Thank You, Ma’am

By Langston Hughes


Literary Analysis Focus:  Types of Conflict


Central Conflict

-The main problem in the story.

-It develops throughout the story and is solved at the end


Other Conflicts

-minor problems the characters face.

-The entire story DOES NOT revolve around them!!!


A story can have MANY conflicts but only ONE Central Conflict



Conflicts Are Divided into Two Groups


External-Struggle between the character and some outside force

Character vs. Himself

A struggle within a character

i.e. decision, choice

Character vs. Nature

Character vs. Another Character

Character vs. Society

Character vs. Object











Exit Pass

Internal and External Conflict

Complete on an index card





Which type?

1.  Maria and her brother argue about who gets to sit in the front seat of the car




2.  A farmer and his family must find a way to survive a terrible flood.




3.  Sue is angry with herself for missing an easy question on a test.




4.  The captain of a ship tries to sail through a dangerous storm.




5.  James can’t decide what to do tonight.  Should he stay home and study or go to a movie?

















Selection Vocabulary


Directions:  Use your glossary to define the following words.






Empty, deserted



Weak, fragile, delicate



To have no confidence in



Fit to be seen by people



Leather with a soft, fuzzy surface


Directions:  Choose the synonym that best expresses the meaning of the underlined Word to Know.  Write the correct answer.





A frail railing was all that separated us from the edge of the cliff


-in poor health



He tried to make his stained T-shirt presentable by bleaching it.


-fit to be seen


Fit to be seen

Mistrust of the water led the hiker to boil it before she put it in her canteen





We saw only rocks as we surveyed the barren desert landscape-not a single plant or animal






Directions:  In each blank, write the word from the word list that the rhyme describes.




This would describe a tree if all

Its leaves had tumbled in the fall.


If they order coffee, but I bring them tea,

My customers surely might do this to me.


If you go on a television show,

You must be this (but not on radio).


This might describe the year’s last rose

When the fierce wind of autumn blows.


You might use this for shoes and vests and such,

To make them warm to wear and soft to touch



Directions:  On your own sheet of paper to turn in, write a sentence for each vocabulary word that contains context clues.  A person who does not understand the word should be able to figure it out when they read your sentence.  Use the above sentences as a guide.




Build Background

Langston Hughes, The Harlem Renaissance, and Jazz music


Connect to Literature

Examine the underlying meaning of the following African proverb:

"It takes a village to raise a child."


Not all teachers are found in school.  Has there been someone outside of school that has taught you an important lesson?







Purpose Question:



Examine conflicts in the story

Directions:  Go through "Thank You, Ma'am" and record conflicts on the chart below.  Then check whether the conflict is Internal or External.  Which one is the Central Conflict? Partner






 Sample: Roger and Mrs. Jones fight over her purse




Purse Strap and boy; breaks



X object


Roger doesn’t have anyone at home


X society


Boy is being dragged in a half nelson to her house; wants TO BE LET GO


X character


Mrs. Jones struggled with her own past




Thank you m’am or something more




Boys wants blue suede shoes




Can’t decide whether to run out or not






Critical Thinking Questions (WHILE YOU READ)


1.  What does the woman do to the boy after he tries to steal her purse?

2.  What do you think Mrs. Jones is going to do to the boy?

3.  How would you evaluate the way Mrs. Jones treats Roger?

4.  How would you have reacted in Mrs. Jones’s place?

5.  Make inferences about Roger’s home life?

6.  What might be some other reasons why Roger tries to steal?

7.  What types of conflict is Roger experiencing in paragraph labeled A.

8.  Characterize Mrs. Jones

9.  Why doesn’t Roger run out of the room when he has the chance?

10.  Why do you think Mrs. Jones told Roger about the things she wanted but “could not get”?

11.  Mrs. Jones left her purse unattended and went into the other room.  What is revealed by her action?

12.  What was revealed by Roger’s action when he slid over so she could see him from the other room?  Is Roger changing?

13.  Do you think Roger did the right thing by giving Roger ten dollars?

14.  Explain the phrase: “because shoes come by devilish like that will burn your feet.”

15.  The last paragraph begins with “The boy wanted to say something else but couldn’t do it.”  What else do you think he would have like to be able to say to her besides “Thank you”.


16.  Analyse how Roger’s view of Mrs. Jones changed from the beginning to the end of the story.


17.  Do you think at the beginning if Roger had been successful in stealing the purse, would he have bought shoes with the money?  At the end, now that he has been given $10, will he use it to buy shoes?

18.  Create a theme statement.

19.  What is the central conflict and climax?















Teacher Led Discussion

Inference situation one:

Three boys are walking down the street.  Peter has just shoved his allowance money into his pocket. Ed and Tommy start patting Peter on the back. They are telling him what a good friend he is and what a good football player he is. They also tell him how smart he is. It seems they just can’t compliment him enough.


Inference situation two:

Andrew and his mom and dad are all outside in their yard in the snow building a snowman.  After only five minutes, Andrew heads for the front door to his house.  He’s had enough. Mom and Dad look very surprised.


Inference situation three:

You ask your sister how she did on her chemistry test. She replies by slamming down her books on a table and snapping, “It’s none of your business!”















Group Activity


Read “The Snake Dance” and answer the following inference questions:


Inferencing-Individual Activity


Inference situation one:

Your older sister and two friends have been singing together for over a year now.  They practice for at least an hour a day because they hope to become big stars.  So far, they’ve appeared only in amateur talent shows, but today they were supposed to have an audition with an important recording studio. You’ve just gotten home from school when your sister burst through the front singing, with a big smile on her face.





Inference situation two:

Maybe I’ll put my head under the pillow- No, that’s no good at all.  I can imagine him, whoever he is, sneaking up on me. Ok, that does it.  I’m going to get up and stay up, put the lights on in the living room, and turn on the television. Oh, I hate going into the dark….There!  Overhead light on, floor lamp on, TV on, nice and loud.  Now I’ll sit down and relax and watch the---

Hey, what was that? Oh. Old houses creak, remember? If it creaked when Russell was here, it will creak while he is away.  It’s only your imagination, that’s what it is.  And the more sleepy you get, the more vivid your imagination will get.















BCR Question:

-After reading “Thank You, M’am” explain the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Use events from the story to help support your explanation particularly Mrs. Jones’ role in Roger’s life.


Pd 3

The proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” is expressed clearly through Mrs. Jones’ actions toward Roger in the story “Thank You, M’am”.


Explain proverb

(Brain Info)

Connect to story

(Text Info)

-many different kinds of people are needed to help raise children.

-different people teach different things.

-helps when families are not able to raise a child effectively.


-Roger didn’t have a family.

-Mrs. Jones didn’t know Roger but saw a need.

-taught respect  (tried to steal; left purse out/did not ask personal ?/share experiences

-fed him


Pd 1

BCR Question:

-After reading “Thank You, M’am” explain the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Use events from the story to help support your explanation particularly Mrs. Jones’ role in Roger’s life.


The saying “ “ relates to the story because of Mrs. Jones actions.


Explain proverb

(Brain Info)

Connect to story

(Text Info)

-Need more than parents to help care for a child.

-Parents sometimes can’t provide everything for you.

-Older people provide experience and wisdom

-Different skills to help support child.

-Mrs. Jones, stranger, but took him home

-saw a need-face dirty, hunger, late at night

-fed him, bonded w/him, trust, shared, respect, money

-learned a lesson


Pd 4

BCR Question:

-After reading “Thank You, M’am” explain the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Use events from the story to help support your explanation particularly Mrs. Jones’ role in Roger’s life.




Explain proverb

(Brain Info)

Connect to story

(Text Info)







Pd 5

BCR Question:

-After reading “Thank You, M’am” explain the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Use events from the story to help support your explanation particularly Mrs. Jones’ role in Roger’s life.


The proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” is shown in the story “Thank You, M’am”.

-Start discussing what Mrs. Jones does

-Connect to the proverb.


Explain proverb

(Brain Info)

Connect to story

(Text Info)

-children need more than their parents to raise them successfully.

-Different people can provide different knowledge & perspective.



-Roger did not have a family at home to raise him properly.

-Mrs. Jones took him home to feed and clean him, helped him realize that stealing was wrong, caring, trust, respect,




Compare Movie and Short Story




Steals the purse


Hold him all the way home

Washes face

Has to make choices





Story is 50’s/Movie is 70’s


He doesn’t struggle in the movie

Not a half nelson

Doesn’t seems as scared

More rooms; not a single

Story didn’t have him dropping the towel and then deciding to pick it up.

Saw him roll his eyes

“everybody’s got something in common”

Comes into the kitchen with her instead of scooting over

Eating chicken instead of ham

In the movie she asked him a question about family during dinner.

She’s a nurse in the movie not a hairdresser

$20 instead of $10

In movie, he says Thank you after she closes the door





Study Guide


Test Items

What to Study

General conflict questions

Internal and External conflict notes

Comprehension questions

Review plot line

Vocabulary questions

Vocabulary activities

External/Internal Conflicts

Re-read story/Conflict activity

If you have lost any of the activities, they are all located on the website under "Thank You, Ma'am" Work Packet



Review for Thank You M’am


In one word describe Mrs. Jones when Roger tries to steal her purse.


What is Mrs. Jones’ MAIN reason for taking Roger home?


How does Roger feel about Mrs. Jones right after she takes him home?


Why does Mrs. Jones tell Roger about her past?


Why does Mrs. Jones leave Roger alone in the room with her purse?


Why does Roger decide to slide into Mrs. Jones’ view?


Paraphrase “Shoes come by devilish like that will burn your feet”


Why does Roger find is difficult to say more that “Thank You, M’am”?


Use two traits to describe Mrs. Jones’s character throughout the story.


What does Roger learn by the end of the story?


Use PRESENTABLE in a sentence.


Use FRAIL in a sentence.


Use BARREN in a sentence.




What is an inference?


What is the first step in inferring?


What is the second step in inferring?


Explain the second step.


What is the third step in inferring?


Explain the third step.


Internal and External Conflicts

Explain what an internal conflict is.


List two types of external conflicts.


How many central conflicts are there in a story?


How many conflicts can there be in a story?