To prep students' minds for our work with text comparison and to give me a sense for how well they read, I ask students to identify "signs of the [Jim Crow] times" in their most recent reading, chapters 9-10. Students write quietly while I take attendance, and then I call on volunteers to share:
So far, so good.
I segue students by explaining that we will look at a true story from the Jim Crow era today, one written by the famous author Richard Wright. Wright, I explain, grew up facing racism on a daily basis; his autobiography, Black Boy, has a lot to contribute to our consideration of the times. Students will also need to practice listening today--we have just one copy of the text. Because the text is emotionally powerful and features language inappropriate in today's classroom (though certainly realistic to the times), I choose to read it myself.
I read a short excerpt from the beginning of chapter 9, detailing Wright's experiences as a store clerk. The events are brutal, and students listen closely as I read.
With a new text fresh in our minds, I ask students to return to a standard we worked with in a previous lesson. Today, students will cross the lines between fiction and non-fiction: how are A Lesson Before Dying and the excerpt from Black Boy similar? How are they different? Which is more effective and why? In answering these questions, students are comparing two foundational American texts, focusing on the common theme of racism. By asking them to evaluate the texts, I'm providing a question to which they must respond with textual evidence from both sources, a key skill in the Common Core.
I give students the remainder of the hour to work independently so that I can check their progress with the standard.