Illustration of a terrified elderly man in his pajamas as a hooded figure points to a tombstone
Art by Lisa K. Weber

A Christmas Carol

Can Ebenezer Scrooge learn his lesson before it’s too late?

By Spencer Kayden | Adapted from the classic story by Charles Dickens | Art by Lisa K. Weber

Learning Objective: Students will identify how a character changes in this seasonal classic about Ebenezer Scrooge, a selfish miser who changes his ways—with help from some visiting ghosts. 

Guided Reading Level: R
DRA Level: 40
Other Key Skills: text features, vocabulary, cause and effect, compare and contrast, character, inference, plot, character’s motivation, main idea, interpreting text, summarizing, narrative writing

Getting to Know Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was a famous writer who lived in England in the 1800s. He wrote short stories and books that continue to be read by people around the world. This issue’s play is based on his story, “A Christmas Carol.” Guess the answers to the questions below to learn more about Charles Dickens. By the time you're done, you'll be an expert.

1. When he was 12 years old, Dickens quit school to ______.

a. write books

b. be an actor

c. travel around England

d. work in a factory

Dickens’ family became very poor, and Dickens quit school so he could earn money to help out. He worked in a factory putting labels on bottles of shoe polish.

2. Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” because he wanted his readers to _______.

a. care more about people who are poor

b. be afraid of ghosts

c. think about what it might be like to time travel

d. sing more Christmas songs

Charles Dickens was worried about people with little money. He wanted people who were poor to be treated better. He hoped his writing would inspire people with money to change their ways.

3. The main character of "A Christmas Carol" is named Ebenezer Scrooge. What does the word scrooge mean today?

a. a kind, generous person

b. a selfish, unfriendly person

c. a person who loves Christmas

d. a person who likes to dance

The word scrooge is named after Ebenezer Scrooge, a person who is selfish and unfriendly at the beginning of “A Christmas Carol.”

4. Charles Dickens is often called “The Father of ______.”

a. London

b. Tiny Tim

c. Christmas

d. Ghosts

Before he wrote “A Christmas Carol,” the holiday wasn’t celebrated in England and America the way it is today. Dickens helped create the idea of Christmas as a time to connect with family and show generosity to others.

You answered
{{correctAnswers}} out of 4
correctly
Try again!
Think and Read: How a Character Changes

As you read, think about how Ebenezer Scrooge changes from the beginning of the play to the end.

Characters

Choose the character you will play.

*Indicates a larger speaking role

*Narrators 1, 2, 3  (N1, N2, N3)

*Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s worker

*Ebenezer (eh-buh-NEE-zuhr) Scrooge, a rich businessman

Fred, Scrooge’s nephew

Ghost Chorus, to be read by a group

Jacob Marley, the ghost of Scrooge’s dead business partner

Ghost 1, the Ghost of Christmas Past

Mr. Fezziwig, Scrooge’s first boss

Ghost 2, the Ghost of Christmas Present

Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit’s sick son

Ghost 3, the Ghost of Christmas Future

Passersby 1 and 2

Boy

Scene 1

N1: It’s Christmas Eve in London, England. The year is 1843.

N2: Ebenezer Scrooge sits in his office counting coins.

N3: He is an unkind old man who never shares his money.

N1: Scrooge’s worker, Bob Cratchit, shivers in the cold office.

Bob Cratchit: Mr. Scrooge, may I add coal to the fire? It will make the room warmer.

Ebenezer Scrooge: No! Coal costs money.

N2: Scrooge’s nephew Fred walks in.

Fred: Merry Christmas!

Scrooge: What good is Christmas? People spend money on others instead of keeping it for themselves.

Fred: There are more important things than money. Like making other people happy.

Cratchit: I agree!

Scrooge: Bah! Humbug!

N3: Humbug is another word for nonsense.

Fred: Come have Christmas dinner with our family tomorrow, Uncle.

Scrooge: Humbug! I hate Christmas!

Fred (leaving): Well, Merry Christmas anyway, Uncle. And a Merry Christmas to you, Mr. Cratchit!

Cratchit: Merry Christmas, Fred!

Scrooge (to himself): What does Cratchit have to be merry about? He can barely feed his family, and his child is sick.

Scene 2

N1: That night, Scrooge sits alone in his bedroom.

N2: Suddenly, he hears a loud banging noise.

Ghost Chorus: Owooooh!

N3: A ghost appears. Heavy chains are wrapped around its body.

Jacob Marley: Scrooooge!

Scrooge: Wh-Wh-Who are you?

Marley: In life, I was your business partner, Jacob Marley.

Scrooge: But you died!

Marley: Indeed I did.

N1: Marley shakes his chains.

Marley: And now I must carry these chains forever. Every link on these chains stands for something unkind I did while I was alive.

Scrooge: But you were a great businessman!

Marley: My business should have been to be kind and generous to others.

Scrooge: Why are you here?

Marley: I’ve come to warn you: Change your ways, or your chains will be longer and heavier than mine.

Scrooge: Change how?

Marley: Three ghosts will visit you. Pay attention to what they show you. They are your only chance to escape what happened to me.

Ghost Chorus: Owooooh!

Marley: Expect the first ghost when the clock strikes one.

"I’ve come to warn you: Change your ways."

Scene 3

Shutterstock.com

N2: At 1:00 a.m., the clock’s bell rings once.

N3: The first ghost appears in a white nightgown.

Ghost Chorus: Owooooh!

Ghost 1: I am the Ghost of Christmas Past. I will show you your life as it was.

N1: Scrooge and the ghost travel magically into Scrooge’s past.

N2: They stand in a room filled with people.

Ghost 1: They can’t see us. Do you remember this place?

Scrooge: My first job was here. There’s old Mr. Fezziwig.

Mr. Fezziwig: It’s Christmas Eve! No more work. Let’s celebrate!

N3: Young Scrooge is dancing with a group of his friends.

Ghost 1: Look at you. Your smile is so wide. Who is the young lady you’re talking to?

Scrooge: It’s Belle. I loved her. I was so happy back then.

Ghost 1: Where is she now?

Scrooge: I don’t know. I didn’t have time for love—or for my friends. I spent all my time trying to become rich.

Ghost 1: Ah, you chose money over love and friendship.

Scrooge (sadly): It’s so hard to see how happy I once was. I don’t want to see anymore!

Ghost 1: Expect the second ghost when the clock strikes two.

N1: The ghost disappears. Suddenly, Scrooge is back in his bedroom.

Scene 4

Shutterstock.com

N2: At 2:00 a.m., the clock’s bell rings twice. A jolly ghost arrives in a bright-green robe.

Ghost Chorus: Owooooh!

Ghost 2: I am the Ghost of Christmas Present! Come, see things as they are now.

N3: The ghost and Scrooge appear at Bob Cratchit’s house.

N1: Like before, no one can see them.

Cratchit: Gather around the table, everyone!

N2: Cratchit’s son, Tiny Tim, hobbles in using a crutch. He is sick and weak.

Tiny Tim: There was never such a grand dinner!

Scrooge: Why is he so excited? They barely have enough food.

Cratchit: Merry Christmas! We are lucky to have each other.

Scrooge: They are poor but so happy.

N3: Cratchit holds Tiny Tim’s hand.

Scrooge: Will Tiny Tim be OK?

Ghost 2: He needs to see a doctor. Doctors cost money.

Tiny Tim: God bless us, every one!

Ghost 2: Expect the third ghost when the clock strikes three.

N1: The ghost vanishes. Scrooge is back in his bedroom.

Scene 5

Shutterstock.com

N2: At 3:00 a.m., the clock’s bell rings three times.

N3: A ghost dressed all in black appears.

Scrooge: Are you the Ghost of Christmas Future?

N1: The ghost nods but does not speak.

Scrooge: I’m most afraid of you. I’m scared to see my future.

N2: The ghost takes Scrooge to a cemetery.

N3: A coffin is being lowered into a grave.

Scrooge: Whose funeral is this? Why is no one here?

N1: Two people pass by.

Passerby 1: Not a single person showed up. No friends or loved ones.

Passerby 2: He lived alone, and he’ll be buried alone.

N2: The ghost points a finger at the gravestone. It reads: Ebenezer Scrooge.

N3: Scrooge falls to the ground.

Scrooge: Nooooo!

Scene 6

N1: The next morning, Scrooge wakes up.

Scrooge: I’m back! There’s still time for me to change my ways!

N2: He calls out his window to a boy on the street below.

Scrooge: Merry Christmas, my boy!

N3: Scrooge throws money down to him.

Scrooge: Go buy the biggest turkey you can find. Send it to Bob Cratchit’s house. And keep the change!

Boy: Yes, sir! Merry Christmas.

Scrooge: I’d better get ready. I have a Christmas dinner to attend. Won’t my nephew be surprised!

N1: Scrooge has a merry Christmas with Fred and his family.

N2: The next morning, he doubles the money he pays Bob Cratchit.

N3: And he pays for a doctor for Tiny Tim, who soon gets better.

Scrooge: I never saw another ghost.

Marley: But Scrooge remembers the lessons they taught him.

Ghost 1: He knows there are more important things in life than being rich.

Ghost 2: He is kind and generous all year round.

Ghost 3: And he has friendship and love in his life once again.

Think and Write

Imagine you are Ebenezer Scrooge. Write a thank-you note to one of the ghosts. Explain what lesson you learned and how you’ve changed.

Slideshows (1)
Audio ()
Activities (7)
Quizzes (1)
Answer Key (1)
Slideshows (1)
Audio ()
Activities (7) Download All Quizzes and Activities
Quizzes (1)
Answer Key (1)
Can't Miss Teaching Extras
Make a Kindness Connection

Scrooge is not the first character to learn an important lesson about the power of kindness in Storyworks 3. Share the play, “The Elephants and the Mice” from our February 2021 issue, and ask students to compare Scrooge and King Rama.

Kindness in the Classroom

Check out these tips from PBS Teachers Lounge for teaching kindness in the classroom.

Meet the Author

Students can learn about the fascinating life of Charles Dickens, author of “A Christmas Carol” at BBC’s Bitesize page, “Who Was Charles Dickens?” (The page includes a short video that isn't available for viewing in the U.S. You can read its transcript, though.)

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

Table of Contents

1. Preparing to Read

2. Close Reading

3. SEL Focus

4. Skill Building and Writing

5. Differentiate and Customize

Struggling Readers, Multilingual Learners, Advanced Readers, Creative Writing

1. Preparing to Read

Preview Text Features  (10 minutes)  

  • Look at pages 22-23 with the class. Tell students that this play is based on a story written by Charles Dickens in England in 1843. There have been many versions of the story over the years, and students may have read a book or watched a movie or cartoon based on it.
  • To acquaint students with Dickens and the time period in which the story is set, invite them to take the online quiz “Prereading Quiz: Getting to Know Charles Dickens.” Emphasize that this quiz is just for fun.

  • Call on a volunteer to read aloud the Think and Read box on page 22 and the Think and Write box on page 27. Ask students to keep these prompts in mind as they read the play.

  • Have a volunteer read aloud the title and subtitle on page 22. Ask students to describe the illustration on the same page and predict what the play will be about. Instruct students to study the other illustrations in the play and guess when the story is set: the past, present, or future. What clues in the pictures helped you guess?

  • Read aloud the Characters box on page 23 to familiarize your students with how the names are pronounced.

Introduce Vocabulary (15 minutes)

  • While the play does not include definitions of vocabulary words with the text, a Vocabulary Skill Builder (available in your Resources tab) online previews seven challenging words. You may also play our Vocabulary Slideshow, in which audio and images help students with pronunciation and comprehension.

  • Vocabulary words: jolly, hobbles, grand, vanishes, cemetery, coffin, and gravestone

  • Preview these terms by projecting or distributing our Vocabulary Skill Builder and completing it as a class. You may also play our Vocabulary Slideshow, in which audio and images help students with pronunciation and comprehension.

2. Close Reading

Focus on Fluency

  • Storyworks 3 plays provide a perfect opportunity for students to build fluency.
  • Remind students that the stage directions tell a reader or actor how to say a line or perform an action in the play. Direct students to page 25. Point to the word sadly in column 3. Read the dialogue aloud with appropriate expressions or actions. Ask students to repeat after you.

  • Project, distribute, or assign the Close-Reading and Critical-Thinking Questions to the class. Preview them together. Ask students to read the play again and answer the questions as a class or in pairs. (Alternatively, assign all or part of the Learning Journey Slide Deck, which contains the questions as well as other activities from this lesson plan and a link to the stories.) 

  • Follow up with the SEL Focus activity.

Close-Reading Questions (30 minutes)

  • Read Scene 1.  Why is Bob Cratchit shivering as he sits in the office? (cause and effect) Bob Cratchit is shivering at his desk because the office is very cold.  His boss, Ebenezer Scrooge, won’t let him add more coal to the fire because coal costs money, and Scrooge doesn’t want to pay for it.
  • Compare how Scrooge feels about Christmas with how his nephew Fred feels about the holiday. (compare and contrast, character) Scrooge hates Christmas because people spend money on others instead of keeping it for themselves. Fred enjoys Christmas. He believes there are more important things than being rich, such as making people happy. Fred wants to share Christmas with his family and invites Scrooge to Christmas dinner.
  • Read Scene 2. Look at the picture on page 25. Why are there so many links in the chains that Jacob Marley’s ghost carries? (inference, text features) Each link stands for something unkind that Jacob Marley did when he was alive. His chains contain many links because he did so many unkind things.
  • Why does Marley’s ghost visit Scrooge? (plot, character’s motivation) Marley’s ghost visits Scrooge to warn him to change his behavior or he will wear chains that are longer and heavier than his. The ghost tells Scrooge to pay attention to the three ghosts who will visit him. They are Scrooge’s only hope of escaping what happened to Marley.
  • Read Scene 3. What does the Ghost of Christmas Past show Scrooge about the kind of person he used to be? (plot, main idea) The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge how happy he was before money became more important to him than love and friendship.
  • Read Scene 4.  What does Scrooge learn from watching Bob Cratchit and his family at their Christmas dinner? (inference, main idea)  Although Bob Cratchit and his family are poor, they are happy because they have each other. Scrooge learns that you don’t need a lot of money to be happy.
  • Read Scene 5. When the Ghost of Christmas Future appears, why does Scrooge say “I’m most afraid of you. I’m scared to see my future”? (interpreting text, inference) Scrooge now understands the mistakes he made in his life because he has valued money more than love and friendship. He is scared because he realizes his future will probably be very lonely and sad.
  • Read Scene 6. What does Scrooge do to change his life after he wakes up on Christmas morning? (plot, summarizing)  Scrooge sends a big Christmas turkey to Bob Cratchit’s house. Then he attends Christmas dinner with his nephew Fred and Fred’s family. The next day, he doubles Bob Cratchit’s salary. Scrooge also pays for a doctor to help Tiny Tim get better.

Critical-Thinking Question (10 minutes)

  • How does Scrooge change from the beginning of the play to the end? (how a character changes) In the beginning of the play, Scrooge is an unkind, selfish man who refuses to share his money and help others. He even hates Christmas because it is a time when people spend money on others instead of keeping it for themselves. He believes that money is more important than love and friendship. By the end of the play, he realizes there are more important things in life than being rich. He becomes kind and generous. As a result, he once again has friendship and love in his life.

3. SEL Focus

Generosity

Read this line from Scene 6: “He is kind and generous all year round.” Go over the definition of generous (willing and happy to give to and share with others) and discuss what it means to behave with generosity. Explain that although we often associate generosity with money, you can be generous in many different ways. For example, you can be generous with your time or your talents. Ask students to think of ways they can be generous: perhaps by spending time with an older family member, helping a sibling learn a skill, or making sure a new classmate feels welcome.

4. Skill Building and Writing

Featured Skill: How a Character Changes Skill Builder

  • Distribute our How a Character Changes Skill Builder and have students complete it in class or for homework.  
  • Discuss the writing assignment in the Think and Write box on page 27. Remind students to include details from the play in their thank-you notes.

Differentiate and Customize
For Striving Readers

Help students zero in on important plot points by asking them to write captions for the illustrations. After your students read or listen to the play, point out that the illustrations have no captions. Have them write a caption for each picture based on what happens in the play.

For Multilingual Learners

Build fluency and boost confidence with unison reading. Choose a scene, preview especially challenging words, and then assign students two or three of the characters to read together aloud while you take on the other roles.

For Advanced Readers

Ask students to choose a character from the play and write a journal entry from that character’s perspective, based on the events in the play. Encourage your students to get creative with the assignment. How did Bob Cratchit feel on Christmas Day after he received a turkey from his boss? What might the Ghost of Christmas Future write in a journal after spending an hour with Scrooge on Christmas Eve?

For Creative Writing

At the end of the play, Scrooge changes his mind and decides to go to his nephew Fred’s house for Christmas dinner. He says to himself, “Won’t my nephew be surprised!” Ask students to imagine the moment Scrooge shows up at Fred’s door and surprises his nephew. How does Fred react? What do they say to one another? Have students write at least two lines of dialogue for each character. Invite them to pair up with a classmate and read their scenes aloud to the class.

Text-to-Speech