Getting A Larger Picture of the Hand Janie Was Dealt

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SWBAT continue tracking the development of the character's quest for autonomy by analyzing significant events through discussion.

Big Idea

As we examine the development of someone's quest for autonomy we have to ask two important questions: what choices does this person have and what is the quality of these choices?


Students have been reading parts of Their Eyes Were Watching God at home and have been keeping track of any parts that are confusing. They have been keeping track of this on a t-chart. The left column of the t-chart is titled “Questions or Summary.” The right column is titled “Clarification.” On the first column, students write questions about things they found confusing in the reading they finished the night before. I have students who report they found nothing confusing. Instead of asking questions, these students can write a very brief summary of what they read. The other column is for all of them to write whatever was clarified during today’s period. We begin the period by spending a few minutes clarifying confusion and writing in this column.

We Collaborate To Clarify Confusion

10 minutes

I ask students to spend 5 minutes talking in small groups about confusing things they identified and have written in the “Questions” column in their chart. Their goal is to help each other answer their questions, thus helping them understand the reading. I walk around and listen in on their conversations, focusing groups on the task at hand. I do not offer any answers because I want them to push themselves to answer questions on their own. Also, they will have an opportunity to ask me any questions that were not answered in small groups after the 5 minutes. You may have students who report they have no questions. I only have one who reports this today. I tell this students to serve as "expert" in her group and help group members clarify confusion. 

After 5 minutes of small group discussions, we turn to a whole class discussion for about 5 minutes. During this time, students can ask me any questions their group was not able to clarify. This turns into a brief whole class discussion about the reading and a good opportunity for checking for understanding.

The Hand She Was Dealt

30 minutes

We have been working on an activity called the hand we are dealt. In this activity, students are keeping track of the major events in the life of our main character, Janie, to help them get a clear picture of her quest for autonomy, which is the central idea we are exploring as we read this novel. Today we are adding one more story event to this chart.

I ask students to take out this paper and to think about the major events they read about in chapter 4. My students normally sit in small groups of 3 or 4 and I regularly ask them to work together. In this part of the lesson, I want them to discuss and collaborate in the selection of the most important events they read for homework. I give them two minutes to talk to the people at their table and together decide on the events they believe should be included in the cards on the chart. After two minutes, I ask them to share what they decided to include.  I ask the rest of the class to evaluate the selections shared. I remind them of the criteria for these events: the events should mark a significant point in Janie’s life, should reveal the major forces out of her control as well as those she controls, and should help us discuss the extent to which she controls her life. In other words, they should help us understand Janie’s quest for autonomy. We all discuss which events must be included and collaborate to choose the one we will all mark on the fourth card.

I give students time to work on this additional card. In this video, I discuss a few student samples of the fourth card.

Brainstorm Choices and Reading Independently

20 minutes

At this point, students have identified four major events that help us discuss Janie’s quest for autonomy. I ask student to scan these events as they are laid out on these cards and to consider how easy or difficult Janie’s quest for autonomy has been. It should be clear that this quest has been quite difficult. I want students to understand this and to think of the choices Janie has at this point. I ask students to take a couple of minutes to think on their own and use the back of this paper to jot down the choices they believe Janie has at this moment. I also ask them to brainstorm possible risks associated with these choices. This is an informal brainstorming and discussion session. They will hold a more structured one tomorrow. 

I tell students that tomorrow they will elaborate on the brainstorming they did today. I assign chapter 5 for homework and I give them the rest of the period to get started on it.