Holes by Louis Sachar – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

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Do you want to engage your students in a novel that will captivate them? Louis Sachar’s award-winning book, Holes, is a perfect choice!

Not only is it beloved by millions of readers worldwide, but it also teaches important lessons about friendship and perseverance. And if you’re looking for an easy way to plan out teaching this classic all-ages book, look no further.

Below we will provide an in-depth planning overview for leading a successful classroom discussion on Holes.

From pre-reading activities to literary elements-focused post-reading lesson plans – we have everything covered so you can confidently create unique ways to make reading Holes fun and engaging!

Related: For more, check out our article on Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone  here.

Holes by Louis Sachar

The Storyline of Holes by Louis Sachar

Holes, published in 1998, is a young adult adventure novel by Louis Sachar. It tells three separate yet interconnected stories, two set in the past and shows how they affect Stanley′s life in the present.

The main story is that of a boy named Stanley Yelnats IV, who is sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention boot camp in the Texas desert, for a crime he did not commit: stealing a pair of sneakers belonging to a famous baseball player.

His family didn’t have much money, as they had been allegedly cursed with bad luck by Stanley’s “no–good–dirty–rotten–pig–stealing–great–great–grandfather.”

Back at Camp Green Lake, Stanley and the other ‘campers’ are assigned to dig one deep, cylindrical hole daily.

There is no given reason for them to do this other than the Warden′s claim that it “builds character.”

One hundred and ten years before Stanley arrived at Camp Green Lake in 1888, the town of Green Lake was a beautiful and thriving lakeside community.

Unfortunately, tragedy strikes when Katherine Barlow falls in love with Sam – an African American man who sells onions – and they are spotted kissing, which at that time was illegal.

Charles ‘Trout’ Walker forms a mob which burns down her school, and when Sam and Katherine try to escape together on his rowboat, he is shot dead while she has to return to town empty-handed.

This tragedy serves as retribution for Stanley’s great-great-grandfather Elya Yelnats, who broke his promise to carry Madame Zeroni up a mountain and sing her a song; this brought about their family curse of bad luck so many years later.

At Camp Green Lake, still present-day now – Stanley befriends another camper who goes by Zero, whose real name is Hector Zeroni – ironically enough, Madame Zeroni’s last name!

Together they run away from camp but eventually return when Stanley’s lawyer reveals he was proven innocent.

When Hector receives news that his mother has passed due to illness, some cash he finds stored away in an old suitcase gives him hope he can start again elsewhere with his sibling if needed.

After bidding farewell, Stanley returns home, where all is restored and made right again, when his father finally finds success with his invention! The curse on the Yelnats family has been lifted after all these years!

Related: For more, check out our article on The Witches by Roald Dahl here.

Key Themes in the Story Holes

Theme of Adventure

The story holes explore the idea of taking risks and accepting adventure. Characters must face unfamiliar situations, overcome obstacles, and find unique solutions.

There is a focus on problem-solving and the rewards that can come from stepping out of one’s comfort zone.

Theme of Resilience

The story holes celebrate resilience as characters face complex challenges and manage to tackle them head-on.

They persevere despite adversity, develop an attitude of determination and stay focused throughout their journey.

Theme of Relationships

The story holes highlight the importance of friendships and relationships. They portray how these connections can be strengthened through understanding each other more deeply, supporting each other’s ambitions, and sharing essential values.

Theme of Self-Discovery

The story holes show individuals’ need to learn from their mistakes and use their experiences to grow as people.

They depict how self-reflection can help them determine who they are at their core, enabling them to become their best selves in the future.

Related: For more, check out our article on Matilda by Roald Dahl here.

Hole by Louis Sachar

Key Characters in the Story Holes

Stanley Yelnats

The novel’s protagonist, Stanley, is an overweight kid with bad luck. He is convicted of a crime he did not commit and is sent to the Camp Green Lake juvenile detention centre.

Non-violent and generally kind, Stanley has a difficult time in school and at the camp. He becomes physically more robust and self-confident through his experience at the hellish Camp Green Lake.

He befriends Zero, another boy at the centre, and through this friendship, he eradicates his family curse.


Zero is another camper at Camp Green Lake who becomes friends with Stanley. Zero is the best digger and is generally considered stupid by the counsellors and other boys.

In truth, Zero is very smart, although he has never been taught how to read. Zero is the great-great-great-grandson of Madame Zeroni, the woman who puts a curse on Stanley’s family.

Zero has suffered many hardships, even more than Stanley, but he never wholly despairs and always shows incredible strength and willpower.


X-Ray is the leader of the group of boys at Camp Green Lake. Although small and cannot see well, he takes charge and has other boys follow his orders. He is friendly to Stanley when Stanley gives him the gold tube he finds in the dirt.


Squid is another boy at the camp. He’s as tough as X-Ray, although he often follows X-Ray’s directions. Squid constantly taunts Stanley about receiving letters from, and writing to, his mother.

When Stanley is allowed to leave the camp, Squid reveals that he also cares about his mother, and he asks Stanley to call her and tell her that he – Squid – is sorry.


Another boy at the camp, Magnet, earned his nickname due to his ability to steal things. “My fingers are like little magnets,” he claims after taking Mr Sir’s sunflower seeds in Chapter 19.


Along with Squid, Armpit seems to be one of X-Ray’s closest companions. He pushes Stanley to the ground when Stanley forgets to call him by nickname. It’s Armpit who Warden gets angry for not digging up what she wants in chapter 17.


Stanley thinks Zigzag is the weirdest kid in Camp Green Lake. Zigzag is violent & does not apologise for hitting him using a shovel.


The warden symbolises cruel authority at Camp Green Lake; she rewards if rules are followed, otherwise uses power to threaten everyone else; she has hidden cameras spying over boys & nail polish with rattlesnake venom used by scratching those who displease her.

She’s a descendant of Charles & Linda walker & making boys dig up holes in an attempt towards Kate Barlow’s Treasure.

Kate Barlow

Kate Barlow was a schoolteacher who became an Outlaw who robbed their great-grandfather of Warley.

She lived on Green lake before it dried up one hundred & ten years ago, intelligent & kind by nature murder of Sam transformed Kate into a lawless person living on the wrong side of the rules; She loved Sam dearly & kissed him before racist people killed him.

Related: For more, check out our article on Fantastic Mr Fox – Planning Overview here.

1Intro to “Holes”Introduce novel and author. Set context.Discuss expectations. Read chapter 1.Participation.
2Character StudyAnalyze the protagonist, Stanley Yelnats.Character map. Predict behavior.Character map.
3Setting & ThemesExplore Camp Green Lake. Discuss themes.Describe setting. Theme identification.Written description.
4Plot StructureUnderstand plot layers and timeline.Timeline creation. Plot discussion.Timeline accuracy.
5SymbolismInvestigate symbols, like the shovel.Symbol chart. Group discussion.Symbol chart.
6Conflict & ResolutionIdentify conflicts and resolutions.Conflict chart. Resolution role-play.Conflict chart.
7Social IssuesDiscuss racial injustice, fate.Debate. Reflective writing.Debate engagement.
8Language & StyleExamine Sachar’s writing style.Style analysis. Literary devices list.Style analysis.
9Creative ExtensionCreate an alternate ending.Write and share stories.Story originality.
10Culminating ProjectDemonstrate understanding.Group presentations.Presentation skills.

Teaching Opportunities from Holes by Louis Sachar

  • Analysing the characters and discussing how fate works out for them
  • Evaluate how Stanley’s selflessness changes him throughout the story
  • Compare and contrast the two main settings of Camp Green Lake and Stanley’s hometown
  • Discuss the theme of redemption found in Holes
  • Examine whether justice is indeed served to all characters in the book
  • Analyse how themes such as racism, justice, and consequences shape the narrative
  • Explore the influence of folklore elements on Stanley’s journey
  • Assess Stanley’s character arc throughout the novel

Lesson Plan Ideas from Holes by Louis Sachar

Lesson Plan 1

Analysing the Characters and Discussing How Fate Works Out for Them

In this lesson plan, students will analyse the characters in Holes and discuss how fate works for them. The activity should involve students closely reading and examining the text to identify key traits of the characters.

After reading and discussion, student groups can be asked to create a visual that shows how fate works for each character in their respective circumstances.

Lesson Plan 2

Evaluate How Stanley’s Selflessness Changes Him Throughout the Story

In this lesson plan, students will evaluate how Stanley’s selflessness changes him throughout the story of Holes.

The activity should involve guided close-reading of passages where Stanley acts with selflessness while having students consider his motivations and intentions when taking action.

Teachers may have students submit a written reflection answering questions such as ‘How did Stanley’s selfless actions shape his character?’ or ‘How did his choices compare to what other people would do in similar situations?’

Lesson Plan 3

Compare and Contrast the Two Main Settings of Camp Green Lake and Stanley’s Hometown

In this lesson plan, students will compare and contrast the two main settings of Camp Green Lake and Stanley’s hometown.

This activity should involve students closely reading passages from both locations to understand how they differ – physically and culturally – and collect quotes that connect back to those themes.

Finally, have them work on an essay or creative writing piece that reflects on which set had more of an influence on Stanley’s journey throughout Holes.

10 Books with Themes Similar to Holes by Louis Sachar

  • The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  • Wonder by R.J Palacio
  • The Outsiders by S.E Hinton
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
  • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

We hope this comprehensive guide has equipped you with the tools and confidence to embark on an exciting literary journey with your students through Louis Sachar’s Holes.

Can you imagine the engaging discussions, the deepened understanding, and the joy of discovery that await your students?

With our carefully designed pre-reading activities and post-reading lessons focusing on key literary elements, you have a roadmap to make reading this beloved novel not just fun but also deeply enriching.

Can you feel the potential impact of these lessons on your students’ love for literature and their critical thinking skills?

Remember, the goal isn’t just to read a book – it’s to create a memorable learning experience that instills your students’ lifelong love for reading and learning.

So why wait? Dive into the captivating world of Holes today, and watch your classroom transform into a hub of engagement and discovery. Isn’t it inspiring to consider the educational journey you’re about to embark on?

So, draw from our in-depth planning overview and create unique, engaging lessons around Holes. Happy teaching!


Q1: Why is “Holes” by Louis Sachar an excellent choice for classroom reading?

A1: A thought-provoking question indeed! “Holes” is an award-winning novel that has captivated millions of readers worldwide. It’s a gripping read and a treasure trove of important life lessons about friendship, perseverance, and justice. Can you imagine the enriching discussions this book could spark in your classroom?

Q2: How can I introduce “Holes” to my students to pique their interest?

A2: Great question! You may start with engaging pre-reading activities such as exploring the book cover, discussing the title’s possible meanings, or sharing a brief, intriguing excerpt from the book. Can you envision the curiosity these activities might ignite?

Q3: What are some key themes in “Holes” that I can focus on during classroom discussions?

A3: “Holes” is rich with themes such as fate and destiny, friendship, the importance of history, and redemption. Can you see how exploring these themes could deepen students’ understanding and appreciation of the novel?

Q4: How can “Holes” be used to teach literary devices and techniques?

A4: Absolutely! “Holes” is filled with examples of flashbacks, foreshadowing, symbolism, and irony. Analyzing these elements can enhance students’ literary analysis skills. Can you envisage the depth of understanding your students could gain from such a study?

Q5: What post-reading activities can I conduct after finishing “Holes”?

A5: There are several engaging ways to consolidate learning post-reading. You could organize a debate on a theme, have students create alternative endings, or even encourage them to write a letter to the characters. Can you feel the excitement such activities could generate?

Q6: How can “Holes” contribute to character education?

A6: By presenting characters who display resilience, friendship, and moral courage, “Holes” offers valuable lessons in character education. Can you feel the potential impact of such insights on students’ personal growth?

Website Resources

This web page is a resource for educators and includes lesson plans based on the book Holes by Louis Sachar.

The lessons are designed to help grades 3-6 understand critical concepts in the book, such as relationships, character development, and themes. The link to the resource is Holes by Louis Sachar: A Series of Lessons .

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.

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