Okonkwo's Ties to Family and Communtiy Late 19th Century Nigeria

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SWBAT analyze family and community relationships in 19th century Nigeria by examining Okonkwo's connection to family and community in the first three chapters of Things Fall Apart.

Big Idea

Students investigate the complex relationship between father and son and father and son. Do we carry our father's burdens into our lives?

Let's Get Started: Who is in the Picture and What is She Doing?

20 minutes

As the students arrive, I had them a paper with a number on it.  I tell them to sit at the table that matches the number.  As they walk in the room, they can see this picture on the smartboard. The question above the picture reads, Who is this?

It is full disclosure time for me.  Most of the kiddos will quickly figure out the picture is of me.  Once I confirm that I am the woman in the picture.  I tell them that they have three minutes to write as many questions as they can about the picture.  I set the timer on my phone and say go. 

After the timer goes off, I tell them that I will answer all their questions to the best of my ability. However, it is there responsibility to listen to the questions their classmates ask.  If someone asks the same question you have on your list mark it off.  I will not answer repeat questions.  

I will spend the next 15 to 20 minutes answering questions. I hope students will still ask me questions as we move through this unit. However, by having this quick Q and A session, it will keep me from getting distracted down the road and will further help to establish community in my classroom as I share a part of my past experiences with my students. 

Building Knowledge: Class Discussion of Identity and Family in Umuofia

40 minutes

I love "Things Fall Apart." I love to read it. I love to talk about it. And, I really love the beginning of the book.  But, I hate to read out loud.  I am not an English teacher who sounds like someone from Masterpiece Theater when I read outloud.  I freeze up and stumble over words.  Fortunately I practically have the beginning of TFA memorized. 

Before I begin reading, I ask, what kind of man is Okonkwo?  How do the other members of the village see him?  How did he obtain his place in his community? I want them to share their impressions based on chapters one to three that they read for homework.

I begin to read, "Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond...Age was respected among his people, but achievement was revered.  As the elders said, if a child washed his hands he could eat with kings."

As I read the first chapter, I pause and repeat the questions about Okonkwo. Students need to understand from the beginning that Okonkwo is a complex character and they need to identify the characterization traits that make him complex (RL 9-10.3) I also answer questions students have about various cultural aspects of the book.  

Next I turn to the homework questions.  It is time for their analysis of the beginning of the book. It is time for them to share their impressions of a Okonkwo and the Igbo culture. They answered three questions for homework.   

  • 1.   What is your general impression of Okonkwo (family man, community member, friend)?  Be specific: son, father, husband, and friend?
  • 2.  Who is the narrator?   The narrator claims that Okonkwo is ruled by his fear of his own weakness and failure.  In what way do these fears play out in Okonkwo’s  life and his treatment of others?
  • 3.  Read the last paragraph of chapter 1.  How is the last sentence an example of foreshadowing?  

I instruct them to discuss their answers with their new group (SL.9-10.1).  After about 10 minutes I take volunteers to answer the questions on Okonkwo as a family man, what he fears, and why people are afraid of him.

Building Knowledge: Writing about Death and Mayhem

25 minutes

The last question of their homework leads to their in class writing assignment. I really want them to work on identifying literary elements in a text and analyzing the impact of those elements on a text (L.9-10. 5a and RL.9-10.4).  

For homework they had to answer the question, "How is the last line of chapter 1 an example of foreshadowing?"  After a couple of students share their answer, I ask specifically why does Achebe use the words "doomed", "sacrificed "and "ill-fated"? Is Achebe's language too heavy-handed?  

Next I ask them to write a literary device to explain how foreshadowing functions in TFA.  A literary device is a paragraph that explores the function of a literary element in a text.  The first part of the paragraph establishes the context of the device, the second section explains how the device works in the text, and finally the third section shows the connect to the text as a whole (W 9-10.4). They have to define foreshadowing, state the example, and then write a function paragraph on how foreshadowing works in text.  

Wrap Up: Homework

3 minutes

As the class draws to a close, I tell them if they have not finished writing about foreshadowing, then finish it for homework.  I also tell them to read chapters four to eight. No study questions this time.