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Teacher Candidate:     Miss Spencer
Grade Level:     11


Content Area:     English         Topic: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter


Title of Web Quest:     Spielberg Presenting The Scarlet Letter


Description of Web Quest: Using online analysis of literary critics, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Puritan novel, The Scarlet Letter, will be transformed into a modern day story focusing on the same themes as in the book.




STATE GOAL 1: Read with understanding and fluency. 
B. Apply reading strategies to improve understanding and fluency.

    C. Comprehend a broad range of reading materials.


STATE GOAL 2: Read and understand literature representative of various societies, eras and ideas. 
      Understand how literary elements and techniques are used to convey meaning.


STATE GOAL 3: Write to communicate for a variety of purposes.


  1. Use correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization and structure.
  2. Compose well-organized and coherent writing for specific purposes and audiences.
  3. Communicate ideas in writing to accomplish a variety of purposes.


STATE GOAL 4: Listen and speak effectively in a variety of situations.

    B. Speak effectively using language appropriate to the situation and audience.


STATE GOAL 5: Use the language arts to acquire, assess and communicate information.

    B. Analyze and evaluate information acquired from various sources.


1. Creativity and Innovation(a)

2. Communication and Collaboration(a,d)

3. Research and Information Fluency(b)

5. Digital Citizenship(a,b,c,d)




Stephen Spielberg needs your help.  He has been challenged to take the seemingly dull work of Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, and turn it into a modern day blockbuster movie that everyone will enjoy.  It is up to you to help him discover the meaning of this story and transfer it into a modern world story, while still incorporating all of the themes expressed in the novel, and to create a screenplay of this novel and then produce one scene from the final product.


Conduct an in-depth study of The Scarlet Letter, using the analyses of other critics as well as your own perceptions of the novel in order to have a tighter grasp on its meaning and moral content.

Using the results of this research, create a screenplay with your own interpretation of a modern-day Scarlet Letter using these critical analyses of other literary critics found in your research as guides and inspirations.


Using the created screenplay, shoot one scene from the script that best captures the integrity of this modern-day interpretation.




1)    While reading The Scarlet Letter, record passages in a T-table that you feel are important to the themes and over-all message of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel.  On the other side of the table, record your own thoughts on the passage (why it is important, what it symbolizes, how it could be related to the modern day world, etc).

2)     As Literary Critic, research the analyses and interpretations of other literary critics to develop an educated knowledge of Hawthorne's work.  Use this knowledge to create a unique interpretation that you wish to have carried out in the screenplay.

3)    Using the Literary Critic's interpretation, as well as the T-tables created by all members of the group, write a screenplay incorporating the themes and symbolisms that the Literary Critic (and group overall) has deemed important.  Be sure to include stage directions, visual descriptions, etc (refer to resources for sample).

4)    Pick a scene that the group feels best exemplifies the themes of the novel, and perform and record that scene.


All students will be one of the following (these roles will be graded in the group rubric):

Literary Critic- expert on The Scarlet Letter, its symbolism, themes, literary elements, and the overall message being expressed (2 or 3 students can act as this role)


Screenwriter-  use the interpretations of the Literary Critics to develop a modern day translation of The Scarlet Letter, incorporating important themes of the story while making it relevant and relatable to the world today (2 or 3 students can act as this role)


Additional Roles:


Director- in charge of making sure the actors interpret the script and its integrity correctly


          Cinematographer- film the scene chosen for performance


Set/Costume Designer- in charge of preparing the location of the filming of the scene as well as the costumes that will be worn by the actors


Actors- perform a scene of the screenplay portraying the modern-day The Scarlet Letter character

Internet & other Resources:

 Novel Research:

Hawthorne In Salem                        

http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/Literature/Hawthorne&Women/ScarletLetter/Introduction.html - critical site on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s works.  Offering critical analysis of The Scarlet Letter among other useful information



http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=87805369 –offers and in-depth look at the female lead, Hester, including audio clips providing “character defining” details.



http://www.ipl.org/div/litcrit/bin/litcrit.out.pl?ti=sca-4 –offers links to critical sites on The Scarlet Letter

For the Production:

          Film School Online!
          http://www.filmschooldirect.com/index.html -offers information on writing a screenplay, directing, and filming a movie, as well as many other helpful tips in the production

         http://www.scriptologist.com/Magazine/Formatting/formatting.html -helpful tips on how to write a successful screenplay


http://www.videomaker.com/video/tips-and-tricks/ -gives tips about filming a amateur movie, receiving clear audio, etc.



http://www.microfilmmaker.com/tipstrick/Issue12/Sht_edit.html -gives tips on how to shoot a movie



http://www.bbc.co.uk/drama/shakespeare/60secondshakespeare/directing_toptips.shtml -tips for directing a movie


         The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts

http://www.sft.edu/tips/film-acting.html -gives acting tips (not all relevant to a homemade movie, but some could offer assistance)










Delivery not smooth and audience attention often lost.

Delivery not smooth, but able to maintain interest of the audience most of the time.

Rehearsed with fairly smooth delivery that holds audience attention most of the time.

Well-rehearsed with smooth delivery that holds audience attention.

Originality of Interpretation

Uses a modern setting, but shows no original thought in modern interpretation/use too much creativity and strays too far from the author’s original intent.

Uses a modern setting and is slightly creative in its interpretation

Product shows some original thought of modern interpretation while still integrating most of the original story.

Product shows a large amount of original thought while still preserving the integrity of the original story.


More than 4 errors in spelling or grammar.

Four misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

Three or fewer misspellings and/or mechanical errors.

No misspellings or grammatical errors.

Knowledge Gained

Does not demonstrate any similar themes of the original novel and does not have a clear moral to the story.

Cleary demonstrates one theme of the original work and gives a vague hint of a moral to the story.

Clearly demonstrates multiple themes of the original work and displays a pretty clear moral of the story.

Clearly demonstrates several themes of the original work and gives a clear interpretation of the moral of the story.

Group Collaboration

Group members were uncooperative with each other in collaborating together

Group members worked together a little while collaborating.

Group members worked together efficiently and cooperatively most of the time while collaborating together.

Group members worked together quite efficiently and cooperatively throughout the entire collaboration of this project.


Literary Critics:


Student finds it difficult to interpret the meaning of the work.

Student can relate how the work makes him/her feel personally.

Student identifies the literal meaning of the work.

Forms a somewhat reasonable hypothesis about the symbolic or metaphorical meaning and is able to support this with evidence from the work.

Use of other Analyses

Completely relies on the researched analyses for interpretation/solely uses own interpretation without considering the researched information.

Offers  a little bit of research to back up own interpretation.

Offers a good balance between personal interpretation and use of researched analysis.

Shows a strong researched base of analyses to create own unique interpretation.





There is no script. Actors are expected to invent what they say and do as they go along.

Script has a few major flaws. It is not always clear what the actors are to say and do. Script shows an attempt at planning, but seems incomplete.

Script is mostly complete. It is clear what each actor will say and do. Script is shows planning.

Script is complete and it is clear what each actor will say and do. Entries and exits are scripted as are important movements.  Script is quite professional.





Displayed no sense of leadership, allowing the actors to wander from the original intent of the screenplay.

Displayed weak leadership skills, unwilling to take charge and producing a weak interpretation of the screenplay.

Displayed moderate leadership role, with only minor problems with the actors in portraying the screenplay.

Displayed good leadership in working with the actors to clearly portray the screenplay and create an interesting video.



Video Clarity

Problems with rocking/shaking AND focus.

Video had a little rocking/shaking, but the focus was excellent throughout .

Video did not rock/shake and the focus was excellent for the majority of the video.

Video did not rock/shake and the focus was excellent throughout.

Shot Interest

Little attempt was made to provide variety in the video.

One or two different "takes", camera angles, sound effects, and/or careful of  use of  zoom provided variety in the video.

Several (3-4) different "takes", camera angles, sound effects, and/or careful of  use of  zoom provided variety in the video.

Many different "takes", camera angles, sound effects, and/or careful of  use of  zoom provided variety in the video.


Set/Costume Designer:


The student uses no props OR the props chosen detract from the presentation.

Student uses 1-2 props  which make the presentation better.

Student uses 1-2 props that accurately fit the period, and   make the presentation better.

Student uses several props (could include costume)  that accurately fit the period, show considerable work/creativity and make the presentation better.




Point-of-view, arguments, and solutions proposed were rarely in character.

Point-of-view, arguments, and solutions proposed were sometimes in character.

Point-of-view, arguments, and solutions proposed were often in character.

Point-of-view, arguments, and solutions proposed were consistently in character.



You’re movie was a hit! Congratulations! On this quest, you learned how to analyze a piece of literature and create your own interpretation.  Using this skill, you transformed a Puritan novel into a 21st Century movie, integrating the moral of the story and its themes at the same time.  The next time you sit down to read a “boring” piece of literature, use this experience to find a way to correlate the story with your own life in order to develop a greater interest and uncover the mystery that the story holds.

© 2010


The Scarlet Letter Journal.docxThe Scarlet Letter Journal
No presence informationTessa Spencer
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL