Understanding Word Choice and Zora Neal Hurston's Feelings About Herself in How it Feels to be Colored Me

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SWBAT study the word choice, and interpret the author Zora Neal Hurston’s feelings behind the ideas she expresses in How it Feels to be Colored Me by answering integrated text dependent questions.

Big Idea

How can students get a deeper understanding of an author's self-image during challenging times.


10 minutes

I put on some 1930's jazz music in the background as I project an intro  to the author Zora Neale Hurston for the students to read that I wrote.  To increase engagement, the introduction is written as if the author was speaking to the students.  After they read it I ask them to identify one fact about the author that they felt was interesting.

Building Knowledge: Harlem Renaissance

15 minutes

Part 1: I begin the activity with a short video introducing the Harlem Renaissance:

I like the videos offered on the History site because they are usually relatively short and informative. Because my students are repeaters and therefore familiar with the Harlem Renaissance era, I do a quick review of the The Harlem Renaissance, emphasizing that it was also known as the Black Literary Renaissance connecting to the flowering of Black cultural and intellectual life during the 1920's-30's that began in Harlem, N.Y, and spread nationwide.  The video mentions some of the writers including Zora Neal Hurston.




Building Knowledge: Power of Word Choice

10 minutes

Words Convey Tone

Part 2: The power of word choice is something Zora Neal Hurston uses throughout this short memoir.  I want to emphasize to the students that a writer uses words to express a message and the effectiveness of that message is dependent on their choice of words.  Analyzing the nuances in author's choice of words addresses the standard L.9-10.5b.  I next show this short but powerful video to convey the power of word choice:

We follow this video with a discussion on why did the second message, "It's a Beautiful Day but I can't see it" have the effect that the first message did not?

Next, I review the author's use of metaphor by giving an example from the text and discuss why it's a metaphor i.e.  "...but it was a gallery seat to me."

Before they begin reading I review the vocabulary words by asking students to write them with a definition in their journals.  These words are also posted on the Word Wall which I refer to throughout the lesson.

Student learning Activity

35 minutes

I begin the student activity by passing out  an activity sheet on "loaded language" that I downloaded from the video on the Power of Word Choice web site. The students are asked to read each section of the Desert Language activity sheet for “loaded language” or words loaded with more than just a literal meaning consequently changing the tone of the authors message.  I ask students to circle or underline those words that support the stated tone of each paragraph describing a desert's landscape RI.9-10.4.

 I next pass out the text and read the first paragraph and discuss the tone of the words and ask, "What type of person does this portray who expresses herself in this way?"  Students then begin reading independently citing evidence from the text, RI.9-10.1, to answer the questions embedded in the text while I circulate among them checking for understanding and offering guided practice.

I've included pages 1, 2 and 3 to illustrate the adaptations made to this story buy chunking the the text making it more accessible to all students abilities.



Wrap Up

10 minutes

Ticket to Leave: Students are asked to share one thing they learned about the authors word choice that expresses her feelings of her life as a person of color.