What has “fallen apart” in this novel, and who’s to blame for this destruction? Could Okonkwo’s fate have been avoided? Could Umuofian society have held together better? How? In this lesson, students will participate in a discussion to reflect on and attempt to answer these questions and others.
- Read the lesson and student content.
- Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
Things Fall Apart
- You may want to introduce students to William Butler Yeats’s poem, “The Second Coming.” In it, he quotes the title of Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart as the pivotal line in the poem to transition from a tone of heightened tension to despair.
- Keep track of students’ responses; they will enrich the coming discussion. Responses may include Umuofian tradition; Okonkwo’s self-esteem; traditional religious beliefs; family structures, etc.
Complete a Quick Write.
- Why do you think the title of the novel is Things Fall Apart ? Looking at the discussion preparation you did for homework, what do you think are the two most important things that have fallen apart? What—or who—caused these changes, and why are they so important?
Share your responses with your classmates.
- Remind students that everyone, whether in the inner or outer circle, is responsible for actively participating.
- ELL: It will be very important to provide some ELLs with sentence frames to help them participate in this activity more productively. To maintain a respectful tone, you might want to present a sentence frame such as, “I understand what you are saying and I agree with that. I would like to add that…”; or “I understand your point, but I still see that you were responsible for…”; or “I think you could have avoided the problem by…but you didn’t.”
- SWD: To give their opinion, some SWDs could use the sentence frame, “In my opinion…” or “This is my opinion….”
- You may want to have two rounds of discussion in order to make sure that everyone has had a turn in the inner circle.
- SWD: Having two rounds of discussion will be very supportive for many students. In addition, allow some students extra time to prepare for the discussion if feasible and if needed.
Review the following discussion protocol with your teacher. Ask any questions you have.
This discussion will be very similar to the other two, with representatives from each character group in the inner circle and everyone else observing from the outer circle. However, there will be a few key differences.
- Your teacher will take less of a role in facilitating this discussion. You and your classmates will bear most of the responsibility. Remember to build on each other’s ideas, to ask each other questions, and to use references to the text to support your arguments.
- This discussion is inherently more antagonistic than the other two, as characters will be blaming each other for what has gone wrong. Even as your characters blame each other, try to maintain a positive and respectful tone.
- In the last few minutes of the discussion, you may step out of character and give your own opinion. Think about whether your opinion was influenced by reading through the eyes of your character.
- Allow your students some time to confer and complete final preparations. Remind them to be prepared with textual evidence to support their arguments.
Prepare for the class discussion.
- Compare your preparation notes with your group members and make any last minute plans about strategy. A different speaker will represent your group this time.
Who?s to Blame?
- Display the discussion questions in the classroom.
- As before, you will want to rearrange the furniture so that there can be an inner circle of students speaking and an outer circle of students listening.
- You may want to leave an empty chair in the inner circle, allow students to “tap in,” or hold a 3-minute break in between discussion rounds to increase student involvement.
- For the final discussion in this unit, your students should be taking most of the responsibility for facilitation.
- It may be a good idea to have a timer visible so that students know how much time they have remaining.
- You may want to ask students to step out of character in the final few minutes of the discussion, to allow them to give their own opinions about who is to blame. You might ask them if their opinions were influenced by reading so closely through their particular character’s eyes.
- After the discussion is over, take a few minutes to debrief with the class. Ask the outer circle students for their observations.
Send your representative to the inner circle for the discussion! Whether you are speaking or listening, you should pay close attention and take notes in order to be able to analyze the discussion later. If you’re in the outer circle, use Outer Circle Tasks 3 for your notes.
- What has fallen apart in Umuofia? Who’s to blame? How did that person or group cause this change? What, if anything, could or should have been done differently?
- Who does your character blame? Why? How might that person defend him or herself?
- Who might blame your character? Why? How can your character defend him- or herself?
The Message of Things Fall Apart
- Try to leave time to hear a few responses.
Write a reflection.
- Based on your reading, writing, and discussions, what do you think is the ultimate message or lesson of Things Fall Apart ? What do you think was Achebe’s goal in writing it, and do you think he achieved this goal?
- If you think particular students need additional support, you might comment on some of their entries that you think could develop into strong narratives.
For the remainder of the unit, you will work on writing narratives: one from the point of view of your character, and one from your own point of view.
- Before the next lesson, take some time to review your journal entries and the text of your community group entries, marking parts that you think would make good fodder for your future writing.