Standard Lesson

Critical Reading: Two Stories, Two Authors, Same Plot?

9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Four 45-minute class sessions
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Many students often lack critical thinking skills to be able to analyze what they read. This lesson encourages students to read and respond critically to two different pieces of literature with the same title. Students make predictions about the stories and analyze the story elements (i.e., characters, plot, conflict, and resolution). They then compare and contrast the different stories, distinguish between fact and opinion, and draw conclusions supported by evidence from their readings.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • In this chapter, the authors discuss the importance of involving students in the development of stories in such a way as to attract their attention and emotions. It is clearly beneficial to devise tasks, environments, and strategies that will foster involvement in all kinds of reading tasks.

  • Students who are reading a required assignment are likely to be drawn into their reading by features of the text such as characters with which they can identify, words that arouse vivid imagery, and texts that say the unexpected.

  • Talking with peers to negotiate an understanding of what was read is highly motivating. Not only are students likely to become involved in the active interaction often associated with peer-lead discussion groups, they may be more interested in what they are reading as they anticipate what will happen when they meet in groups to discuss what they have read.

Welker states that, "students often lack the critical thinking skills necessary to pass judgment on what they read." Critical Reading Instruction that Improves Comprehension Skills (CRITICS) helps students to develop into thinkers, not just readers.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

Materials and Technology

  • Copies of Jeffrey Archer’s "The Luncheon" from A Quiver Full of Arrows (HarperTorch, 1993)

  • Copies of W. Somerset Maugham’s "The Luncheon" from Collected Short Stories: Volume 1 (Penguin Classics, 1977)

  • Overhead projector or chalkboard



Secure copies of the "The Luncheon" by W. Somerset Maugham for half the class and copies of "The Luncheon" by Jeffrey Archer for half the class.

Prepare two overheads with prereading questions or write the questions on the board. (See Session 1 for prereading questions.)

For those unfamiliar with the short stories featured in this lesson, a brief synopsis of each is provided.

  • "The Luncheon," by W. Somerset Maugham:

    The narrator, a book writer, recognizes a woman with whom he had lunch years ago. He starts remembering the unforgettable evening. He was young, living in Paris, and could barely make ends meet. She had read one of his books and wrote to congratulate him on his work. He invited her for lunch and to his horror she chose an expensive restaurant. He had only eighty francs to last him the rest of the month. She ordered one expensive dish after another and when the bill came he paid and was left with no money at all. However, in the end, the narrator feels that he has finally had his revenge when he sees that the woman now weighs twenty-one stone (approximately 300 pounds).

  • "The Luncheon," by Jeffrey Archer

    The narrator, a book writer, meets a woman whom he doesn't recognize at first, but pretends to remember because she is a famous film director's wife. He invites her to have lunch, but can only afford a cheap meal with his paltry £37.63. She chooses an expensive restaurant, far beyond his means, and proceeds to order the most exorbitant dishes on the menu. When the meal is over and the narrator is left with very little money, the woman confesses that she has divorced the film director and married another man, who just so happens to be the owner of the restaurant.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Develop and apply specific reading comprehension strategies (i.e., questioning, predicting, inferencing, summarizing, synthesizing)

  • Convey personal responses and opinions about a text reading through discussions

  • Develop critical thinking skills

  • Distinguish between fact and opinion

  • Recognize differing viewpoints in a story

  • Use the compare and contrast technique to analyze two stories

  • Work cooperatively

Session 1. Introduction to the stories

1. Divide the class into two groups. Distribute copies of "The Luncheon" by W. Somerset Maugham to one group and copies of the "The Luncheon" by Jeffrey Archer to another group. Students should not know at this point that they are reading two different stories.

2. Prepare students to read the texts by introducing the title of the story.

3. Ask students to make predictions about what they are about to read by answering the following questions written on the board or on an overhead transparency:
  • Do you think the author had a special reason for giving the story this title?

  • What do you think the story will be about? What makes you think so?

  • What do you think will happen in the story?
Have students work in pairs or in groups of three to make predictions about the story. [Students will review their predictions during the last session to bring closure to the lesson.]

4. Ask students to read the first two paragraphs of the story silently and answer the following questions:
  • Who are the characters?

  • Where does the story take place?

  • What is the relationship of the characters?

  • What does each character remember?
5. Once students individually find the answers to the questions, have them share their findings within their group. Play only the role of moderator or facilitator, do not make judgments upon the students' findings.

6. Before having students read the next segment of the story, pose the following purpose-setting questions:
  • What does the woman look like? Can you prove it?

  • What kind of person is she? What makes you think so?

  • What does the narrator look like? How does the author tell you?
In this activity, students need to distinguish between fact and opinion. Students' assumptions about the woman and the narrator will be confronted by information provided in the story. Write the words, "Opinions" and "Facts," on the chalkboard. Then either conduct a whole-class discussion or have students work in small groups to differentiate the different responses.

7. Have students read the rest of the text silently. Circulate around to each group to facilitate discussion of the text. Once students finish reading, ask them to discuss the story within their group.

Session 2. Literary elements map

Have students reconstruct the story that they read using the online interactive Literary Elements Map and share their printed maps within their group. During this activity, students should:

  • Interact with the story

  • Focus on important information

  • Better understand the story

  • Work cooperatively

Session 3. Story comparisons

During this class session, students will realize or confirm that they have read different stories. To accomplish this task, mix students from each group and form new groups to share and discuss the stories.

Distribute copies of "The Luncheon" Comparison Table and ask students to compare and contrast the two stories. Story elements to be discussed include characters (description, actions, and feelings), setting (time and place), events, conflict, and resolution. As a concluding activity, have students choose one story element and use the Compare & Contrast Map to compare this element in the two stories.

Session 4. Literary critics

Invite students, in groups of five or six, to review their earlier predictions now that they have finished reading the story. Students can also share their comparisons of the two stories. Write the following question on the board, "Two authors, two stories, same plot?" Ask students to think about and discuss this question.

After approximately 20 minutes, open a whole-class debate to bring closure to the lesson. During the debate, students will, as literary critics, determine if the two stories are similar or not. Ask them to support their conclusions with examples from both stories. Depending on the number of students in your class, you may prefer to have groups choose a representative speaker. Take notes on the board or overhead using the following categories:

  • Similarities

  • Differences

  • Evidence

  • Conclusions


  • Response journal activity: Have students complete a journal entry in which they write about the strategies they used to read and analyze the stories, what they learned from the stories, and whether or not they enjoyed the lesson.

  • A literary column: Invite students to write a literary column in which they give their opinion about one or both of the stories. Post their writings in the classroom, on an instructional board in school, or in the school's newsletter.

  • Trading cards: Have half the students in the class create Character Trading Cards for the characters in one story, half for the characters in the other. Students can then work in pairs to discuss where the characters are similiar and where they are different. Ask students to exchange the cards and write their own stories using these characters.

Student Assessment / Reflections