Three Skeleton Key Free Common Core Activities and Handouts

Every October, we read the short story “Three Skeleton Key” by George G. Toudouze  in my seventh grade classrooms.  My lesson plans for “Three Skeleton Key”  include Common Core standards as well as a lot of fun!  This story is great to read around Halloween because it has some of the elements of horror!  Being trapped in a lighthouse with hoards of rats would be nightmarish to most!  One year, I purchased a battery operated, remote control rat, which I sent wheeling out into the middle of my classroom right in the middle of the horror!  Needless to say, it made sure all of my students were awake!  These days, to keep the screams down,  I simply place a few rubbery rats around the room on the day we read the story.

Prior to reading, my students complete an anticipation guide, a vocabulary preview, and read an informational article about lighthouses and ships.  You can print the vocabulary preview in the link below.  I feel it is important that students have this background information before reading because the story can be hard for seventh graders to comprehend.    Also, due to the complexity of the text, I usually read this story aloud to my students, of course stopping along the way to question them.  Once we finish, we are ready to analyze the setting,  and theme of the story.  The setting in this story tremendously affects the plot, so together we discuss this.

Once our whole-class discussions are complete, it is time for students to work independently.  Before letting them begin, I use a handout to explain how to support answers with text.  It is best if you show examples and non-examples when doing this.  So many times, students are simply not taught how to answer open-ended questions.  Students work to complete ten questions using the text to defend their answers.  Sometimes I allow them to work with a partner to complete these questions.   Next, students write poems about the story.  Finally, they work in groups to create a tableau based on the story.  They really get into this activity and enjoy presenting them to the class!

You can download all of our handouts and activities for this teaching unit today!  Also, preview the table of contents and print the vocabulary preview free in our “Three Skeleton Key” sample pack!

Happy Teaching!