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					                                             Lesson One


Name: Kate Zinke
Grade Level: 11
Subject Area: Language Arts
Unit: The American Hero
Text: Black Boy
Time Allotted: 60 minutes

Purpose/rationale for this lesson:
To understand the historical intersection of race, class, and educational inequality in America by
examining the themes presented in Richard Wright's autobiography. Additionally, to make connections
between the presented themes and society today.

Essential question for a semester-long unit:
Can anyone rise above society's expectations to achieve “The American Dream”?

Curriculum framing questions:
Does everyone in America have access to “The American Dream”?
Does the white American experience differ from the black American experience?
What makes an “American Hero”?


District/State/National standards
EL.HS.RE.04 Demonstrate listening comprehension of more complex text through class and/or small
group interpretive discussions across the subject areas.
EL.HS.RE.12 Distinguish between the denotative and connotative meanings of words, and interpret the
connotative power of words.
EL.HS.LI.01 Listen to text and read text to make connections and respond to historically or culturally
significant works of literature that enhance the study of other subjects.
EL.HS.LI.02 Demonstrate listening comprehension of more complex literary text through class and/or
small group interpretive discussions.
EL.HS.LI.13 Evaluate the impact of word choice and figurative language on tone, mood, and theme.
EL.HS.RE.06 Understand and draw upon a variety of comprehension strategies as needed--re- reading,
self-correcting, summarizing, class and group discussions, generating and responding to essential
questions, making predictions, and comparing information from several sources.
EL.HS.LI.06 Identify themes in literary works, and provide support for interpretations from the text.

Prior Knowledge/Background Information:
Students will have previously discussed the notion of “The American Dream”, and will have a
relatively strong understanding of themes, motifs, and symbols. Additionally, students will have
received thorough instruction on the history of the Jim Crow period, and will have read up to chapter
13 in Black Boy (these are the last two lessons centered around this book).

Learning Objectives for the lesson:
Students will be able to identify the major themes presented in the book Black Boy, and will engage in
a discussion in which they will critically examine the ways in which society and circumstance can
influence an individual. Additionally, students will be able to identify and make similar themes in a
variety of modern day artistic mediums .

Key Concepts:
Identifying themes, motifs, and symbols in literature.
Understanding the lasting impacts of segregation and cultural racism.
Identifying and examining literary devices in a variety of texts.


Key Questions:
How does this autobiography explore the universal themes of Man vs. Society and Man vs. Man.
How does violence shape Richard's circumstances/ideals/personality?
What role does hunger play in the autobiography? How does Richard view hunger at the end of this
section? Has his attitude changed or evolved throughout the book?

Materials/Resources Needed:
A class set of the novel Black Boy
A cd player
Audio recording of Grits by the RZA

                                             Body of Lesson

Hook or Anticipatory Set

Writer's Notebook- 15 minutes
As is the class routine, the period will begin with a ten minute free write. The title of this Writer's
Notebook will be “Hunger”, the prompt for which will be the song “Grits” by the RZA. Students will
be given copies of the lyrics and will be instructed to follow along as the song plays. After listening,
students will be given the following options:

Option 1: In this song, the RZA effectively describes his impoverished- but yet sustaining-childhood
through his focus on a simple meal- grits. Can your childhood be symbolized in a type of food? Do you
have significant childhood memories centered around a certain type of food?

Option 2: Both Richard Wright and the RZA describe childhood struggles with hunger and/or
starvation; do you think such problems continue to exist in America today? Have you or anyone you
know gone without food for extended periods of time?

After the free write, at least three students will be encouraged to share their writings with the class

                                                 Grits
                               -RZA (featuring Allah Real & Masta Killa)

                                           When I was small
                                          We had nothing at all
                                      We used to eat grits, for dinner
                                               It was pain
                                       almost drive a man insane
                                          what we could find for
                                          to survive another day
                                              but I said nah...
                                An old Killa Bee once hummed me a tune
                                 Stay up at night, don't sleep on ya moon
                             Four seeds in the bed, eight seeds in the room
                            Afternoon cartoon, we would fight for the spoon
                             Old Earth in the kitchen yells "it's time to eat"
                           Across the foyer, ya hear a dozen stampeding feet
                           One pound box of sugar, and a stick of margarine
                             A hot pot of grits kept my family from starvin'
                           Loose with the welfare cheese, thick wit' the gravy
                             used to suck it, straight out the bottle as a baby
                            Steamy hot meal served in less than five minutes
                                   Big silver pot, boilin' water, salt in it
                           House full of brothers and sisters, the pop's missin'
                              Pilgrim on the box on the stove in the kitchen

                               Young shorties in my hood started hustlin'
                               Packin' bags at the neighborhood associate
                            Growin' up, not as fortunate to have that fly s***
                                  I'm too young, no jobs'll hire me legit
                           You walkin' down the street with ya gun in ya hand
                                     drinkin, thinkin' of a master plan
                             Your Old Earth can't afford what ya friends got
                          So you roll up to the spot, with ya thing 'pon cocked
                              and it seems worth the takin', stomach achin'
                           Morning Star Reggie bacon go good with the grits
                                      Now let's take it back for real
                                when we used to build ghetto big wheels
                       with the shoppin' cart wheels, and wood to nail the seat on
                                     Girls skippin' rope in the streets
                         the summer heat, left the jelly prints stuck to they feet
                              Skelly chief, flippin' baseball cards for keeps
                          Momma said it's gettin' late, and it's time to come eat


Pair Share (10 minutes)
Students will self select partners for discussion, and will be presented (one at a time on the overhead)
with the following questions from the previous nights reading:
1. What is the "white death"?
2. What advice does Griggs give Wright? Can you think of other characters that seem
to heed the same advice? Considering the circumstances of the time period, do you
agree with his advice? What would you have done?
3. Why does Wright lose his job at Crane's Optical shop? Could the situation be
handled differently? How do Pease and Reynolds intimidate Wright?

Vocabulary (12 minutes)
Students will be instructed to take out their assignment journals, which should have a chart containing
words learned from previous chapter lessons. The chart will have a section for the actual vocab word,
the definition, a section for personal association and/or definition in their own words, and a section for
the actual quote from the book. The words chosen will be for the next chapter, and should help set the
up for better comprehension while reading. Six words total.
Example:

Vocabulary Word Definition                        Personal Definition            Quote from Black Boy
Confer             Have discussions; exchange     To talk about something.       “And every time we conferred,
                   opinions (v.)                                                 we defeated ourselves.” (253)

Repugnant          Extremely distasteful (adj.)   Really gross!                  “The memory of how my father
                                                                                 had conducted himself made
                                                                                 that memory repugnant .“(256)




Reading Aloud (10 minutes)
Students will read the along with the audio recording of the final chapter of the book, and should be
actively seeking out the previously discussed vocab words.

Reading comments (5 minutes)
Students will be given time to finalize their vocabulary sheets and the ongoing reading comments in
their assignment journals. (Will be homework if not completed in class)

Book Rating (5 minutes)
Having completed the final chapter of the assigned section, students will be asked to rate the book in a
1-5 star scoring system, and will be asked to stand when their chosen rating is called out by the
instructor. A few volunteers from each group will be asked to share the rationale behind their rating.

Closure
Students will have explored the themes presented in Black Boy, and will have been encouraged to
make connections between this text and the current period.

Differentiation:
Struggling readers/ELL students will benefit from reading along with the audio recording of the book.
The two different Writer's Notebooks presented in these lessons will play to a variety of strengths and
abilities; one will allow creative students to explore decorative prose, and the more straight forward
personal option will allow all students to practice writing by taking material from their own lives.
Additionally, by choosing the student discussion groups, the instructor can effectively regulate the
grouping of skill-level, thus enabling those that may struggle with such an activity to benefit from the
strengths of their peers.

Literacy:
The pre-reading vocabulary activity will help with reading comprehension, as will the required reading
comments and auditory recording of the novel.

Assessment:
The instructor will continuously be evaluating the level of comprehension by listening to group/class
discussions, and will do a daily check of each student's reading comments. Additionally, the students
will be given an in-class essay at the end of the unit, which will assess their comprehension of the
novel, as well as their writing ability.




                                             Lesson Two
Name: Kate Zinke
Grade Level: 11
Subject Area: Language Arts
Unit: The American Hero
Text: Black Boy
Time Allotted: 60 minutes

Purpose/rationale for this lesson:
To understand the historical intersection of race, class, and educational inequality in America by
examining the themes presented in Richard Wright's autobiography. Additionally, to make connections
between the presented themes and society today.

Essential question for a semester-long unit:
Can anyone rise above society's expectations to achieve “The American Dream”?

Curriculum framing questions:
Does everyone in America have access to “The American Dream”?
Does the white American experience differ from the black American experience?
What makes an “American Hero”?


District/State/National standards
EL.HS.RE.04 Demonstrate listening comprehension of more complex text through class and/or small
group interpretive discussions across the subject areas.
EL.HS.RE.12 Distinguish between the denotative and connotative meanings of words, and interpret the
connotative power of words.
EL.HS.LI.01 Listen to text and read text to make connections and respond to historically or culturally
significant works of literature that enhance the study of other subjects.
EL.HS.LI.02 Demonstrate listening comprehension of more complex literary text through class and/or
small group interpretive discussions.
EL.HS.LI.13 Evaluate the impact of word choice and figurative language on tone, mood, and theme.
EL.HS.RE.06 Understand and draw upon a variety of comprehension strategies as needed--re- reading,
self-correcting, summarizing, class and group discussions, generating and responding to essential
questions, making predictions, and comparing information from several sources.
EL.HS.LI.06 Identify themes in literary works, and provide support for interpretations from the text.

Prior Knowledge/Background Information:
Students will have previously discussed the notion of “The American Dream”, and will have a
relatively strong understanding of themes, motifs, and symbols. Additionally, students will have
received thorough instruction on the history of the Jim Crow period, and will have read up to chapter
13 in Black Boy (these are the last two lessons centered around this book).

Learning Objectives for the lesson:
Students will be able to identify the major themes presented in the book Black Boy, and will engage in
a discussion in which they will critically examine the ways in which society and circumstance can
influence an individual. Additionally, students will be able to identify and make similar themes in a
variety of modern day artistic mediums .

Key Concepts:
Identifying themes, motifs, and symbols in literature.
Understanding the lasting impacts of segregation and cultural racism.
Identifying and examining literary devices in a variety of texts.

Key Questions:
How does this autobiography explore the universal themes of Man vs. Society and Man vs. Man.
How does violence shape Richard's circumstances/ideals/personality?
What role does hunger play in the autobiography? How does Richard view hunger at the end of this
section? Has his attitude changed or evolved throughout the book?

Materials/Resources Needed:
A class set of the novel Black Boy
A cd player
Audio recording of Black Boy

Hook or Anticipatory Set

Writer's Notebook (12 Minutes)
The Black Boy excerpt (included below) will be placed on an overhead and each section will be read
aloud by a different student. During this reading, the teacher will emphasize the author's use of sensory
details/imagery and poetic description. Students will then be instructed to use this excerpt as a model
for their journal writing, each line of which must begin with “There was the...”, and should focus
around detailed descriptions of a variety of small observations or moments.

Excerpt:
There was the   faint, cool kiss of sensuality when dew came on to my cheeks and shins as I ran down
the wet green   garden paths in the early morning.
There was the   tantalizing melancholy in the tingling scent of burning hickory wood.
There was the   yearning for identification loosened in me by the sight of a solitary ant carrying a
burden upon a mysterious journey.
There was the disdain that filled me as I tortured a delicate, blue-pink crawfish that huddled
fearfully in the mudsill of a rusty tin can.
There was the incomprehensible secret embodied in a whitish toadstool hiding in the dark shade of a
rotting log.
There was the great joke that I felt God had played on cats and dogs by making them lap their milk
and water with their tongues.
There was the hot panic that welled up in my throat and swept through my blood when I first saw the
lazy, limp coils of a blue-skinned snake sleeping in the sun.
There was the speechless astonishment of seeing a hog stabbed through the heart, dipped into
boiling water, scraped, split open, gutted, and strung up gaping and bloody.
There was the hint of cosmic cruelty that I felt when I saw the curved timbers of a wooden shack
that had been warped in the summer sun.
There was the saliva that formed in my mouth whenever I smelt clay dust potted with fresh rain.
There was the cloudy notion of hunger when I breathed the odor of new-cut, bleeding grass.
And there was the quiet terror that suffused my senses when vast hazes of gold washed earthward
from star-heavy skies on silent nights… (8)

After their free write, at least three students should share their writing with the class.


Discussion (20 minutes)
Students will be separated into previously arranged groups of four and will be handed the following
discussion questions. All students should have their books out during discussion, and each group
should designate a recorder. Students will be instructed to discuss the following questions and should
collaborate to find solid textual examples to use as evidence during the class share out.
Questions:
   1.   ”Hunger stole upon me so slowly that at first I was not aware of what hunger really meant.
        Hunger had always been more or less at my elbow when I played, but when I was five years old I
        began to wake up at night to find hunger at my bedside, staring at me” (14). What role does
        hunger play in the autobiography? How does Richard view hunger at the end of this section? Has
        his attitude changed or evolved throughout the book? Give examples.


   2.   What are the major experiences that form Richard Wright's character throughout this book? The
        book portrays Richard's journey into young adulthood; how does his character change with age?


   3.   Describe Richard's relationship with his family. Are there reasons why Richard’s family treat him
        so harshly? Does Richard have any meaningful and/or intimate relationships throughout the
        book? Discuss how this may relate to the universal themes of Man vs. Society and Man vs. Man.


   4.   4. In Chapter 13, after reading the writings of H. L. Mencken, Wright says, “This man is fighting,
        fighting with words. He uses words as a weapon, uses them like a club. Could words be
        weapons?” (248). Can words be used as weapons? In writing his autobiography, does Wright use
        “words as a weapon”? Against what?


   5.   In your opinion, by writing Black Boy, did Richard Wright accomplish his goal of “lend[ing] his
        tongue to the voiceless Negro boys of the South”? Is his story a heroic one? Why or why not?

Class Discussion (28 minutes)
Following the independent group work, the class will relocate into a circle, and will have a culminating
discussion on the above questions-with particular emphasis placed on the overarching themes of:
pervasive hunger, the power of language and literature, and the lasting effects of cultural racism. The
last 5-8 minutes of this discussion will also serve as review for the in-class essay that will take place
the follow class period; students will be reminded to review the novel and the essay prompt they
received at the beginning of the unit.


Closure
Students will have explored the themes presented in Black Boy, and will have been encouraged to
make connections between this text and the current period.

Differentiation:
Struggling readers/ELL students will benefit from reading along with the audio recording of the book.
The two different Writer's Notebooks presented in these lessons will play to a variety of strengths and
abilities; one will allow creative students to explore decorative prose, and the more straight forward
personal option will allow all students to practice writing by taking material from their own lives.
Additionally, by choosing the student discussion groups, the instructor can effectively regulate the
grouping of skill-level, thus enabling those that may struggle with such an activity to benefit from the
strengths of their peers.

Literacy:
The pre-reading vocabulary activity will help with reading comprehension, as will the required reading
comments and auditory recording of the novel.

Assessment:
The instructor will continuously be evaluating the level of comprehension by listening to group/class
discussions, and will do a daily check of each student's reading comments. Additionally, the students
will be given an in-class essay at the end of the unit, which will assess their comprehension of the
novel, as well as their writing ability.

				
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