Unveiling the Familial and Financial Bonds Between Troy and Gabriel in Fences, Act 1 Scene 2

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SWBAT analyze the character of Troy based on his interactions with Gabriel by examining the external conflict, importance of money vs. the importance of family, using the summarizing strategy SWBST.

Big Idea

Am I my brother's keeper? Troy's conscience will tell you the truth!

Lesson Rationale and Standards Alignment

In today's lesson, we will be looking at my students' progress with the development of their speaking and listening skills, focusing on their use of the discussion starters (SL.9-10.1). In addition, I will be introducing a summarizing strategy that focuses on conflict, SWBST ( RL.9-10.2 and RL.9-10.3).

I am choosing to examine the external conflict, the importance of family vs the importance of money because Troy's relationship with his brother plays a central role in the plot of the play.  Troy is able to purchase a home because of his brother's disability check received from the federal government, and Troy is able to sustain his lifestyle based on Gabriel's monthly stipend from the government as well. In addition, Troy's character faces a significant challenge especially from his wife Rose when he chooses to sign the paper allowing the authorities to put Gabriel in a mental institution in exchange for half of Gabriel's monthly stipend.  Finally, when the play concludes, ironically, it is Gabriel who presents Troy's spirit to St. Peter at the pearly gates presenting us with a compelling reason for future probing regarding Troy's demise and his final resting place.

In terms of the unit's goals, today's lesson sets the stage for the unfolding of a key summarizing strategy, SWBST, which will be thoroughly unveiled over the course of three lessons.



10 minutes

For this section of the lesson, students will complete a journal entry focusing on the the following writing prompt. The purpose of the writing activity is to activate students' personal beliefs about money and family, as this may be a characteristic they may or may not share with Troy. Finding out they may or may not have a quality in common with Troy will allow them to develop a connection with the protagonist in the play. This task is aligned with W.9-10.10.

In today's lesson, my students and I will be looking at a scene in the play where Troy expresses guilt based on how he received the money to buy his home. We learn more about how Troy is reacting to losing the monthly rent since Gabriel's new landlord is Troy's neighbor. The scene provides conflicting and contradictory aspects to Troy's character and his personality, so I want my students to recognize prior to reading the scene how these conflicting views play a role in every human's life.

Journal Entry:

Should people focus on making money or or getting along with their family members?

Please explain in your own words.


I am including samples of student work: Student #1 and #2 and Student#3 and Student#4.



20 minutes

For this part of the lesson, my students will continue to develop their speaking and listening skills, moving from W.6.1c to W.9-10.1c. We will start with the discussion starters from the discussion ticket.

My student will try to categorize Troy's relationships with the characters they have met so far in the text. They will look at these relationships and identify what they can say about Troy based on these relationships. To prepare for the share, they may use a graphic organizer to organize their thoughts.

They will listen to the oral responses of their peers. Then, they will choose one discussion starter from the discussion ticket that they would like to complete for one of their peers' responses. They will complete the response and share it with the class.

For this lesson, everyone (including the teachers) shared his or her response and we selected one student which everyone would write a response for using the discussion starters. Then, everyone shared his or her written response orally. 

In encouraging everyone to share, I am modeling the use of a variety of sentence starters to encourage my students to move from the basic responses, agreeing and disagreeing with your peers. I hope at the end of today's lesson to be a SL.7.1c. where students are asking questions of their peers and adding to someone else's idea.

The discussion starters are listed below:

AGREE: I agree with __________ because...

DISAGREE: I disagree with __________because...

ASK A QUESTION: I would like to ask _______ a question about her opinion. ______________?

EXPLAIN: ___________, can you explain what you meant when you said__________?

ADD TO SOMEONE'S IDEAS: I would like to add the following to ________'s idea. __________

I am including student samples for this task: Share #1- Share#3.

(Please note: Share #2 is a teacher response.

Engagement: Introducing Summarizing Strategy Focusing on Conflict (Day 1 of 2)

10 minutes

PowToon Presentation of SWBST:


In this section of the lesson, I want my students to start learning how to express the central conflicts in the play using a summarizing strategy SWBST. This task is partially aligned to RL.9-10.3 and RL.9-10.2. 



Though this task is not directly connected to the conflicts we will be discussing in the text, after mentioning these interesting details about the writer's craft, it is a great moment to throw out a question about the central conflict in this scene, (the importance of money vs the importance of family). I can ask the students which character do they feel thinks family is important and which character thinks money is important. We will be looking at Rose, Troy, Cory and Gabriel.


I want my students to recognize that writer use techniques to "present" their ideas. I chose to briefly mention the allusion and metaphor because it is a teachable moment in the text, and one that sets the stage for the discussion about the meaning of fences, which is also the title, later in the play. Therefore, I don't want my students to miss these moments in the play: the allusion and metaphor used to open the scene as well the irony resulting from the writer's structure of the beginning of the scene. This task is partially aligned to L.9-10.6 and RL.9-10.5


I will ask my students to explain the metaphor from the song that Rose sings,“Jesus, be a fences all around me everyday," focusing on what the fence represents in the statement (RL.9-10.4). Then, we will look at how the scene transitions from Jesus being a fence to the playing of numbers (gambling) and explain the irony in the structure of the scene: move from asking for Jesus’ security built on faith to talking about playing the numbers (chance/luck). 

Then, I will introduce SWBST focusing on Troy, Rose and Cory. I will explain to my students that we will be looking at the conflicts with Gabriel based on his relationship with Troy. The results reveal several conflicts in the play. This task is aligned to RL.9-10.3

Shared Reading and Writing

40 minutes

During this section of the lesson, students will be reading Act 1 Scene 2 of Fences.


They will identify external conflicts between Troy and Gabriel using SWBST.


Then, my students will write explanatory texts about the external conflicts between the characters, Troy and Gabriel. They will describe the conflict in their own words using SWBST and they will tell us what they learned about based on how he is interacting with Gabriel.


This task is aligned to W.9-10.10 and RL.9-10.3. This task is aligned to RL.9-10.3 because we can understand a person's personality and character best when we examine them in moments of conflict and strife.

I am including a sample student response written for homework for this task: Student#1.