Lord of the Flies: How to Read (and Why)


Based on this image, what do you think the novel is about?

This week we begin our reading and study of William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies. As you can see, the novel isn’t too long in terms of number of pages, but it is dense and rich in its ideas. Read it with curiousity, interest, and a critical eye.

How will we read the book? 

We will read the book in its entirety before discussing it as a class. This “whole novel” approach will allow you to experience the book as it was meant to be read—as a whole work of art. You will have at least four days of in-class time to read before break. During this time, your only homework will be to read (and revise your Much Ado essay as needed). Please finish reading the entire book and be ready for class discussion by Monday, January 4.

On that day, you will be given a brief reading check about the plot and characters to ensure that you’ve read carefully (Click here for an optional study guide that you may want to use to make sure you’ve covered all the key points). You may, if you choose, also put your independent reading on “hold” for now as we focus on getting Lord of the Flies finished.

What should I be doing as I read? 

Because the novel is so rich, there are many different layers to investigate. First and foremost, you should pay attention to moments in the text that stand out to you. Use that “reader’s voice” in your head. Pay attention to moments that make you go “huh!” or “huh?” Use sticky notes to keep track of these reactions.

How will you know which reactions or moments to note on your stickies? What’s that you say? Did you say Notice and Note Signposts? Why, yes! As we have already seen, the Signposts can be very helpful in pointing us to significant moments in the text.

How many signposts stickies to I need?

Ideally you should write sticky notes whenever you feel something significant has happened. However, leaving the number of sticky notes up to students can sometimes lead some students to have too many sticky notes while others have too few.

Until you get more practiced at understanding how the signpost sticky notes work best for you, one rule of thumb you can follow is to simply take at least one sticky note per chapter (12-15 total). If you find that one chapter was really especially exciting and want to take 2, 3, or (gasp!) even 4 sticky notes, feel free. And although every chapter is important, there might be some chapters where nothing feels quite worthy of a sticky note to you. The key is to make sure that you have enough notes at the end to be able to use for discussion and writing.

It’s not just quantity but also quality. Model your note-taking after the sticky note example we did in class together for the opening of the book. (That sticky note doesn’t count toward your total.)

What am I going to do with all these sticky notes?

First, you’ll need the sticky notes for general class discussion. When we return from break, we’ll use the first few days of class reviewing what you found interesting in the novel and then choosing topics to review together each day. Every student will have to share some of their “sticky thoughts” with the class.

Second, we will also be conducting a few Socratic Seminars / fishbowl discussions in which every student must participate. Having these notes will be a lifesaver during discussions (especially if you are more on the introverted side—and if you are, I feel your pain because I was like that in school, too).

Finally, as you did with Much Ado About Nothing, you’ll develop your own essay question and write another 5-part essay to answer that essay question. As you read, pay attention to the characters, conflicts, and other moments that capture your attention, confuse or excite you. Nine times out of ten, students write better when they 1) know their subject well, and 2) find their subject interesting. Find what interests you in Lord of the Flies.

Do you have any other tips?

Yes! All six of the Notice and Note signposts appear in the novel. Below are LOTF-related questions related to the signposts. (TIP:  Click here to see a photo of these questions that you can save to your phone for easy reference).

  • Again and Again: Pay attention to types of arguments that the boys have over and over again: what issues seem to be at stake? Also note any objects or ideas that are repeated and seem symbolic.
  • Contrasts and Contradictions: In what ways do the boys’ words contradict their actions? In what ways do the boys change? How do their actions contrast with earlier events?
  • Memory Moments: Pay attention to the moments that the Ralph, Jack, Piggy, and some of the littluns think back to the home. What are their memories about, what do they reveal, and what could they represent?
  • Tough Questions: What issues do the boys face on the island? What affects their decisions?
  • A-Ha Moments: Several boys experience realizations about themselves, each other, and their life on the island which help them survive (or not). At the same time, there are pivotal moments when no such realizations occur; take note of these moments, too.
  • Words of the Wiser: Although the boys are just children, at least a few characters demonstrate some wisdom in their suggestions about what they should do on the island or their insights into their situation. Take note of who these characters are, what their advice or “wise” knowledge is, and most importantly, how it’s received by the rest of the group.

Finally, one last word of caution. Lord of the Flies is a classic novel (and with good reason). As such, like many other classic works of literature, much as been written about the novel online. Resist the urge to “spark note” the novel, especially as a replacement for reading the actual text. When you rely on someone else’s summary and analysis of the novel in place of reading the novel on your own, you do not grow as a reader and you cheat yourself of an opportunity to experience the novel in any authentic, meaningful way. And if your reading isn’t authentic or meaningful, then it becomes a waste of time. Don’t waste your time; it’s too valuable. You’re too valuable.

If you have any questions as you read, feel free to ask them by commenting on this post, especially since we will not discussing the novel until we are finished reading the entire book. Happy reading!


  • Read every day. 30 pages/day is a good pace. Finish reading by 1/4.
  • Take 12-15 sticky notes as you read. (These will actually be checked!) Use signposts.
  • Reading check will be given on 1/4. Optional study guide available to help you.
  • We’re having Socratic Seminars/fishbowl discussions; be prepared.
  • We’re writing an essay on LOTF. Think about possible essay questions as you read.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s