Since the culminating activity for this unit is a performance assessment related to the epitaph that opens the play, Fences by August Wilson, I need to set the stage for my students to start assessing this concept. In addition, they will be writing an essay explaining the physical and figurative meaning of death in the text. Therefore, it is important for us to become familiar with these concepts in a timely manner. The performance assessment at the end of the unit is aligned to W.9-10.1a and W.9-10.1b and the essay is aligned to W.9-10.2. My students will be completing the essay for homework at the end of Lesson 11: Analyzing Death as a Theme and a Character in Fences, Act 2 Scene 4-5 .
Today's lesson is based on Act 1 Scene 1, Pages 11-15, and in some ways continues to build on the ideas from Lesson 4: Stereotypical and Iconic Images in Drama: Unwrapping Baseball and the N-Word in (Fences), Act I Scene 1. In Lesson 4, we looked at the social context of baseball so that my students could understand how significant the sport was to American society in the 1950's. In today's lesson, we will look at baseball's significance to our play in terms of how August Wilson uses the image of baseball as well as its importance to our protagonist, Troy Maxson.
For this section of the lesson, students will look at the epitaph for the play written by August Wilson. Since we competed a unit on poetry prior to starting Fences, I wanted to assess how my students would handle a line-by-line analysis of the poem. This task is aligned to RL.9-10.10 because my students will be doing a close-reading of the epitaph and analyzing the poem and also to RL.9-10.2 as students will be analyzing one theme of the play and poem.
I am focusing on the word epigraph because the play opens with a poem that establishes a central theme of the play, the sins of the father. Knowing the poem is a part of a larger work will help my students to understand that the central idea ascribed by author and expressed in the poem will be explored in the play (RL9-10.2).
I will say to my students: August Wilson was a poet before he became a writer. Mr. Wilson used the poem below as an epigraph for his play, Fences. An epigraph is a quotation that captures or emphasizes the main idea or main concepts expressed in a piece of literature (L.9-10.6). Please answer the following questions based on the poem below.
"When the sins of our fathers visit us
We do not have to play host.
We can banish them with forgiveness
As God, in His Largeness and Laws."
- August Wilson
1. After reading the poem, what happens to a child based on his or her ancestors (fathers)?
2. What do you think the phrase, "the sins of our fathers," means? Explain in your own words (RL.9-10.2).
3. A host is someone who is in charge of an event or gets you seated at an event or a location such as a restaurant or broadway theater. What do you think the the expression "to play host" mean? Explain in your own words (L.9-10.6).
4. The word banish means to get rid of, to erase or to destroy. What does the sentence "We can banish them with forgiveness" mean? Which noun in the poem is the antecedent for the pronoun them in this sentence? (L.9-10.3)
5. What does the statement "As God, in his Largeness and Laws" mean? Explain in your own words (RL.9-10.2).
For the share, my students will be looking at the use of prefixes and suffixes. This is aligned to L.7.4b. This is a great opportunity for us to explore these frequently confused words, and to emphasize the importance of this poem whose theme will play a pivotal role in the performance assessment for this unit.
EPI = Greek for "UPON"
GRAM = short and clever statement
GRAPH = quotation at the beginning of a chapter or text to suggest the theme or main idea of the text
TAPH = brief inscription on a monument or tombstone
1. The EPI_______ for the tomb of the actor who gave his voice as Bugs Bunny is "That's All Folks!"
2. The EPI_______at the beginning of the play "A Raisin in the Sun" is "What happens to a dream deferred?" by Langston Hughes. This poem emphasizes an important theme in the play, deferred dreams.
3. "I have a dream" is a famous EPI_______ from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
For this part of the lesson, students will write explanatory text on post-its as they react to the visual. This task is aligned to W.9-10.10. I use post-its for my students to share their interactions with the visuals because it is an effective way to record an immediate response or stimulus, and it serves as a tangible evidence of a student's response. In addition, my students love using them!
I ask my students to respond to the following prompt based on the key facts and video below: Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball in 1947 and he retired in 1957. How do you think Jackie Robinson felt being the first African-American to integrate Major League Baseball?
Key Facts about Jackie Robinson
1. Born in Georgia (son of sharecroppers)
2. Went to Junior College and UCLA
3. Played several sports (track and field, football, baseball)
4. Served in World War II
5. Played in the Negro and Minor Leagues
I choose to ask about Jackie Robinson because he and his role in Major League Baseball is referenced in the text, Fences.
For this part of the lesson, students will write explanatory text on post-its as they react to the visual. This task is aligned to W.9-10.10. I use post-its for my students to share their interactions because my students receive instant gratification from sharing their thoughts with their classmates. They love the fact that they can write a response, post it on chart paper and get immediate feedback. In addition, as a teacher, I have visible and instantaneous evidence of my students' responses to an activity.
I give the following prompt to my students: 1957 World Series Milwaukee Braves beat the Yankees. Hank Aaron is the only black player on the Milwaukee Braves team. How do you think Hank Aaron felt knowing he made the home run that led to the only World Series title for the Milwaukee Braves?
Key Facts about Hank Aaron:
I ask students to examine this information about Hank Aaron because his role in Major League Baseball influences the play, Fences, just as Jackie Robinson's role does.
For this part of the lesson, students will be reading sections of the text and responding. This task is aligned to RL.9-10.3 because we are examining select lines of dialogue in Act 1 Scene 1 and analyzing how these lines reveal aspects of Troy's character. This task is partially aligned to RL.9-10.4 because we are identifying select text that exemplifies specific examples of figurative language (metaphor, imagery, personification and foreshadowing) and analyzing how they impact the meaning of the text.
Prior to starting our reading for today, my students and I will look at Question #3 from Fences Act 1 Scene 1 Part 1 so that we can review the social context of baseball as it applies to our protagonist, Troy.
Character Study and Figurative Language:
1. Read the following excerpt on Page #10 and answer the questions below.
TROY: I done seen a hundred niggers play baseball better than Jackie Robinson. Hell, I know some teams Jackie Robinson couldn't even make! What you talking about Jackie Robinson. Jackie Robinson wasn't nobody. I'm talking about if you could play ball then they ought to have let you play. Don't care what color you were. Come telling me I come along too early. If you could play...then they ought to have let you play. (Troy takes a long drink from the bottle.)
ROSE: You gonna drink yourself to death. You don't need to be drinking like that.
TROY: Death ain't nothing. I done seen him. Done wrassled with him. You can't tell me nothing about death. Death ain't nothing but a fastball on the outside corner. And you know what I'll do to that! Lookee here, Bono...am I lying? You get one of them fastballs, about waist high, over the outside corner of the plate where you can get the meat of the bat on it...and good god! You can kiss it goodbye. Now, am I lying?
a. Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to integrate Major League Baseball. Why does Troy describe Jackie in the way he does? Explain in your own words. RL.8.3
b. What can we conclude about about Troy's past from his statement, "Come telling me I come along too early. If you could play...then they ought to have let you play?" Explain in your own words. RL.8.3
c. Why do you think Troy takes a long drink from the bottle after saying..."then they ought to have let you play?" Explain in your own words. RL.8.3
d. A fastball is the most common pitch in baseball. It is thrown for speed. Pitching on the outside corner is difficult, and throwing a fastball on the outside corner is a skill that only top baseball players can master. Explain the image presented in the metaphor, "Death ain't nothing but a fastball on the outside corner" in your own words. RL.9-10.4
2. Death is presented as a character in the play. This is an example of personification. . Describe death in your own words based on the dialogue on Pages #10-#12. RL.9-10.4
3. On Page #12, August Wilson presents Troy in a battle with Death. This is an example of foreshadowing, a hint of something to come. What can we predict may happen in the play based on the fight Troy is describing? Explain. RL.9-10.4