Using SWBT to Reveal Characters' Reasons for Their Actions in Fences, Act 2 Scene 1

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SWBAT analyze how complex characters with conflicting motivations, like Troy Maxson, interact with other characters by using a SWBT graphic organizer

Big Idea

What motivates characters to act? SWBT will tell you!


In today's lesson, we will be looking at a variation of SWBST called SWBT.

SWBT focuses on identifying a characters' motivation for his or her actions and answers the "why" of a character's actions. (RL.9-10.3). We will be examining the motivations of several characters in Fences using SWBT.

I am choosing to focus on the SWBST graphic organizer again, even though I am looking at a variation (SWBT) because when we examine a character's motivations, it helps us to understand the reasons for the conflicts that occur when they interact with other characters. For a conflict to exist, there must be a struggle between two opposing forces. Therefore, understanding the reasons for each opposing force's actions makes the conflict clear to the reader. In addition, it helps my students (the readers) to develop empathy for the characters as they get to know them on a more intimate level.

Most importantly, we are looking at SWBT because having an understanding of a characters' motivations will help us to understand the central ideas in the text( RL.9-10.2), how a father's sins influence his son, which is essential for our performance assessment  in this unit.



Warmup + Share

15 minutes

For the Warmup, my students and I will looking at Troy and Bono more closely through their dialogue. We are conducting a closer reading of text by cutting and pasting sections of statements made in several conversation between Troy and Bono throughout the play. We will then be drawing conclusions and making inferences about the characters based on their conversation( RL.9-10.1 and RL.9-10.3).

After my students write their responses (W.9-10.10), they will share them with their peers. We will focus on students reading their responses, and having their peers respond based on whether they agree or disagree. This is aligned to SL.7.1a and SL.7.1c. When students asks questions about a peer's response, I will direct them to the discussion tickets. They can use the sentence starters for asking a question and explaining a point.


Warmup + Share:

Read the following excerpts from the play focusing on the dialogue between Troy and  Bono about “The Alberta gal.”. Then, answer the questions that follow.


Act 1 Scene 1:

BONO: How you figure he (Brownie) be making out with that gal be up at Taylor’s all the time...that Alberta gal?

Troy: Same as you and me...

Bono: ...I figure you be doing a little better than me…I see where you be eyeing her.

Troy: I eye all the women…Bono: You be doing more than eyeing her. You done bought her a drink or two...

Bono:I see you be walking up around Alberta’s house. You supposed to be at Taylor’s and you be walking up around there.

Troy: What you watching where I’m walking for? I ain’t watching after you.


Act 1 Scene 4:

Bono: I see you run down to Taylors’ and told that Alberta gal.

Troy: (Calling) Hey, Rose! (To Bono) I told everybody. (Calling to Rose) Hey, Rose! I went down there to cash my check.


Act 2 Scene 1:

Bono: I see where you and that Tallahassee gal...that Alberta...I see where you done got tight.

Bono: I see where you be laughing and joking with her all the time.

Troy: I laughs and jokes, with all of them, Bono. You know me.

Bono: That ain’t the kind of laughing and joking I’m talking about.



a. What do we learn about Bono from his observations of  Troy’s actions? Explain in your own words using evidence from the dialogue

b. What does Troy reveal about himself in his responses to Bono?  Explain in your own words using evidence from the dialogue

This is a sample of a student response shared with her peers: Student Work




Engagement (SWBT)

20 minutes

High Expectations:

For this part of the lesson, I will be introducing SWBT to analyze character relationships and motivations thus far in the play. Since many of my students responded positively to SWBST , we will be looking at SWBT as a class and discussing it together.We are focusing on identifying a character's motivation which is aligned to RL.9-10.3. 

I am choosing to focus on SWBT instead of SWBST  because when we look at a character's motivations, it takes us one step closer to understanding the reasons for the conflicts they encounter as they interact with other characters. Understanding the reason for a character's actions helps my students to develop a deeper understanding of a character as well as a thorough assessment of the components of the conflicts between the characters that propels the plot of a story.

This is the result of the class discussion written by a student: Result of SWBT

Shared Reading and Writing

20 minutes

For this part of the lesson, we will be reading Pages 57-58 and 65-72 in Fences in orderto "zero in" on the characters' motivations by looking at a characters' reasons desiring what they want, and their choices as a result of the obstacles they face. My students will take roles in the play and we will be using SWBT to identify the character's motivations in Act 2 Scene 1.This is aligned to RL.9-10.3.  

This a copy of the notes written by a student: Student Notes. Based on the student's response, we are able to understand "what" motivates" Cory to quit his job at the A&P to play football.

We are focusing on RL.9-10.3 because we are building up to the climax of the play. Therefore, it is important for my students to see how Troy's motivation to be with Alberta (cheating on Rose) builds tension in his relationship with Bono, and eventually leads to the highest emotional moment in the play (when Troy reveals his relationship with Alberta to Rose and refuses to leave Alberta). It is important for my students to see that when the motivations of two or more characters collide, conflicts occur (RL.9-10.3). It is equally important for my students to understand that "how" a character handles conflict can either suppress or ignite the conflict because tensions build up when characters face opposing wants or motivations, and no one is willing to acquiesce or "back down" in any way. When we arrive at the outcome of the story, this lesson will become even more critical because they will be able to reflect on Troy's choices along the way, and be able to even determine whether he could have changed the outcome of his circumstances. 


For homework, my students will be describing the relationship between Troy and Bono in Act 1 Scene 1 and Act 2 Scene 1. Then, they will compare the relationship in both scenes. I want them to look for evidence to support their interpretation of the dialogue (RL.9-10.1) and I want them to see Troy's conflicting motivations in his interactions with Bono. (RL.9-10.3). In their first conversation in Act 1 Scene 1, Troy led the conversation, dismissing all of Bono's suspicions about Alberta; however, in the second conversation in Act 2 Scene 1, it is Bono who is leading the conversation and Troy is unsuccessfully trying to dodge Troy's advice regarding ending his affair with Alberta.

This is a copy of student's assignment: Homework#1 and Homework#2