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Plato’s Allegory of the Cave Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #: AELP-PLT0200
Submitted by: Patty Zuccarello
Email: pzuccarello@deborahsplace.org

May 30, 2001

Grade Level: Vocational Education, Adult/Continuing Education


  • Philosophy/Platonism

Duration: 2 hours

Description: Students are introduced to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. After listening to a re-telling of the story, students work in groups to analyze various parts of the allegory.

Goals: Students will be able to identify situations and issues where they have made changes and need to make changes, particularly surfacing issues around why we choose to change or not to change.

Objectives: Students will be able to define philosophy, allegory, and the images in The Allegory of the Cave as they pertain to their lives.


  • The Allegory of the Cave in The Republic , by Plato
  • flashlight
  • flipchart
  • markers
  • pens
  • tape
  • an assistant to hold the flashlight
  • Discussion Sheet and Class Evaluation Form
  • Discussion Sheet and Class Evaluation Form in .pdf format; requires free Adobe Acrobat Reader.

    Click the icon to obtain the free Reader.

Before you teach, you will need to read a biography about Plato, read The Allegory of the Cave, and practice re-telling the story. You will also need to gather the following supplies: flipchart, markers, tape, and copies of The Allegory of the Cave. In addition, enlist the help of another staff person to be the “fire” (holding a flashlight at the back of the room ) while you re-tell the story.

Lesson Outline: What is philosophy?

  • live your life according to ideas and assumptions about what the world is like — that’s your philosophy
  • the word means, love of wisdom

Which begs the question, “What is wisdom?” What do you think? Facilitate conversation answering this question.

Why do you think we study philosophy? There are many reasons to study philosophy and humanities. ( Author’s Note: here are my three favorite reasons):

  • The unexamined life is not worth living. (Socrates 400 BC)
  • Vocational training is the training of animals or slaves. It fits them to become cogs in the industrial machine. Free men need liberal education to prepare them to make a good use of their freedom. (John Dewey, 1916 AD)
  • Know yourself. (Plato, 387 BC)

Today we’re learning about Ancient Greek philosophy. Three famous men in Ancient Greek philosophy were Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. All three lived in Athens most of their lives, and they knew one another.

Socrates 469-399 BC

  • Father was a stone carver; mother was a midwife
  • Father claimed to be descendent of the god Poseidon
  • Father died when Socrates was a boy
  • Mother remarried her uncle; they raised Socrates
  • Tried his hand as a stone sculptor and was very bad by all accounts
  • Known for teaching through discussion of ideas, using questions to challenge students’ assumptions about the world
  • Learning how little we know is how we learn
  • Never wrote anything down, so we have no written works by him; also no pictures (although they say he was quite ugly)
  • Sentenced to death by hemlock for not recounting his atheist beliefs and for corrupting the young men he taught

Plato 428-348 or 347 BC

  • Socrates student
  • Wealthy family
  • Started out with career in politics, but left when he realized that politicians weren’t truthful — didn’t think clearly
  • Started his own university, The Academy, in 387 BC
  • Was all about ideas as truth — ideas exist in perfect truthful state in our minds
  • Physical world is misleading, and therefore not what you should base truth upon
  • Constant struggle for humans is discovering the reality of the world while balancing what you know to be true, and what the physical world is showing you to be true
  • People born with knowledge in their heads; knowledge gathered as moved from life to life
  • Recalling knowledge from previous life called anamnesis — it’s how you can know something without having first hand experience of it
  • Point of education is to draw out the knowledge that’s already in your head; use dialogues to do this
  • Prolific writer – approximately 24 books; wrote in dialogues so it’s easy to read, and he had a sense of humor, too


Today we’re looking at Plato’s work, The Allegory of the Cave, from his book, The Republic

What is an allegory?
A story where the things in the story represent other things (also think parable, metaphor). Can you think of an allegory you know? Plato’s allegory is about a cave. Whole Group Activity: Allegory of the Cave

  • Ask students, “What do you know about caves?” Use the flipchart to document their brainstorming.
  • Inform students that you are going to share Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Turn off the lights, close the blinds, and welcome them to Plato’s cave.
  • Have your “fire” person at the back of the room (using a flashlight as fire) when you give her the sign. (This should be while you’re telling the first part of the Allegory, describing the cave.)
  • Re-tell the allegory; use questioning to tell the story with input from the group. For example, when you are telling the part where some of the prisoners re-enter the cave ask, “What happens when they come back down into the cave?”
  • At the end of the allegory, turn the lights on and open the blinds.
  • Ask students to tell you what things in the story could represent other things. Write students’ responses on the flipchart.
  • Ask for a volunteer to tell what each of these items could represent and write them on the flipchart next to each item. For example: “Prisoners – people, Shackles – addiction,” etc.

Small Group Activity:
Distribute a discussion sheet to each student, and ask the participants to work in pairs or groups of three, thinking about the cave in our worlds. Students should write their responses on the discussion sheets.

Whole Group Sharing:
After 10 or 15 minutes, ask the groups to report back to the whole group on what their things represented. Write these on the flipchart. Make sure to note that we do not spend entire days in or out of the cave. We will probably spend time in both places during our workday. The key to coming out of the cave is to be aware we’re in the cave, and to work on moving toward the light. Ask participants for ways they’ve learned to “Come out of the cave” in their worklife.

Time permitting:
In pairs, have students write their own allegory. Journal Question:
Plato said, There will be no end to the troubles of the state or indeed of humanity itself until philosophers become kings or until those we now call kings really and truly become philosophers. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Assessment: Observe students’ participation throughout the lesson. Collect students’ journal writings and/or allegories. At the end of class, the teacher can ask students to complete the class evaluation form. The teacher can use the information on this form to make changes/adjustments/improvements to future lessons.

Useful Internet Resources:
* Greek Philosophy

* General Education vs. Vocational Education
by Mortimer J. Adler