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The Outsiders Themes Lesson Plan

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Theme Developed Through Ponyboy as a Dynamic Character: 

This lesson plan focuses on the development of Ponyboy as a dynamic character in The Outsiders. Students will use different means of characterization to analyze Ponyboy at various points in the text and will identify major changes in his character at the conclusion of the narrative. By studying Ponyboy as a dynamic character, students will be better able to identify themes in the novel.

Learning Objectives: 
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to

  • describe the means through which an author develops characters in a text;
  • explain the difference between a static character and a dynamic character;
  • describe Ponyboy’s development as a dynamic character;
  • identify themes in the text.

Skills: close reading, summarizing, drawing inferences from a text, distinguishing between a word’s denotative and connotative meanings

Common Core Standards: RL.9-10.1, RL.9-10.2, RL.9-10.3, RL.9-10.4

Introductory Lecture: 

The Outsiders (1967) creates a cultural collage illustrating the turbulent experience of being an adolescent in the United States during the 1960s. After World War II, American soldiers returned home to start their families, which resulted in a large increase in the population. The ensuing generation came to be known as the “baby boomers,” and in the 1960s, they were coming of age. Many progressive forces in American society—most notably the civil rights movement—challenged the status quo during this decade. The impact on many of those coming of age during this time resulted in their questioning the social dynamics and cultural conflicts that had governed their life experiences.

The Outsiders illustrates the development of a robust, suburban upper-middle class that empowered some and left others disenfranchised. This trend is embodied in the novel by the wealthy Socs, who take advantage of their privilege to gang up on the low-income Greasers. Meanwhile, Ponyboy, a poor and orphaned fourteen-year-old, is being raised by his two older brothers and the rest of their Greaser gang. As he navigates his world of gang violence, schoolwork, and teenage crushes, Ponyboy struggles to develop his own unique identity and learns to relate to others as individuals, as opposed to stereotyped members of their respective social groups.

Like Ponyboy, Hinton was an adolescent growing up during the 1960s when she wrote The Outsiders. Though she wrote from the perspective of a baby boomer, the novel traverses universal terrain. Hinton captures the uncertainty, loneliness, and malaise that so often define adolescence, the tragic role chance can play in a child’s life, and the lasting trauma of domestic violence and neglect.

The Greasers capture the romantic notions that follow daring, dashing young men who are willing to challenge the status quo. Certain aspects of the text might seem dated to contemporary readers, such as its entirely Caucasian, overwhelmingly male cast of characters. However, Ponyboy’s development from an angry, confused adolescent to a circumspect young writer willing to view others with an observant, non-judgmental wonder, remains entirely modern.

About this Document

Our eNotes Essential Lesson Plans have been developed to meet the demanding needs of today’s educational environment. Each lesson incorporates collaborative activities with textual analysis, targeting on discrete learning objectives. The main components of each plan include the following:
  • An introduction to the text
  • A step-by-step guide to lesson procedure
  • A previous and following lesson synopsis for preparation and extension ideas
  • A collection of handouts and worksheets complete with answer keys
Each of these comprehensive plans focuses on promoting meaningful interaction, analytical skills, and student-centered activities, drawing from the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and the expertise of classroom teachers.