Lesson Plan: Language Arts
Student Resource: From The
Miracle Worker, by William Gibson
Media Type: Drama
After completing this lesson, students will be able to:
- Define resilience and discuss the resilience of
the human spirit.
- Describe the importance of harnessing the energy in negative
emotions and turning it toward positive goals.
- Recognize that people with disabilities are often able
to overcome great obstacles.
Introducing the Lesson
Ask students to imagine what it would be like to be blind
or deaf. Then ask them to imagine what it would be like to
be both. Remind students that a famous, well-documented case
of an individual who overcame both of these limitations was
Determine how much students know about this remarkable woman
and her equally remarkable mentor, Annie Sullivan. After asking
volunteers to share what they know, shift the topic toward
the selection by asking: What does Helen Keller's triumph
over her condition teach us about the resilience of the human
Hand out copies of the play excerpt, which is preceded by
a brief introduction. Even though this play is quite challenging
to perform, feel free to do so if there are students in the
class with strong dramatic aptitude. You may want to ask one
of them to take the "silent" role of Helen, and
another to play Annie Sullivan. A student with good public
speaking skills can read the introduction while the balance
of the class follows along silently.
After students have completed the reading, you may either
use the following as class discussion questions or assign
them as individual or group work.
- Evaluating. How would you describe the emotional
reaction Helen's parents seem to have toward her, as described
in the introduction? Would you call this reaction predictable?
Would you call it healthy? Explain your answers.
- Synthesizing. A stage direction in a work
of drama provides instruction to the actors on how to act
out a particular scene. Typically, these directions appear
indented and in italics. Reread the third stage direction
in The Miracle Worker (the one beginning "And
now the miracle happens"). In what way does this direction
seem to have been written for the reader of the play as
much as for the actors? What is symbolized by the change
in the light in Helen's face and the setting? What do you
think the phrase "struggle in the depths behind it"
- Comparing and Contrasting. Resilience is the ability
to adapt effectively and recover from disappointment, difficulty,
or crisis. In what way does Annie Sullivan show resilience
in this play?
- Evaluating. Many critics have described The
Miracle Worker as a story of strength. Who do you think
is the stronger of the two characters in the excerpt you
read? Explain your feelings.
- Extending. You are probably familiar with the saying
"Where there is a will, there is a way." How does
this saying apply to the message in The Miracle Worker?
Integrating Literature and Health
Helen Keller's story is a remarkable example of how people
can "beat the odds" resulting from disability and
other health problems. Choose another figure who has beaten
the odds, such as Lance Armstrong, an athlete diagnosed with
cancer who not only recovered but also went on to win the
Tour de France, a grueling international bicycle race. Create
a written report or video documentary on the individual of
your choice. Explain how this person's triumph, like Helen
Keller's, is like a beacon to us all.