Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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In Search of the Novel: Teachers & Lesson Plans

Sharon Madison

Sharon Madison teaches Senior Humanities (AP English and AP U.S. Government) in Fairfax County, Virginia. A Council of Basic Education Fellow, Ms. Madison has expanded the literature in the language-arts curriculum to include more contemporary, minority, and international authors. She has worked across disciplines to create integrated programs of World Studies, AP English, and U.S. Government and to establish common objectives for IB and AP programs. She is a Faculty Consultant for The College Board, scoring Advanced Placement Examinations in Literature and Composition and presenting seminars to international audiences on developing curriculum and preparing students for the AP examinations.

Lesson Plan for Ceremony


To understand Ceremony in the context of the “monomyth,” as defined by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.


Day 1
Begin by soliciting from students their reactions to the novel (single adjectives will suffice) and compiling the reactions on the board. In response to students’ reactions concerning difficulties with the novel, introduce the underlying pattern of the novel as it follows Campbell’s monomyth.


  • Give students an outline of the monomyth (see a brief description below; much more is on the Web or in the library).
  • Lecture from a circle on the board. It may be helpful to use different colors to indicate the “real” world and the world of “adventure” and to differentiate the three stages: separation, initiation, and return.
  • Illustrate Campbell’s monomyth with many different stories that are familiar to students. Ceremony should be used after the pattern is well understood.

Day 2

Spend another class period applying the monomyth to familiar works or, if students are ready, discuss how Ceremony fits the pattern. Ask students to go to the text to find examples of Tayo’s progress through each of the stages: separation, initiation, and return. Give students—individually, in pairs, or in groups—a model of the circle and ask them to match examples from the text to each stage. Tayo’s journey will not match perfectly.

Follow-up activities:
Research and discussion questions: Was Silko aware of the pattern when she wrote Ceremony? (She was not.) How might the novel be a reflection of Silko’s journey? What myths of the Southwest Native Americans shed light on Ceremony?

Bring in and/or discuss a variety of films to test the monomyth paradigm. Show The Wizard of Oz (which shows the two worlds through black-and-white and color) or the Star Wars films, which were written to follow Campbell’s monomyth.

As Campbell traces the underlying journey of the hero through the myths of many cultures, we come to understand human nature. It is an archetypal journey that reflects culture, literature, religion, anthropology, and psychology. And it may appear to individuals in the unconscious world of dreams or to entire groups of people and their epic histories.

The Monomyth:

  • Stage One: Departure/Separation (The Call to Adventure, The Refusal, Supernatural Aid, Crossing the First Threshold, The Belly of the Whale, Rebirth in the Worldwide Womb)
  • Stage Two: Initiation (The Road of Trials, Meeting with the Goddess, Woman as Temptress, Atonement with Father, Apotheosis, The Ultimate Boon)
  • Stage Three: The Return (Refusal to Return, Magic Flight, Rescue from Without, Crossing the Return Threshold, Master of Two Worlds, Freedom to Live)


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