Analyzing Theme and Author's Purpose

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SWBAT analyze the development of theme and author’s purpose by reading a chapter 1 excerpt from Black Boy and answering guided questions.

Big Idea

Diving into Richard Wright's experience with being parented for survival.


10 minutes

We will spend some additional time in chapter 1 because we will not be reading the entire book.  The time will not permit us as well as student interest.  Because we are teaching to a standard it's not essential that they do read the entire novel but students interested in reading the entire novel can take it home for extra reading.

To help them retain the new vocabulary words, I begin the Activator with a short vocabulary quiz of the words reviewed during the prior lesson. This "quiz" will not be graded because it's being used as a formative assessment.

After correcting the quiz as a group, I hand out a Quick Write activator sheet with directions to write: What comes to mind you you think of the words gang and bully?  This is followed by a short group share.  This activator sets the stage for their reading.

Building Knowledge

20 minutes

I ask my students to take out their notes on Non-Fiction and Author's Purpose.  I ask them to think about Richard Wright and his purpose in talking about the fight scene that occurred when he went to the grocery store for his mother and then ask these three questions followed by a short group discussion:

  1. Was it to inform the reader of the violence he was subject to at an early age and the manner in which his mother taught him lessons about survival?  
  2. Was it to entertain the reader about how a young boy took a stick and beat up a gang of other older boys?  
  3. Or was it to persuade or convince the reader of something that he feels we should believe in?

Next I review the questions that are being asked on Reading Guide 2.  I want the students to reflect on the violent nature of Wright's upbringing and how he uses it to develop the novel's theme. Questions in the reading guide are a balance of closed and open ended questions. To make the reading meaningful to their present life experiences of living in urban culture, I include open ended questions to promote student reflection such as, "The fight occurred around 1913.  If this same thing happened today, what would be the same and what would be different?" 

 To engage students in higher order thinking, I also include the open ended question, "Do you approve of Mrs. Wright's forcing Richard out to face the gang with a stick?  Why or why not?"  

I then ask the question, "Why do you think Richard Wright entitles his book Black Boy?"

After facilitating a short discussion on their responses to my question,  I explain that this is a story of his childhood, but at every moment we are very aware of the color of the author's skin. The author is informing the reader of his experience growing up in America as a black boy as being quite different growing up white. 


Student Learning Activity

35 minutes

The students are given the Reading Guide 2 and asked to answer the questions thoughtfully as they read the excerpt from Chapter 1 of Black Boy.  As they read I also ask them to underline words that may reflect a possible theme of this novel RI.9-10.2. i want them to understand the universal message the author is portraying in his writing.


Wrap Up

10 minutes

Share Out

For the Wrap Up we have a short discussion on the different tasks of the lesson.  I first ask, "After reading the excerpt do you have a better idea on what the author's purpose might be?"

I then ask a few students to select a question that they answered and share their response with the class SL.9-10.1.  I also ask a few students to share the words they underlined that may support the novel's theme.  By discussing their answers they are more apt to listen and learn form each other.