Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Active or Passive?: "The Monkey's Paw"

Grammar/Language Usage 

Margaret Salesky, Margaret Salesky, Susan McHale, Susan McHale | Published: May 18th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 7th, 8th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course British Literature, Composition
  • Time Frame Time Frame 1-2 class period(s)
  • Duration More 60 minutes


This grammar lesson will engage students in recognizing, identifying, and creating active or passive voice in their writing. The use of active and passive voice is demonstrated through the short story, "The Monkey's Paw," although any piece of literature could be substituted.  This lesson includes optional modifications for distance learning. Resources for use in Google Classroom are included. While this lesson is currently aligned only to 8th grade standards, it would be appropriate to teach in grades 7 through 8 , adjusting standards as needed.

Essential Question(s)

How do we recognize active and passive voice? What is the importance of recognizing active and passive voice?



Students work in pairs to complete a card sort activity, sorting 10 sentences into two groups according to their similar characteristics.


Partners explain their reasoning for grouping the card sort sentences, are shown examples of active and passive voice, and attempt to re-sort the card sort sentences according to their voice.


Student pairs join another pair and choose a topic from a menu to create their own examples of active and passive sentences. They make a T-chart poster to share with the group.


Students write a paragraph summarizing "The Monkey's Paw" or another familiar text which includes sentences in active and passive voice.


The T-chart activity and the paragraph summary serve as assessments of this lesson.


  • T-chart handout (attached, one per group or one per student)

  • Chart tablet paper

  • Markers

  • "The Monkey's Paw" short story (attached in PDF format; also available in audio format—see links below)

  • Card Sort handout (attached, one set per pair of students)

  • Talk Moves cards (attached, optional)


Introduce the lesson by displaying the title slide on the attached teacher slide presentation. Ask students to raise their hand if they know what the terms "active voice" and "passive voice" mean. Call on any students that raised their hands and let them share what they may know. Do not offer any explanations at this point. Transition to slide three and introduce the lesson's Essential Questions. Tell students that we will investigate these terms—active voice and passive voice—throughout the lesson with the questions on slide three in mind.

Assign students to pairs or small groups of mixed ability. Introduce the Card Sort activity and pass out the cards to each pair. Display slide the activity directions on slide four. Ask students to discuss the cards and work on this activity together. These are sentences from the attached short story, "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs. Partners or groups are to sort the sentence cards into two groups, based on the sentences' similarities. Ask students to consider how the sentences are alike and sort them into two groups: five sentences that seem similar in one way and five other sentences that seem similar in a different way. Allow 10 minutes for the class to discuss and sort the sentences into the two different groups.


As the students are sorting the cards, display slide 5 and prompt them to discuss their choices with each other. Each card sort group or pair will choose a spokesperson to share their reasoning with the rest of the class. Call on spokesperson and ask them to share how and why they divided the sentences as they did. You may wish to list the reasons given on the board or in a Google document to refer to later in the lesson.

Display slide 6 and introduce the definitions of active and passive voice. Go over the examples and explain how to differentiate between active and passive voice sentences. Ask students to return to their card sort and check to see if they sorted the cards into active and passive voice. If they did not, have the groups use the rules on slide six to re-sort their cards. Give groups five or six minutes to re-sort.

Transition to slide 7 and share the correct answers to the card sort. Have students check their card sort columns for accuracy.


To reinforce the concept of active and passive voice, stand in front of the class and ask them to watch carefully. Take a pen and drop it on the floor. Show slide six again, reading aloud the rule about active voice. Introduce an Elbow Partner strategy and ask students to use active voice to create a sentence about what just happened. After they have done so, solicit volunteers from the pairs to share their active voice sentence.

Ask student pairs to turn that same sentence into a passive voice sentence. Remind them of the rules for passive voice on slide six. Call on students for their answers.

Now, have the elbow partners to pair with another set of partners to make a team of four. Pass out one of the attached T-chart handouts, a piece of chart tablet, and a marker to each group. Show slide 8, which presents a list of topics. Ask each group to come to a consensus in choosing a topic to write about. Students may choose their own topic but must have teacher approval.

Together, the groups will complete the T-chart handout by writing 10 active voice sentences and 10 passive voice sentences about their topic in the appropriate columns.

Peer Review Feedback—As groups complete their task, have them trade their completed T-chart handout with another group. Ask the groups to peer review each other's T-chart, checking that the sentences are correctly identified as active and passive voice. Groups should work together to make corrections and revisions based on the peer feedback they receive.

Next, ask students to make a poster version of their T-chart, using markers to write their revised sentences on the chart tablet paper. Allow 20 to 30 minutes for students to work on this activity (complete the T-chart handouts, peer review and revise, and make their posters).

Once the posters are made, have groups hang them around the classroom. Have each group take turns sharing their topic and presenting the active and passive voice sentences they created. If time allows, facilitate a whole-class discussion about the topics.


Display slide 9. After becoming familiar with "The Monkey's Paw" (or choosing an alternative text that you have approved), have students work individually or as a group to will write a five to seven sentence paragraph summarizing the story. They should include sentences in both the active voice and passive voice to demonstrate their understanding and application of these sentence structures.


The teacher will assess the students' understanding of active and passive voice based on completion and quality of the T-chart activity and the summary paragraph.

If you used the Talk Moves cards during the group activity, ask students to reflect on them. Did the Talk Moves cards help them work together more efficiently or cooperatively? Ask students to share their opinion.