Read, Think, Talk, Repeat: Analyzing A Lesson Before Dying in Class

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SWBAT make inferential claims regarding the time period and events of A Lesson Before Dying by reading, writing, and discussion in class.

Big Idea

Thoughtful reading requires focused time--read-write-share for success.

A Note on Sub Plans

Do Now: Signs of Racism

10 minutes

To get students focused and show they will be accountable even with a substitute teacher, I ask them to write to answer the following question: how has racism appeared so far? Give textual support in your response. Students will have to make an inferential point about how much or how little racism has impacted the story and offer details to support; as a bonus, I will see who has been reading and who has not--those who have not read will likely struggle to find adequate support in the allotted time for the activity.

Some results are unfortunately vague:

"The African American characters aren't treated nicely by the white characters because it's in the South."

Other students make many observations, some old and some new:

  • the trial itself reveals the unfair nature of the time, an all-white jury for a possible innocent young African American man
  • Grant and the others must use the back door of the Pichot house
  • Grant and the others are made to feel unwelcome rather than supported by the Pichot house residents
  • Bayonne has segregated facilities
  • children in school have no hope for the future other than slave-like field work
  • and more

So far, students are picking up on the obvious signs of racism; as we move forward, my challenge will be helping them see the more subtle signs to come.


40 minutes

Chapter 6 is an important chapter; Grant returns to the Pichot house to learn whether or not he will be able to visit Jefferson, and he is not treated well at all. For the concepts of racism and manhood, it is a must read and therefore is a good selection for in-class read-write-share.

In read-write-share, students read aloud, pause to write a reflection about what was just read, and then briefly share out in whole-class discussion. This activity keeps students focused and produces thoughtful reading. I want my sub to keep my class engaged for as long as possible, so I instruct him to choose his own stopping point: if they are reading quickly, stop more often to get them to slow down, think and share; if they are reading slowly or discussing for a long time, pause less often. When students stop to write, they should simply write about what stands out to them; this will allow a wide range of responses and, as I've seen in previous classes, engaging discussion. This class likes to share their thoughts when they have more freedom to respond.


For our next class, I ask students to read chapters 7-8, focusing on the role of education in this society.