Hidden Gems: A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle is a classic novel that really stands the test of time. I recently read this science fiction/fantasy book again and enjoyed it as much as I did when I read it as a kid. Although younger students may be able to read A Wrinkle in Time, I feel it is better suited to 5th, 6th, or 7th grade because readers can really dig deep into text structure and characterization. In addition, teachers and students could compare the book with the movie, discussing how (and why) they differ from each other.

A Wrinkle in Time is a classic story that is as loved today as it was in the past. This scifi fantasy book is a wonderful novel to use to teach characterization and text structure in middle school language arts classes (grades 5, 6, & 7.) Learn more about how to teach the novel in the blog post, as well as download free activities for chapter one.

A Summary of A Wrinkle in Time
In the opening scene of A Wrinkle in Time, the reader is introduced to Meg Murry, who is in her attic bedroom afraid of the fierce storm. Meg tells herself she isn't afraid of the weather - "it's the weather on top of everything else." That line sets up the entire story.

Meg, although brilliant at math, gets in trouble at school and no longer fits in with the other students. One of four children, two of her brothers are perfectly normal, in Meg's eyes, and fit in so well. Her youngest brother, Charles Wallace, is more like her - a social outcast and a bit odd. Charles has always been different, and his family accepts him as such. The local people think he is a moron, but he actually has just decided to let them believe that so that they have "something to feel smug about." Not only do the locals gossip about Meg and Charles, the also spread nasty rumors about Meg's father, who has been missing for a year.

Mrs. Whatsit ends up at the Murrys' doorstep that stormy night. Charles Wallace has met her and her two lady friends before, when he discovered they were living in the abandoned home nearby. As Mrs. Whatsit speaks with the family, she seems able to know things she shouldn't - like what Meg is thinking. Not long afterwards, Meg and Charles meet Calvin O'Keefe, who felt drawn to the abandoned home but isn't sure why.

These three children will eventually travel with Mrs. Whatsit and her friends to try to rescue Mr. Murry, who is trapped on a planet far away. In order to rescue him, Meg will have to face her fears and self-doubt.

Teaching with A Wrinkle in Time: Text Structure in Literature & Characters

There are so many ways A Wrinkle in Time could be used in the classroom! The plot has an overarching conflict (or two), as well as many smaller conflicts. Also, it features a lot of dialogue, and for teachers who are tired of reading student essays that say "he said" and "she said" over and over again, this book could be used as a mentor text for writing dialogue.

Students in sixth and seventh grades are also expected to start analyzing text structure and how sentences, scenes, and chapters fit together. The chapter titles in A Wrinkle in Time are short and to the point. The plot has some very distinct sections: introducing the characters, "wrinkling" and learning about Mr. Murry's battle, rescuing Mr. Murry, and the finale (I don't want to spoil it.) In addition, individual chapters could be analyzed to discuss how L'Engle builds interest and conflict in the plot.

In addition, characterization is strong in A Wrinkle in Time. The three ladies, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, all have very different speaking styles. Why? How does that add to the plot? What was the author's purpose in creating the characters that way? For example, Mrs. Which mainly speaks in quotations from multiple languages, then explains them in English. It's explained to the children that she finds it difficult to express herself, but often those quotes are important for the reader to understand. By having the character speak in quotes, the author emphasizes them.

Although Calvin and Charles Wallace have strong personalities, they really stay the same throughout the story. Even the three ladies' personalities, although different from each other, remain the same. These static characters are a terrific foil for Meg's dynamic character. Meg struggles with liking herself, and her missing father really sends her character into turmoil. Meg adores her father, and when he disappears she really loses her anchor. However, in order to save her family, Meg will have to look inward and realize that what she believes are her weaknesses might actually strengths.

I hope you read A Wrinkle in Time with your middle school students. This book has something for everyone - a character that struggles with self-acceptance, a misunderstood sibling, and a theme of Good vs. Evil. to name a few.

Grab these free reading comprehension and vocabulary activities for chapter one of A Wrinkle in Time!

If you would like to use a print and go literature guide, I have a complete literature guide available in my store. The chapter one activities are available for FREE - simply download them from my TPT store.

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