Versions of A True Story
Facts are facts, but often there is more than one way to tell a “true” story. In this lesson, students will examine the story of the missionaries’ arrival, viewing it from different characters’ perspectives and thinking about the different true versions that can be told about one set of events.
- Read the lesson and student content.
- Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
Section 1: Impressions of the Missionaries
- In this Opening, students will begin to consider how different groups of people perceive the missionaries’ arrival in Mbanta and Umuofia. This will help them begin to consider the multiple viewpoints in this complicated story: the way things have been has not been working for all members of Umuofian and Mbantan society, yet the missionaries’ arrival is very problematic.
- Use the time discussing the Opening to review major conflicts and plot details from Part 2.
At this point, you’ve read about the introduction of the European missionaries into three communities: Abame, Mbanta, and Umuofia. You’ve seen how different characters react to and perceive these missionaries. What will different groups remember about the missionaries’ arrival?
- Take a few minutes to complete the Impressions of the Missionaries chart before discussing it with your classmates.
Section 2: Missionaries' Arrival
- Students should choose quotations that their character would be most likely to notice, and in their analysis should explain what their character’s perception would be.
- SWD: Be sure that all SWDs are engaging with this activity successfully. If they need further support, gather them and provide additional explanations.
Create a Dialectical Journal #5 and complete a Dialectical Journal entry.
- With your group, create a Dialectical Journal entry highlighting the events your group would be most likely to remember from the missionaries’ arrival. In your analysis, explain how your character would interpret each event.
Each of you should record the quotation and take notes on the analysis, even though you are working together. You will be returning to your Dialectical Journal entries for writing assignments later in the unit, and you will want to be able to access your work.
Section 3: A Factual Account
- The purpose of this activity is for students to see that factual events can be described and portrayed very differently depending on the teller’s viewpoint or bias.
- If you think your students need extra support, provide more examples of the way word choice can spin the interpretation of a story, even if the facts remain the same.
- Here, you may want to introduce your students to the difference between denotative (literal) and connotative (implied) meanings of words: there is a difference between calling someone slender, skinny, slim, or svelte, though they all mean thin.
- ELL: When introducing new words (some of these words will be new for students), remember to allow ELLs to use a dictionary. Repeat the new words at a slower pace, and write them down, asking some of the students to repeat after you. Be sure all ELLs feel comfortable with the pronunciation.
- Hear each group’s report.
- ✓ What do students notice?
- ✓ In what ways are they similar?
- ✓ How different can accounts be, using the same facts as a starting point?
- Draw students’ attention to key distinctions between the reports. Ask them to notice the effects of specific words and phrases: is the attack on Abame murder, defense, a battle, or slaughter, for example?
Using your Dialectical Journal entry to structure your account, work with your character group to complete the following task.
- Write a factual narrative from your character’s point of view describing the arrival of the missionaries in Umuofia.
Do not give many opinions; this should be a report of events. But think carefully about which events your character would choose to relay, and what language he or she would use to describe these events. For example, would your character say that the missionaries invaded ,arrived in , orbravely ventured forth into Igbo territory?
Share your report with the class. What do you notice about the different accounts? Take notes as your classmates present: pay close attention to the differences between the accounts, and to how specific word choices influence your impressions.
Section 4: Different Accounts
- If time allows, discuss the bias of factual accounts, and ask your students where they can see this kind of bias in their own lives. Do different news organizations report the news differently? Does gossip sound different depending on who it comes from?
Although each group worked with the same text and the same facts, the accounts they created were very different.
- How did the reports differ from each other?
- How can factual accounts still show a bias, depending on point of view?
- How did language and word choice influence the spin of each report?
Section 5: Personal Journal- Entry #10 and Things Fall Apart
- At this point, it’s important for students to begin to step out of character in their writing and analysis. In the final discussion, they will close by stating and defending their own opinions about who’s to blame for things “falling apart” in Umuofia.
- ELL: Be aware of cultural sensitivities in doing this activity, as your ELLs may have radically different views depending on the culture they come from.
Complete another personal journal entry.
- What is your opinion about the clash of cultures, based on what you have read so far in Things Fall Apart ? How does your opinion compare to that of your character?
Read Chapters 18 and 19 of Things Fall Apart. Continue to add to your Personal Glossary as you read.