The Scarlet "A": Role-Play in Writing

Examine this lesson plan, and read through it as if you are a participant in a class in which the teacher or professor is asking you to engage in these activities. In doing these assignments, you will examine the characters' motivations, conflicts, and cultural influences in The Scarlet Letter. By stepping into the shoes of the characters, you will get a better sense of what they each struggled with in their society.

This lesson plan for grades 9–10 English Language Arts was created to follow a close reading and examination of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. The plan uses a small group format and rotation schedule. The activities created strengthen students' understanding of an author's use of characterization, while reinforcing reading and creative writing skills.


Learning outcomes

Students will have previously researched Puritans in early America, and should gain a further understanding of this period by examining character motivation, conflicts, and cultural influence. By stepping into the shoes of each primary character, students will write a variety of responses. These responses include personal letters, journal entries, and newspaper editorials. The hope is to strengthen their understanding of characterization. Searching the text for appropriate passages will also strengthen reading application skills and the concept of reading for meaning.


Teacher planning


3.5 hours



  • Overhead projector



Students should have adequate knowledge of this early period in America, including an in-depth understanding of the Puritans. Emphasis should be placed on their religious beliefs, customs, laws upheld, modes of punishment, and even their style of clothing. Students should also have read The Scarlet Letter and should have completed a "Reader's Response" journal. This journal would require students to individually respond and reflect at the end of each chapter.



  1. Upon students' arrival to class each day, desks should be already arranged in group circles, four chairs per group preferably. The teacher should also have previously assigned groups based on students' individual abilities and level of contribution. Activities were designed to provide for a total of four groups (one for each primary character), so this is ideal for a small, energetic class.
  2. After students are grouped and seated, the teacher should, on the first day, begin with a brief introduction on the overhead, reviewing on separate overhead sheets the four primary characters: Roger Chillingworth, Arthur Dimmesdale, Hester Prynne, and little Pearl. The review should discuss each character in regard to his/her conflict(s), pursuit(s), motivation, and cultural influence. Students should have paper out, participating orally in the review, and taking appropriate notes. These notes will be helpful as they begin their group activities. (Approximately thirty minutes should be allowed for this review).
  3. The teacher will now give each group its assigned activity. The activities included in this lesson plan are as follows:
    • Group 1: Role-playing the character Roger Chillingworth, write a series of five brief diary entries revealing your feelings about Hester's betrayal, your suspicions regarding her mysterious lover, culminating in your final destructive finish where the minister's sin is brought to light. Be sure to reveal your own retreat to darkness and despair in your evil undertakings.
    • Group 2: Role-playing the character Arthur Dimmesdale, students should compose a personal letter written to the Church. This letter should reveal your shameful sin, your feelings about your self-imposed silence, and your thoughts concerning a rightful punishment for yourself.
    • Group 3: Role-playing the character Hester Prynne, write a newspaper editorial article. Writing anonymously, state your views about the sin of adultery, the pursuit of love and happiness, and the concepts of marriage and betrayal. Keep in consideration the culture in which you live and your own personal value system.
    • Group 4: Role-playing the character Pearl at twenty years of age, write a long journal entry reflecting on your mother and father's adulterous relationship, your confusing childhood symbolized by the scarlet "A", and your acceptance or rejection of the truth when it finally cast its ugly head. Reveal how your background has shaped and molded you into the person you are today.
  4. After completing each activity, students will explore their novels to find 3–5 quotes or short passages which they feel support the content of their writing. These quotes or passages should be written out, citing the page number(s), and included on the reverse side of each activity sheet.
  5. After thirty minutes have passed, students should physically rotate to a new circle of chairs and should be given a new activity sheet. The total amount of time to complete all four activities should be approximately 120 minutes, or 30 minutes at each station.



Assessment of students' capacity to read for detail and to role-play through varied written activities will be accomplished on a group presentation basis. Each group will randomly be assigned one character's name. The group will then be responsible for selecting two speakers – one to present the writing activity, and one to share the selected quotes/passages. As each group presents its character, the teacher will assess using a rubric scoring guide, which will score each group's ability to read for detail, creativity in writing, quality of content, and choice of supporting passages.


Supplemental information


This lesson was fun to create, and fun to carry out in the classroom. The students enjoyed the group atmosphere, the structure of timed activities, and the personal design of the activities through which they allowed to "become" each character.

  • Common Core State Standards
      • Reading: Literature

        • Grade 9-10
          • 9-10.RL.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
          • 9-10.RL.3 Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
        • Writing

          • 9-10.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
          • 9-10.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. 9-10.W.9.1 Apply grades 9–10 Reading standards to literature (e.g., "Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific...


North Carolina curriculum alignment


Grade 10

  • Goal 1: The learner will react to and reflect upon print and non-print text and personal experiences by examining situations from both subjective and objective perspectives.
    • Objective 1.02: Respond reflectively (through small group discussion, class discussion, journal entry, essay, letter, dialogue) to written and visual texts by:
      • relating personal knowledge to textual information or class discussion.
      • showing an awareness of one's own culture as well as the cultures of others.
      • exhibiting an awareness of culture in which text is set or in which text was written.
      • explaining how culture affects personal responses.
      • demonstrating an understanding of media's impact on personal responses and cultural analyses.
  • Goal 3: The learner will defend argumentative positions on literary or nonliterary issues.
    • Objective 3.01: Examine controversial issues by:
      • sharing and evaluating initial personal response.
      • researching and summarizing printed data.
      • developing a framework in which to discuss the issue (creating a context).
      • compiling personal responses and researched data to organize the argument.
      • presenting data in such forms as a graphic, an essay, a speech, or a video.
  • Goal 5: The learner will demonstrate an understanding of selected world literature through interpretation and analysis.
    • Objective 5.02: Demonstrate increasing comprehension and ability to respond personally to texts by:
      • selecting and exploring a wide range of works that relate to an issue, author, or theme of world literature.
      • documenting the reading of student-chosen works.

Source: Tonya White,
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Last modified: Thursday, February 18, 2021, 2:48 PM