characters. For instance, the heat in the climactic confrontation scene symbolizes tension.
  2. Blood in 'Macbeth': Blood appears repeatedly in Shakespeare's play, symbolizing guilt and remorse.
  3. The green light in 'The Great Gatsby': The green light at the end of Daisy's dock is a powerful motif representing Gatsby's dream and hope.

With a sharp eye and keen understanding of the text, you can identify potential motifs to build your literature lesson plans around. This will not only make your classes more engaging but also deepen students' understanding of the text.

Analyze how the motif contributes to the theme

Once you have identified motifs in your chosen literature, it's time to analyze their contribution to the overarching theme. This is where the magic of motifs really starts to shine in lesson plans.

Linking Motifs to Themes

Each motif in literature is a puzzle piece, contributing to the larger picture — the theme. Here are a few ways to analyze this relationship:

  • Examine the frequency: How often does the motif occur? An oft-repeated motif usually indicates a major theme in the story.
  • Contextualize the motif: In what context does the motif appear? This can give you clues about its relationship with the theme.
  • Interpret the symbolism: What does the motif symbolize? This will help you understand its thematic significance.

Examples of Motifs Contributing to Themes

Let's apply these steps with some examples:

  1. The green light in 'The Great Gatsby': The green light appears frequently, always in the context of Gatsby's longing for Daisy. It symbolizes his hopes and dreams — the central theme of the novel.
  2. Blood in 'Macbeth': Blood is a recurring motif in scenes of guilt and murder, symbolizing the destructive consequences of unchecked ambition — the play's dominant theme.

Analyzing how motifs contribute to themes can add depth and complexity to your literature lesson plans. This step will enable you to guide your students towards a richer understanding of the text. Remember, the goal of incorporating motifs in literature lesson plans is to make the learning experience more engaging and meaningful for your students.

Create lesson plans that highlight the motif

Now that you've identified the motifs and connected them to the themes, it's time to design your literature lesson plans around these motifs. Here's an easy way to go about it:

Introduce the Motif

Begin by introducing the motif to your students. Explain what a motif is — a recurring image, symbol, or idea — and why it's important in literature. You might say something like, "Motifs are like breadcrumbs that authors leave for readers to follow. They help us understand the themes and deeper meanings in a story."

Explore the Motif in the Text

Next, guide your students to find instances of the motif in the text. For example, if you're teaching 'The Great Gatsby', you might ask your students to find all the instances where the green light appears. Remember, the goal is to make your motifs in literature lesson plans interactive and engaging.

Discuss the Motif's Significance

Now that your students have found the motif, discuss its significance. Ask your students: "What does the green light symbolize? How does it contribute to the theme of hopes and dreams?" Encourage them to share their interpretations and support their answers with evidence from the text.

Reflect on the Motif

Finally, ask your students to reflect on the motif. How does it enhance their understanding of the text? How does it affect their reading experience? This step will help your students appreciate the power of motifs in literature and make your lesson plans more meaningful.

Creating lesson plans that highlight motifs can make your literature lessons more effective and engaging. Remember, the goal is not just to teach, but to inspire a love for literature in your students.

Design activities to explore the motif

After laying the groundwork with your lesson plans, it's time to bring those motifs to life! The key here is to design activities that allow your students to explore the motifs in literature in a hands-on and creative way. Here are some ideas:

Create a Motif Collage

Have your students create a collage that represents the motif. For example, if the motif is weather in "Jane Eyre", they could cut out pictures of different weather conditions that reflect the moods and events in the novel. This visual representation will help enhance their understanding of the motif.

Write a Motif Journal

Encourage your students to keep a motif journal. As they read, they can jot down instances of the motif, their thoughts about it, and how they think it contributes to the theme. This will not only deepen their understanding but also improve their analytical skills.

Act Out the Motif

For a bit of drama, have your students act out scenes from the text that highlight the motif. This will help them see the motif in action and understand its role in the narrative.

Design a Motif Quiz

Finally, design a quiz that tests your students' understanding of the motif. This could be a fun way to wrap up the motif exploration and ensure that your students have grasped the concept.

Remember, the goal of these activities is not just to learn about motifs in literature, but to experience them. With these fun and engaging activities, your motifs in literature lesson plans will not just teach, but inspire.

Evaluate student understanding of the motif

So, you've created an engaging lesson plan, and your students have dived into various activities exploring motifs in literature. Now, it's time to take a step back and evaluate their understanding. Here's how you can do this effectively:

Discussion Sessions

Hosting a discussion session is a great way to gauge your students' understanding. Encourage them to share their insights about the motif and how it links to the theme. Listen carefully to their views: this will help you assess whether they've grasped the concept.

Individual Presentations

Ask your students to prepare a short presentation on the motif. They could talk about its significance, how it's developed, and its impact on the story. This will not only help them consolidate their understanding, but also allow you to evaluate their comprehension level.

Written Assignments

Assign an essay where students analyze the motif in detail. Not only will this solidify their understanding, but it will also provide you with a tangible way to assess their grasp of motifs in literature.

Quiz Time

Remember that quiz you designed? It's time to use it. Quizzes are an effective way to evaluate understanding and recall. The results can give you a clear picture of how well your students have understood the motif.

These evaluation methods will ensure that your motifs in literature lesson plans are effectively teaching students not just to identify motifs, but to understand their role in literature. Remember, assessment is not just about grading—it's about understanding where your students are, so you can guide them to where they need to be.

Reinforce the motif in subsequent lessons

Teaching is not a one-and-done process, especially when it comes to complex topics like motifs in literature. Once you have evaluated your students' understanding of a motif, the next step is to reinforce this concept in future lessons. Here are some strategies that can help:

Repeated Exposure

Expose your students to the same motif in different contexts. This could be through different books, poems, or short stories. Repeated exposure will solidify their understanding and help them recognize motifs on their own.

Connect to Other Literary Elements

Draw connections between the motif and other literary elements like symbols, themes or characters. This will deepen their understanding and show them how different elements of literature are interwoven.

Use Visual Aids

Visual aids, like diagrams or mind maps, can help students understand the links between motifs and themes. Encourage them to create their own visual aids to cement their understanding.

Real-world Connections

Link the motif to real-world issues or themes. This not only reinforces the motif, but also brings literature to life, making it more relevant and engaging for your students.

Remember, our ultimate aim is to enable students to identify and understand motifs independently. Reinforcing motifs in literature lesson plans in subsequent classes is an effective way to achieve this. So, keep at it, and soon your students will be spotting motifs left, right, and center!

If you're looking to enhance your understanding of motifs in literature and improve your writing skills, we recommend checking out Charlie Brogan's workshop 'Writing From Memory - Part 1.' This workshop will help you explore the power of memory in writing and provide you with techniques to create captivating motifs in your literary works.