Who are the characters students will meet in this novel? In this lesson, students will become familiar with one particular character, through whose eyes they will read and interpret the novel. Students will make a profile of their character to introduce him or her to the rest of the class.
- Read the lesson and student content.
- Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
- Assign heterogeneous character groups that the students will work with throughout the unit. Divide the class evenly among the characters.
- Make sure you are comfortable explaining how the students will create their character profiles.
Section 1: In the Zone
- Explain that collaborating with partners and groups will be a major part of their work this year. Explain that this exercise is meant to start a discussion about how to make their collaborative work as productive and enjoyable as possible.
- Hear a few responses and keep a list of behaviors that lead to positive collaborative experiences. Try to include as many specific actions as possible: plan in advance, give feedback as you go, and so on.
- ELL: Be sure that students who come from cultures where critiquing is not regarded as something positive, understand that in this country we appreciate clear and specific feedback, and we consider it an important element in improving ourselves and our work. Take some time to explain this fact if necessary.
- Use this list to create an Expectations for Partner and Group Work class chart with your students.
- Discuss the logistics of group work: How will the transitions work in your classroom? Will students work with the people next to them, or will you assign groups? Can they turn their desks to face each other? If students will need to rearrange the desks, it may help to draw a diagram for them of what the classroom should look like when they are working in groups.
- The groups students meet in today will meet throughout their reading of the novel, so if possible, be thoughtful in how you assign them. Try to assign heterogeneous groups based on the information you have about your students’ reading and/or writing levels.
- SWD: Group work provides students with the opportunity to work cooperatively, in order to negotiate and share ideas and communicate with each other. Such group-learning settings provide SWDs a chance to hear and use language while building their communication skills.
- Keep this discussion concise, but clear: it is meant to be a reminder and a setting of expectations, but is only a prelude to the day’s work.
- Before instructing your students to move to their group, explain that you will begin the reading as a whole class before they work with their groups.
- If your students are not used to working in pairs or groups, you may want to practice transitions a few times, making sure that students know where they need to be. Some teachers refer to this as “desk Olympics.” They have several “rounds” of students moving into pairs or groups, with a very simple task to complete (e.g., “Find one movie you both enjoyed.”) while in their groupings. Time invested now in making sure students can smoothly transition from one classroom configuration to another will pay off down the road.
Think about a time when you’ve been accomplishing a task with one or more people and you were "in the zone"—working well, getting things done. This can be as simple as washing dishes with your family or as complicated as planning the senior activities for the year or building the sets for the winter musical.
- Describe what the different people did that made the work flow so smoothly.
Then share and listen to classmates’ responses and discuss what seems to lead to positive collaborative experiences.
Section 2: How Do You Really Know a Person?
- After students have had a few minutes to brainstorm, you may wish to stop the groups and review the responses that have been shared. They will be creating profiles for the characters they read about today, so it is important that they think about the kinds of things that can be shared in an online space.
The groups you are working in now will be your character groups for the rest of this unit. As you work together, be mindful of what you just discussed about collaboration: your ability to work with each other will lead to a much more interesting and successful experience throughout this unit.
For your first character group task, brainstorm with your group members:
- How do you really know a person? List the things you would look for if you were trying to judge a person’s character, both in person and in an online profile.
Share your best responses.
Section 3: Character Synopses
- The Character Synopses contains synopses of eight of the major characters in Things Fall Apart. Assign one character to each group. If you have fewer than eight groups, choose one or more characters to leave out. If you prefer to include different or additional characters, you may do so.
- Some of the characters don’t appear until later in the novel, and one character (Unoka) died 10 years before the events of the novel. Regardless of whether a character appears in any particular chapter or scene, students are meant to consider how their character would perceive the events of that chapter. How would Unoka view Okonkwo’s punishment? How would the missionaries view it? These are useful questions, and students can view things “in character” even when their character doesn’t directly participate.
Throughout this unit, your group will be reading the novel through the eyes of one of its characters. While you will be considering the characters, conflicts, and themes of the novel as a whole, you will regularly think and write about how your character would view various people and events. Ultimately, you will complete a longer writing assignment from the point of view of your character. Today’s goal is to get to know your character.
Carefully read through the description of your character. Take notes and discuss with your group as you read. Answer the following questions, using evidence from the text to support your responses.
- What kind of person is your character?
- What are his or her strengths and weaknesses?
- What are the most important values he or she holds?
- What are his or her family background, social status, and personal history?
- What are the most important conflicts in his or her life?
Section 4: Character Profile
- Together with your group members, create a profile for your character.
- Be sure to include such things as family, friends, likes and dislikes, and some introductory statements that the character might make about him- or herself. Your profile should be directly connected to the text you have read. Share your profile with your teacher and classmates.
- The purpose of this activity is to help students begin to get “in character.” Through various writing assignments and discussions they will need to see the world through their characters’ eyes. As you circulate, make sure that they are writing in the character’s point of view rather than putting their own judgment on the character.
- SWD: If you find that some students are having a hard time writing from the character’s point of view rather than from their own point of view, share with them some tricks such as, “Close your eyes and imagine you are…” or “Now, what would _ say in this situation?” Monitor that they are able to do this.
Show what you now know about your character.
- Together with your group members, create a profile for your character.
Be sure to include such things as family, friends, likes and dislikes, and some introductory statements that the character might make about himself or herself. Your profile should be directly connected to the text you have read. Share your profile with your teacher and classmates.
Section 5: Character Profiles
- Consider having students move back to their original seats before the Whole Group Discussion, if you think they need the additional structure to transition out of “group” mode to “whole class” mode.
- Try to hear at least one response that represents each character.
- If you have not had time to complete this discussion in class, have your students write briefly on these questions for homework, and open the next lesson with a quick share.
Take a few minutes to read through the character profiles created by your classmates. Then discuss the following questions with your classmates.
- What were the major things you learned about your character?
- How did you decide what to include in your character profile?
- Do you believe your character profile fairly represents your character? Why or why not?
- Which characters stand out to you most?
Section 6: Three Questions
- You may want to have students save and return to these questions later in the unit, as they begin to brainstorm for their Things Fall Apart narrative. Their initial questions, and the answers they found, may be useful as they try to decide the most important traits of their character.
Make a list.
- What three questions do you have about your character—either about his or her past, or about how he or she will react to the culture clash you will read about in the novel?
Section 7: Personal Journal - Entry #3
- Many entries will ask for some kind of comparison between students’ lives and the novel. These entries and this thinking will help them when they begin to write their personal narratives in the second part of the writing project.
Complete another personal journal entry.
- How is your character similar to or different from you? How would you react if faced with the conflicts outlined in the profile?