I have been reflecting on my favorite lessons from the school year, and one of the most fun and effective was teaching symbolism with Tootsie Roll Pops! Not only were the students enthusiastic about eating the candy (because aren’t they always?), they really grasped the concept of analyzing a symbol.
We were nearing Halloween and deep in our Short Stories unit, and I planned for my 9th graders to read “Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe. They had already told me in their journals that they didn’t “get” symbolism. I wanted to help them learn to take apart symbols and analyze them based on concrete details before adding in the abstract traits and drawing a conclusion. Basically, I wanted to help them break down symbols and realize that there was a lot of room for interpretation.
As I walked through the store, pondering the next day’s lesson, inspiration struck:
Tootsie Roll Pops®.
Tootsie Roll Pops® are perfect for teaching symbolism because they’ve got some obvious concrete qualities and some cultural baggage to analyze.
Teaching Symbolism with The Symbolism Arc
- Concrete Traits – Students identify things they can see, smell, feel, and taste about the object.
- Abstract Traits – Students brainstorm what else they know based on society, cultural traditions, commercials, etc. This category can also contain things they can’t see, but that they know to be true anyway.
- Teaching Symbolism – They make a connection between these traits and consider what “idea” may be shouldered by this object in the text. Obviously, they are infusing the Tootsie Roll Pop® with symbolism, but when we return to Poe, they will consider the tone and mood of the text before drawing these conclusions.
This introduction to teaching symbolism was such a hit! We ended up watching the old Tootsie Roll Pop® commercials because some of my students hadn’t seen them. It was a great introduction to “cultural baggage”. I immediately connected this to “Masque of the Red Death”, and references that Poe’s audience would have easily understood.
Also, can I just say that listening to 9th graders invent symbolism is pretty awesome? Clearly, Tootsie Roll Pops represent people who look good on the outside but are a glob of grossness on the inside. Also, they represent life’s challenges and a wonderful reward after hard work.
As you can tell, there were mixed opinions about Tootsie Roll Pops in my class!
After this introduction, we went through a PowerPoint for teaching Symbolism and Allegory and worked more on a general symbolism inventory. Huge success!
Do you want to know more about how I use Interactive Notebooks in High School? Click here!
Need more inspiration? Check out this post on teaching symbolism using short stories or a round-up of short stories for other figurative languages!
What’s your favorite way of teaching symbolism? What’s your favorite candy to teach with? Please let me know in the comments below – I love hearing from you! And if you use this Tootsie Pop lesson, let me know how your students responded. Comment on this post or reach out on IG @nouvelle_ela 🙂
Interactive Notebooks for High School - Nouvelle by DanielleJuly 5, 2016 at 11:17 am
[…] Teaching Symbolism with Candy […]
ChristyJuly 5, 2016 at 7:13 pm
I love this!! I actually stumbled upon your site through Pinterest and am excited, especially, to see your use of Interactive Notebooks in the HS classroom. I’ve been teaching JH ELA for years, but this is my first year moving up to 10th grade. I have enjoyed seeing how you are incorporating these in the upper levels. Thanks so much for sharing!!
Danielle HallJuly 5, 2016 at 7:20 pm
Thanks so much for the comment! I also moved from JH to HS, so I definitely wanted to use ISNs with my older students. I am slowly working on getting up more posts about this now that I’m on summer vacay. What are you most interested in hearing about next? In addition to Short Stories, I used ISNs with novels, drama, poetry, and research.
Feel free to email me anytime with ISN questions. 🙂
-Danielle @ Nouvelle ELA
Julie FaulknerAugust 2, 2016 at 5:49 pm
Saw your pin on Pinterest! Love this idea; I will for sure be doing it this year!
Danielle HallAugust 2, 2016 at 9:26 pm
Hooray! I can’t wait to hear how it turns out, Julie! 🙂
Janet Whitley (The Teaching Files)October 31, 2016 at 5:55 pm
This was so interesting – I can just imagine the great thinking students were doiong!
Anita RowlandAugust 8, 2019 at 9:39 pm
I stumbled upon you site through Pinterest, I am loving what I have read. I am a second year brick and mortar teacher, who has been totally list with little help. I feel like Helen Keller a lot of days, searching for help. I tried using interactive notebooks for my 8th graders but petered out quickly. Thanks for the tips. Do you have materials I can use to assist me with novels or stories, or do you use them for one item at a time? What is the best way to use? What are ISN I am moving from 8-12 to 6- 8 graders. Sounding ELA alarms
Danielle HallAugust 9, 2019 at 12:25 pm
Hi, Anita! I can totally understand your trepidation – that sounds like a big change! But you can do it! I use ISNs all year and so I have materials for stories, novels, and plays. Here’s another post about designing ISN units for novels: https://teachnouvelle.com/teach-a-class-novel-with-interactive-notebooks/. I also have materials in my TpT store, Nouvelle ELA.
Still trying to figure out the differences between all these different online tools? Same here – No Minor EpiphaniesNovember 14, 2016 at 5:06 pm
[…] all about teaching 9th grade English. From her website, teachnouvelle.com, I decided to adapt a lesson on symbolism and allegory for the Nearpod […]
Teach a Class Novel with Interactive Notebooks - Nouvelle ELA Teaching ResourcesNovember 22, 2016 at 2:43 pm
[…] you’ve read my post on teaching symbolism & allegory, you know most of my spreads (two facing pages) follow a simple IN-THROUGH-OUT design. I have a few […]
Erica DearienNovember 8, 2017 at 9:34 am
Thank you for this, I actually teach 11th grade but they still struggle with this concept. Thanks for the great idea. I will let you know how it goes.
YA Cafe Podcast: In the Key of Nira Ghani by Natasha DeenApril 18, 2019 at 8:00 am
[…] If you listened to the episode you’ll know that Danielle loved Natasha Deen’s use of objects in this novel (the small trumpet, the small barbecue, etc.), so this book would be a wonderful choice to illustrate symbolism. If you are looking for other ways to teach symbolism you can check out Danielle’s blog post on teaching symbolism with candy. […]
Regina WardJuly 16, 2019 at 8:01 am
I love this idea! I found it on Pinterest and can’t wait to use it with my students this year.
Jenna DeeseAugust 16, 2021 at 10:02 am
I’m a homeschool mama looking for ways to solidify some literary devices, and came across this idea on Pinterest. My boys are all about object lessons, so this is perfect for us. Thank you so much for sharing!