Beacon Lesson Plan Library

The Allegorical Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Bruce DeKoff


Students read the Richard Bach classic [Jonathan Livingston Seagull] and analyze the story to better understand the author's use of style and the allegorical literary form in this thought-provoking story.


The student analyzes the relationships among author's style, literary form, and intended impact on the reader.


-A class set of dictionaries and/or literature textbooks
-Bach, Richard. [Jonathan Livingston Seagull]. New York: Macmillan Company, 1970. (Class set or a copy for each student)
-Dry erase marker or chalk for writing on board
-Pen or pencil and paper for students


1. Make sure there are enough textbooks, dictionaries and copies of the story for the students.
2. Consult texts if necessary to be sure teacher's understanding of allegory is thorough enough to answer possible student questions and/or provide examples to enhance student understanding.
3. Read [Jonathan Livingston Seagull], making any necessary notes to be able to provide help for students.


1. Ask students if they have ever seen a movie or read a story (perhaps a fable) in which the elements of the story seemed to have a different or deeper meaning than the literal meaning.

2. Hand out textbooks or dictionaries and ask the students to look up allegory and write the definition on the top few lines of a piece of paper. When they have finished, take a few moments to review what they have written and discuss what the definition means in simple terms. Use examples (fables, [Animal Farm], [Gulliver's Travels], etc.) to help them grasp the idea. Let them add to the examples if they are able.

3. Hand out copies of [Jonathan Livingston Seagull], explaining that it might be more than just a story about some birds.

4. Let students begin the reading in class, which should make the teacher available to answer student questions about the reading.

5. Have students finish the reading overnight, if possible. If students cannot finish the reading overnight, then additional time must be budgeted for them to finish the reading in class.

6. Have students write [Jonathan Livingston Seagull] Observations at the top of a piece of paper. Tell them to follow these guidelines, as you write them on the board:
a. List and briefly describe all the characters in each part of the story;
b. List as many events and important actions as possible from each part (minimum of three per part of the story);
c. Find as many correlations as possible between each character, action or event listed above and a similar character, action or event from history or literature.

7. Circulate among the students during the activity to conference with individual students and check for understanding of the assignment as the students work individually.

8. Put students into small groups (three would be an ideal group size), so they can share responses with each other regarding the classwork they have completed separately.

9. Conduct a class discussion to allow the various groups to compare their findings, focusing on the varying interpretations of the potential meaning of characters, events, and actions.

10. Put the students back into their small groups, and have them discuss their impressions of the author's style and the effectiveness of the third-person point of view used by Bach. Each group should be directed to discuss how the impact of the story might be affected if Bach had chosen to write the book using a first-person point of view.

11. Circulate among the groups to make sure students are able to pick out various points of style used by the author, including, but not limited to, point of view. Provide constructive feedback (as needed) to guide those who need some additional assistance.

12. Disperse the groups and give the students 10-15 minutes to write a brief, informal essay in which they offer their opinions of the author's intended message, using the ideas discussed in class to support their ideas. The students should also include their opinions regarding the effectiveness of the author's message. Note: For the essay to be commendable, as assessed by the rubric (See Associated File), the essay should have a concise thesis expressing the student's opinion, and at least four specific supporting ideas from the text that connect logically to the thesis. Make sure that students are aware of this criteria before they begin writing.

13. Allow any students who wish to read their papers aloud the opportunity to do so, and then have all the students hand their papers in so the teacher may check for successful completion of the assignment.

14. Hand back papers and conference with individual students as needed to reinforce the lesson.


Evidence: The student produces a paper identifying elements of an allegory, characteristics of the author's style, and the student's opinion (supported by text) of the author's intended impact.

Criteria: The following criteria will be used to formatively assess the student's class work and essay:
1. Define the word allegory and explain the elements of an allegory found in the story [Jonathan Livingston Seagull];
2. Provide at least two actions, events or characters from each of the three parts of the story that might have a symbolic meaning, and attribute a meaning to each;
3. Provide at least three actions, events or characters from the story that might represent specific actions, events or characters from a known historical event, another well-known literary work or a recurrent universal theme;
4. Identify the point of view of the story and be able to explain how the point of view affects the impact of the story on the reader.
5. Point out at least one characteristic of the author's style;
6. Theorize about the author's intended impact using examples from the story to support the student's ideas.

The rubric in the associated file includes the criteria for successful performance.

Attached Files

This file contains the Rubric for Formative Assessment.     File Extension: pdf

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