Spotlight on Strategy



Having students tackle a reading from a variety of perspectives and outlooks is a goal that many have in the classroom. Allegory is a great tool to practice this skill. An allegory is a story that has both a literal meaning, and a deeper, more symbolic meaning. Understanding an allegory often means looking at a story from a variety of angles and perspectives, which is a skill that I hope my students can take and apply in other areas of their learning.

In his book, 5 Minds for the Future, Howard Gardner discusses the concept of a disciplined mind focusing on a variety of skills today's learners need including the ability to synthesize and be creative. Gardner (2008) states, "Those individuals who can generate several representations of the same idea or concept are far more likely to come up with potent syntheses " (p. 69). Allegory is asking you to look at how two different elements (the literal and symbolic meaning) are coming together to create the final story, which is an example of synthesis.

Creating an opportunity for students to practice a skill such as synthesizing information is crucial. Having students practice this skill through the method of studying and analyzing allegory will allow them to have a concrete example of how pieces come together to create the whole image, or in this case, story.

Common Core Standards:

CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RL9-10.1: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

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Example: The Lottery

Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," is a short story, that is often a high interest piece to students and a great example of allegory. To begin with our study of allegory, it is important to create an understanding of the term. This video provides a quick definition of allegory, and some well known examples to introduce the topic. The literary devices website is an additional resource that can be utilized to reach students who may do better with written information/examples than the auditory discussion provided in the video.

After discussing the meaning of allegory, begin reading "The Lottery" with students. While reading, instruct students to annotate the text, focusing on elements crucial to understanding the story on the surface level. Have students identify setting, characterization, elements of plot, etc. Ensuring students understand the story on the surface is key to them developing an understanding of the more symbolic nature of an allegory.

Once we have read the story and discussed the eventsthat unfold, I often have students watch the video created of "The Lottery." This can sometimes be a difficult reading for students to grasp and I find that showing the short film often helps clarify the events that unfold.

Once we complete the film and discuss what new information we have learned, we then look at the deeper meaning of the text. Students are provided with a list of symbols from the story and asked to work together to determine what these characters, events, objects, etc. are symbolic of.

When students are able to see how the "surface level" elements come together to create deeper meaning, they have developed an understanding of allegory.


Allegory can be a difficult concept for students to tackle, especially when it comes to identifying symbols. A great way to practice this skill, without having to focus on reading, is to watch a film that is an allegory. There are many popular movies that contain allegorical elements. Choose one for your students to view and analyze. Wall-e is a great option as it isn't too long, most students are familiar with it, and the allegorical elements are not too difficult to find.

If you want to ensure that your students have mastered the concept of allegory, take the topic one step further to a discussion on fables. Have students read some of Aesop's fables and then create one of their own. In addition to the creativity that comes from developing their own story, have students use websites like Mixbook, Animoto, or Storyboardthat to bring their fables to life.



Gardner, H. (2008). 5 minds for the future. Boston: Harvard Business Press


"The Lottery." [image file]. Retrieved on April 8, 2016 from

Aesop's Fable story images created using iPiccy.

Web sources:

Sawyer, J. (March 2, 2010). AP English literature and composition terms: Allegory; 60 second recap. [video file]. Retrieved on April 7, 2016 from