The Secret Garden

by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Dell Publishing, August 1990

Curriculum Developer: Jennifer Wray


Summary of Book:

The Secret Garden is about a garden that has been locked up for ten years and is discovered by a young girl named Mary Lennox. Mary has come from India, orphaned, spoiled, sickly and determined that she will not like living with her uncle, Mr. Craven. When Mary discovered the garden she began caring for it with the aid of her new friend Dicken. The garden and Mary experience a great transformation.

While staying at her uncle's, Mary uncovered another secret, her cousin, Colin. Colin believed he was incurable, bedridden and destined to die. His tantrums were so frightening that the servants performed every request made by him in order to keep him calm. Mary hoped that by taking Colin to the garden he would learn to love the garden and its magic would work wonders on him.


Social Studies Relevance:

*All of these areas may not be addressed in this mini-unit.

Grade Level Focus: 4th and 5th grades

Relationship to Social Studies State Core:

*These are objectives one could use with this book in relation to the Utah State Core. These may or may not be used in this mini-unit.



Lesson Plans


From India to England (Chapters 1 and 2)



*Students will be able to research about India or England. (Include information about culture, geography, customs, language, vegetation, and climate.)

*Students will be able to write three predictions, using the information learned about India and England, about the changes that Mary might experience.


Materials Needed: World globe (or a world map), information about India and England (see appendix)



1. Guided Discussion. Explain to students that many times people need to move to a new place to live. Give an example. (e.g., My dad got tired of being an insurance salesman in California, so he and his dad decided to go into dairy farming together in Idaho.) Ask students to think of whether or not their family has had to move, and why they moved. Ask for volunteers to share reasons their family needed to move (parent changed or lost job, needed a change, health reasons, loss of a family member(s), family member went to school, got married, got divorced, new foster parents).

Explain that in the book, The Secret Garden, Mary had to move. Ask for volunteers to tell the class why Mary needed to move (because her parents died of cholera, she was going to live with her uncle, Mr. Craven). Ask students where Mary moved from and call on a student to respond (from India to England). Display world globe and have a volunteer locate India and England. Show the class where the two countries are and note the distance between them.


2. Jigsaw Strategy. In groups of not more than 6 students, tell students they will find out about India and England. Information about culture, customs, language, geography, vegetation, and climate needs to be researched. (If using 6 students in each group, 3 would research England and 3 would research India. Each of the 3 would then choose to learn about culture and customs, geography and vegetation, or climate and language. After finding information, expert groups would be formed by all who were learning about the same topic. For example, everyone researching about the culture and customs of India would gather and exchange what they have learned. Expert groups answer questions and make sure that all are presenting similar information to their group. Each student would return to their original group and present a short presentation to their group about what they learned whether it was of England or India.) Teacher should monitor groups as research is taking place, to answer any questions or concerns; as expert groups meet, to assure that information will be presented to each group; and during group presentations, to keep groups on-task. (Depending on time available, students could research their topic themselves or the teacher could select information about each of the topics and make photocopies to distribute to students and they would just read and summarize the given material.)


3. Predictions and Response Journals. Tell students to use the information they learned in Jigsaw to make predictions about the changes Mary could experience living in England compared to India. Instruct students to write their predictions in their Literature Response Journals. Students should make at least one prediction from three of the following categories: culture, customs, language, geography, vegetation, and climate.


Evaluation: Monitor Jigsaw groups to assess participation in research. Examine Response Journals for one valid prediction from three different categories (culture, customs, language, geography, vegetation, and climate).


Influences of Climate



*Students will be able to list the effects that seasons have on vegetation and human activities.

Materials Needed: Four large sheets of paper, each sheet labeled with one of the four seasons (fall, winter, spring, summer); at least four different colored markers, two pictures of regions portraying different types of vegetation due to differing climates (e.g. pictures of Utah and Hawaii), chalk and eraser


1. Guided Discussion. Ask students to recall the differences in climate that India and England have (e.g. temperature, seasons). Write the student responses on the chalk board. Explain that different vegetation grow in different climates. Some plants may need a dryer, warmer climate whereas others might need a cooler, moister climate. For example, the vegetation we see in Utah is very different than the vegetation in Hawaii. (If pictures are available of two differing regions showing the plants, use them to show the class as you explain.) Ask students to recall what kinds of vegetation grow in India and England. List student responses on the chalk board under the different climates.

Ask students what kinds of plants are mentioned in The Secret Garden. Explain that the garden goes through many changes as it begins to grow. Ask students what kinds of things cause the garden to grow (change in the weather, winter to spring, rain, sunshine, gardening by Ben, Mary, Dicken, and Colin). Continue in explaining that the weather has a lot to do with the growth of plants.


2. Carousel Brainstorming. Explain that England is similar to Utah in that it has four distinct seasons: summer, winter, fall, and spring. Place a large piece of paper in four different corners of the room with the name of one of the four seasons on each sheet of paper. Divide students into four groups and give each group a different colored marker. The groups will list as many characteristics of a season in England (using information from their previous research and examples in the book) that they can until you have them rotate, then they add to the list of the next season. The students should include such things as activities, temperature, precipitation (rain, snow, hail), and vegetation (e.g. Spring - sun, rain, fog, stayed inside of Misselthwaite and explored because of rain, garden/weed, warm to cool weather because some days Mary had to wear a coat, etc.). Give enough time for students to write, but not so much time that there would not be any more for the other groups to write when it is their turn. After students have rotated around to all of the seasons, stop and have groups look at the list of things they last added (to checking to see that all items listed apply to England) and summarize the types of activities, temperature, precipitation, and vegetation of the entire list. Then have one person from each group present their group's summary to the class. (There should be four summaries; one about fall, one about winter, one about spring, and one about summer.)


3. Guided Discussion. Explain to students that we have seen ways that the weather or climate effects the types of human activities and vegetation (type and growth). Ask students what kinds of activities does Mary do in England, at Misselthwaite Manor that she did not do in India (spends a lot of time outdoors, gardens, jumps rope, runs, eats more food, explores the manor when it rains). Ask students if they think the difference in the weather affected her activities (p. 51, 64, 68 in The Secret Garden all talk about differences in the weather). Talk about the changes that the spring time brought to the secret garden (the garden begins growing all sort of flowers and plants, tiny green plants begin pushing their way through the earth, the rose trees seem to come alive again, the robin mates and builds a nest in the garden, Mary and Dicken plant more flowers and work in the garden daily).


Evaluation: Monitor carousel brainstorming to assess participation. Look for accurate lists of activities, vegetation, temperature, and precipitation. Look at amount of colored writing and quality of responses to determine efforts of each group in brainstorming activity.


Changes in Mary



*Students will be able to differentiate between physical and mental change.

*Students will be able to write about changes, both physical and mental, that occurred in Mary.


Materials Needed: Pictures of teacher that represent birth to present



1. Direct Instruction. Display pictures of teacher in order from youngest to oldest to illustrate physical change. Ask students to identify the changes in the teacher by looking at the pictures and discuss them. Ask students what kind of changes they just described (physical).

Explain to students that there are other kinds of changes that you can not see in the pictures. Mental changes, or changes in the way one thinks, also occur. Gaining knowledge, experience, and maturity all contribute to changes in the way one thinks and feels about things. Mary experienced both physical and mental changes while at Misselthwaite Manor. Direct students to write an essay, 1-2 pages, stating the physical and mental changes that she experienced and explain what circumstances or experiences caused these changes. Some examples of observations students might make include: improved health, healthier hair, bigger appetite, weight gain, she began to like people, people liked her, she enjoyed the outdoors, increased self-esteem.


Evaluation: Students will turn in a 1-2 page written paper containing the changes that took place in Mary. Paper: contains both physical and mental changes in Mary, contains good spelling and grammar (to best of ability), is at least 1 page in length.


The Magic is in Us!


*Students will be able to list ways to increase self-esteem.

*Students will be able to work on building self-esteem by setting one goal to work on for the next week. (Ideas for goals can be taken from the list generated in the first objective.)


Materials Needed: The Secret Garden literature book, person to perform magic tricks (teacher or volunteer from the community)



1. Guided discussion. Ask students what magic has to do with the book, The Secret Garden (magic makes the garden grow, Dicken uses magic to charm the animals, Dicken's mother has magic, Colin learns to walk because of magic).


2. Oral reading. Orally read a section from the chapter titled, "Magic." Begin on p. 228 "Of course there must be lots of magic in the world..." and end on p. 235, "...That is my first scientific discovery." (Page numbers may be different other books.)


3. Guided Discussion. Ask students what they think the magic is that Colin is talking about. On page 228 Colin says that there is lots of magic in the world but people just don't know what it is like or how to make it or where it is coming from. He also says that perhaps just saying nice things is the beginning of making magic happen. Ask students how it makes them feel inside when they say and think nice things over and over again. Ask students if they think their feelings affect their actions. Ask students, "What do you think the magic was that made Colin walk?"

(I think that the magic that made Colin get better was his belief in himself. By thinking positively and having people around him that believed in him, he felt as if he could do anything...the magic was in him!)


4. Values whip. The magic is in all of us! It is very important that we think positively about ourselves. Give an example of the importance of thinking positively about ourselves. (e.g. When I think that people don't like me because I'm not a very fun person to be around, I start acting like a person that is not fun to be around. I become grumpier and less friendly. But when I think that I am a unique and interesting person, I act friendlier and people are able to see that I really am a fun person to be around.) Ask students to think of things we could do to increase our self-esteem or the way we think about ourselves (smile often, don't put down yourself, be kind to others, complement others, think positive thoughts, exercise, eat healthy, get plenty of rest, serve others, accept complements from others, etc.). Begin with a child sharing his or her idea briefly and continue in the order the children are seated. This should be fast paced and every child should answer unless he or she elects to pass.


5. Make a list of the ideas that were generated by the values whip on the chalk board. Tell students to pick one thing that they could work on as an individual to improve their self-esteem and write it in goal format in their response journals. Students will evaluate how they are doing on their goal after one week (e.g. smile at 5 different people a day, do one nice thing for someone else a day, every time I say something negative I will immediately think of at least 2 positive things).


Evaluation: List of ideas to increase self-esteem are written on the chalkboard. Check response journals to see that each student has set a goal to increase their self-esteem. If students wish to keep their goals personal they can fold that page of their journal in, to signal that it is not to be read.

Return to Literature Index




*Information about India and England can be found in most encyclopedias. It would be a good idea to borrow as many E and I encyclopedias as possible for this activity. You can research as much in depth as desired. There is also information available on the internet. Two great addresses for information about India are: