Why Bother Living?

The Essential Question in Hamlet

Activity Background

Educatonal researcher John Hattie (2009) has found that for an activity to be effective feedback, classroom discussion and formative assessments should be included.

This activity is based on asking students to generalize their understanding of how authors use symbols to communicate deeper meaning.

This project is an individual project which extends to a group activity through the process of critique. Students discuss the efficacy of their classmates' symbols and how they are used creating opportunities for teacher and peer feedback.

We have extended our classroom and captured different points of view by doing the critique/discussion part of this activity with other classes in different states using Edmodo.


Hattie, John. Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge, 2013.

Photo Citation

Christen, Blaine. shgrave.jpg. June 2008. Pics4Learning. 11 Oct 2015 http://pics.tech4learning.com


Hamlet finds Yorkic's skull in a mass grave and remembers the man he knew. The skull has become one of the most famous literary symbols of all time.

Think about the function of a symbol in literature. How do symbols help us to understand and remember universal themes and ideas? What's the sybmbol for Nike? Think of all the things that symbol represents. Can you make a list of ideas? Sports, victory, determination, success etc.

Your task is to find an object that you can use as a symbol. When you find your "symbol" use it in a very short story (500 words) to show how your symbol functions to communicate deeper meaning to your readers.

Example: A gold and brown leaf falls from the tree one autumn afternoon as a loved one passes from this life to the next.

In this example the leaf represents, death and change.

Find an object in your home, classroom, outside or in some other place and create a short story around that symbol.

Teacher Challenge

We have completed activities like this one using Edmodo to collaborate with students in schools in different states. By expanding our classroom in this way students are stimulated and challenged to engage in learning with other students from different areas and backgrounds. They communicate through the learning and find the communality of their thought as well as their diversity.

My challenge to other teachers is to connect with other literature classrooms around the country or even around the world to collaborate on a critiquing activity group project using Edmodo to interact at distance.