Analyzing Character Perception
What defines a community? In this lesson, students will begin to analyze the Umuofuan community, where Okonkwo lives. Students will think about how their character perceives this community, and consider how they perceive the community they belong to.
- Read the lesson and student content.
- Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
Section 1: Community
- Today’s lesson will ask students to figure out as much as they can about Umuofian society based on the two chapters they have read. This Opening Quick Write is intended to help them think about what kinds of things they can be looking for in the text; it will also serve as the starting point for the personal journal entry they write for homework.
- Limit the Quick Write to 3–5 minutes; it is meant to serve as a discussion starter.
- As the class shares, keep a list of things that define a community. These can include religious rituals, gender roles, markers of status or success, family structure, folklore and wisdom, and so on. This will help them as they do the assignment for the day.
- ELL: As ELLs share, be sure to allow them to explain any rituals, roles, markers of status, or any other aspect of a community that seems to be different than those in the United States. Encourage all students to listen attentively and to ask questions as needed.
Complete a Quick Write. You do not have to try to answer every question. Rather, you should answer the ones you feel most strongly about.
- If you were going to describe your community to someone who was not familiar with it, what details would you share?
- Think about the things you take for granted, but someone else might not know: how does a person earn respect—through athletic prowess, academic success, kindness, accumulation of wealth, something entirely different?
- What does it mean to succeed? Does “success” mean something different for men versus women?
- How do children interact with their parents? With their friends?
- How does the community react when something bad happens, or celebrate when something good happens?
- How does a person know that he or she is part of this community?
Share your work and your response with your classmates. What defines a community?
Section 2: Dialectical Journal
- Help students understand the Dialectical Journal. In the Quotation column, students should copy an important quotation from the text. In the Significance column, students should write their thoughts, reactions, or questions about the quotation. They should demonstrate their understanding of what the quotation means, how it connects to the topic, and why it is important.
- Model Dialectical Journals for the students in a Read Aloud.
- ✓ Enter “Clues About Umuofian Society” as the topic.
- ✓ Then select one to two quotations that reveal something about Umuofian society and analyze them. An example is already provided in the Dialectical Journal.
- SWD: Monitor that all SWDs are engaging in the activity productively and successfully. If that is not the case, explain Dialectical Journals again, and/or assist students create them.
- Other possible annotations from the beginning of Chapter 1:
- ✓ Okonkwo’s “fame rested on solid personal achievements”: This shows that in Umuofian society, achievement, rather than birth, is the way to gain fame.
- ✓ “As a young man of eighteen he had brought honor to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat”: This line shows two important things. First, the village is a key unit, and the accomplishments of individuals reflect on the community. Secondly, it shows us that physical prowess—such as a wrestling victory—is very important.
- ✓ “…the founder of their town engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days and seven nights”: This shows that there are legends about the founding of the town, and that a “spirit of the wild” is a worthy opponent. How do Umuofians view nature?
- ✓ “He had a slight stammer and whenever he was angry and could not get his words out quickly enough, he would use his fists”: This shows that violence has at least some place in Umuofian society; Okonkwo is well respected, even though it seems that he often jumps to using his fists.
- ✓ Unoka “owed every neighbor some money”: This shows that Umuofians do take care of each other. Even though Unoka is known to be lazy and unable to gain wealth, all his neighbors have lent him money—probably knowing they were unlikely to get it back.
Today you will examine the first two chapters of Things Fall Apart , looking for clues about Umuofian society.
One way to interact with important parts of a text is by using a Dialectical Journal . A Dialectical Journal is a chart where you list key lines or quotations from the text and comment on their significance or ask questions about them.
- Create a Dialectical Journal #1 in your notebook.
- Work with your teacher to come up with a couple of examples of Dialectical Journal entries for Things Fall Apart .
- Ask your teacher any questions you have about how to complete three more entries on your own.
Section 3: Things Fall Apart, Chapters 1 and 2
- Model adding at least one entry to the Personal Glossary, which students should have begun for homework. You might want to ask several students to share the words they looked up for their homework assignment. Remind students that they will be responsible for adding to their glossary with each reading assignment; as you progress through the novel, the journal entries, and the writing assignments, encourage students to use their newly acquired vocabulary.
- As you circulate, look for examples of excellent Dialectical Journals. You may want to pause the class to share an exemplar if you see one, as this is the students’ first time with this kind of assignment.
- SWD: As you circulate, be sure that all students are able to write the journals appropriately. If you find that some students need support, consider grouping those that need extra help and work with them as a way of supporting them.
With your character group, continue looking for clues about Umuofian society in Chapters 1 and 2 of Things Fall Apart .
- Record and define unfamiliar vocabulary words, adding to the Personal Glossary you began for homework.
- Add at least three quotations to your Dialectical Journal.
Your group may choose to split up the chapters so that all sections are covered and you don’t repeat each other.
Section 4: Umuofian Society
- Let students know that this discussion will help them with their Closing writing assignment.
- Try to hear from each group, if possible. The main goal here is to make sure students have a common and thorough understanding of some of the important facets of Umuofian society.
Share your findings with your group, and discuss.
- What are the defining characteristics of Umuofian society?
- Are there any ideas that come up repeatedly in this chapter?
- How would your character describe this society—would he or she like it? Why or why not?
Share some of your findings with your class.
Section 5: Character Journal Entry
- Remind students that their community group has one member from each character group; they should read the responses that other community group members share to get a more rounded interpretation of the events of the novel.
Complete a character journal entry in your notebook from your character’s point of view.
- What does your character believe about Umuofian society?
Be sure to use direct references to the text. Share this journal entry with your community group.
Section 6: Personal Journal - Entry #5 and Things Fall Apart
- You may want to do spot checks of the community group entries, checking in with several each day and leaving some commentary of your own.
Complete another personal journal entry.
- Look back at your description of your community from the Opening. What qualities of your community do you particularly like or dislike? Describe a time when you either fit in to the norms for your community, or stood out for one reason or another. Was this fitting in or standing out an intentional choice? Why did you do so, and what was the effect?
Return to your community group’s entries and read through those from this lesson. Continue the conversation, commenting on at least one other entry or reply.
Read Chapters 3 and 4 of Things Fall Apart . Continue to add to your Personal Glossary as you read.