LP - Their Eyes Were Watching God - .Page 1 Lesson Plan: Their Eyes Were Watching God

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    studysync.com Lesson Plan: Their Eyes Were Watching God


    1. Engage students in the plot, characters, themes, setting, and language of Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God so that they are prepared to discuss and write about the excerpt and/or the whole novel.

    2. Practice and reinforce the following Grade 11-12 ELA Common Core Standards for reading literature, writing, language, and speaking/listening:

    READING: LITERATURE RL.11-12.1-7, 9-10

    WRITING W.11-12.1-6

    LANGUAGE L.11-12.5


    Time 155 minutes (with up to an additional 170 minutes of extension possibilities) Materials SyncTV Premium Lesson on Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God Overview Though it was well-received critically when it was first published in 1937, Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God did not enjoy commercial success until many decades later, when universities and black studies programs finally rediscovered the novel as a seminal work in 20th century African-American literature. It tells the story of Janie Crawford, a black woman living in early 20th century Florida, and her voyage of self-discovery. Against this milieu the story explores timeless themes, including relationships, community and the quest for individuality. The excerpt defines Janie and her past through the scandalized and amused reactions of her neighbors, a chorus of gossips, upon her unexpected return. Close examination of this text will prepare students to develop thoughtful responses to higher-level literary texts, and to write thoughtful, informed, and textually-rooted responses, consistent with the ELA Common Core Standards for the high school grades.

    StudySync Lesson Plan Their Eyes Were Watching God

  • Page 2

    studysync.com Lesson Plan: Their Eyes Were Watching God

    Background (15 minutes)

    1. Watch the Preview (SL.11-12.1-2). As a group, watch the video preview of the premium lesson. Use the following questions to spur discussion following the preview:

    a. What do the images in the preview tell you about the story? As a group, infer what you think this story will be about based on the tableau in the preview. Who will the principal characters be? Where will it take place?

    b. Think about the music in the preview. What does the music suggest about the excerpt you're about to read? Does it suggest any specific time period or social class?

    c. At the end of the preview a question is posed: How much privacy should you have to give up to be a member of a community? Do we forego certain rights to privacy when we enter into a social group?

    Extension (additional 30 minutes)

    d. Discuss (SL.11-12.1). Which is more important to you: having a private life, or being a member of a community? How can we negotiate these two human desires? Is one ultimately more important than the other? On a personal level, are you more extroverted or more introverted? Do you prefer to talk about your experiences and emotions, or would you rather keep them to yourself? Encourage an in-class discussion about these various topics.

    Engaging the Text (140 minutes)

    2. Read the Text (40 minutes)

    a. Read and Annotate (RL.11-12.1-5, 10). As students read the introduction and excerpt from Their Eyes Were Watching God, have them annotate with any questions or reactions to the text. Some passages will require re-reading in order to parse their meaning. The language may be dense and figurative; likewise, the dialogue is dialect-heavy and it may be helpful for students to hear the dialogue read out loud. Encourage them to examine and annotate any passages that are difficult to understand. Student responses are visible to the teacher after the students submit their writing assignments or beforehand if using the Mimic function to access the students accounts.

    b. Discuss (RL.11-12.1-5 and SL.11-12.1). Have students meet in small groups or pairs and briefly discuss their responses they had while reading. Have them share their own responses with each other. Discuss the characters that are introduced in this excerpt, and their attributes. Highlight any problem quotes or passages and elicit responses. Be sure to encourage a variety of observations among the class.

    Extension (additional 20 minutes) c. Listen and Discuss (RL.11-12.1-5 and SL.11-12.1-3). As a class, listen to the audio

    reading of the text. What are some of the different effects of reading the text silently versus hearing it read aloud? What words does the author use to develop the characters and setting? Does the audio reading help the listener visualize the speakers? How?

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    studysync.com Lesson Plan: Their Eyes Were Watching God

    d. Comprehend (RL.11-12.1-6). Have students complete the multiple-choice questions. Collect papers or discuss answers as a class.

    3. Watch SyncTV (40 minutes)

    a. Watch. Either watch the SyncTV discussion associated with Their Eyes Were Watching God as a class or ask students to watch it on their individual computers.

    b. Focus (RL.11-12, 1-5). Pay special attention to the portion of the episode from 2:453:30, as students discuss how Janie and the group are represented. Think about how Hurston characterizes the group versus how she characterizes Janie. Is the group a character? How does Janie stand out from the rest? How does Hurston make this distinction?

    c. Focus (RL.11-12.1-2). From 4:125:25 the students engage in a spirited debate about the right to privacy as a member of a community. Consider their opposing sides. Do we surrender privacy as members of a community? What is a fair amount of privacy to surrender? What is too much?

    d. Focus (RL.11-12.1-2). Watch the portion of the episode from 7:007:45 as the students discuss individuality and community. Do we instinctually seek out communities and strive to belong, as Liam insists? Or is striving to be a part of a community, as Spencer suggests, a fool's errand? Or is this simply a false distinction? Consider the different viewpoints.

    e. Discuss (RL.11-12.1-5 and SL.11-12.1-3). After watching the model discussion, have a conversation with the class about the ideas discussed in the SyncTV episode that stood out the most. What new thoughts do they have after hearing the students' discussion? Next, divide students into small groups (3-4 students). Move around the room monitoring the groups as students follow the SyncTV episode as a model to discuss some of the following questions:

    i. How does the group view Janie upon her return? What kinds of things do they say about her? Why do they come to this consensus about her? Do you think the things they say about her are warranted, or unjust?

    ii. One of the major themes of Their Eyes Were Watching God, as discussed

    in the SyncTV episode, is the individual vs. the collective. How does Hurston explore this theme in the excerpt? What has Janie done to break out of the collective? Do any other characters show signs of individualism? Cite specific examples from the excerpt.

    iii. The narration in the excerpt is figurative and distinct; the dialogue is

    colloquial and dialect-heavy. Why do you think Hurston's voice is so different from the voice(s) of her characters? What bearing does this storytelling choice have on the theme of the individual vs. the collective?

    iv. One of the students in the SyncTV episode mentions the term groupthink. What does this term denote? What is its significance in relation to this excerpt? How do the characters in this excerpt behave as a group? What do you think causes people to act and think as a group?

    v. Continuing on some of the ideas discussed in the video, what are some of the benefits of organizing in groups? What are some of the detriments? Do the benefits of groups outweigh the detriments, or vice versa? Do we have an innate need to organize in groups, or is the desire to conform to the collective a weakness to be overcome?

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    studysync.com Lesson Plan: Their Eyes Were Watching God

    vi. Think about the first two paragraphs of the excerpt. Hurston's figurative

    language may be difficult to pin down, but what is she saying about dreams and men? About truth and women? Why isn't she more explicit about what she's trying to say?

    Extension (additional 45 minutes) f. Write (W.11-12.3-5). Think of an experience you've had in which you felt judged by

    or ostracized from a group to which you normally belong(ed). As either an in-class or homework assignment, write a paragraph response detailing your feelings: what caused you to feel excluded, how the group responded, and how you dealt with the problems you faced. Next, in a separate paragraph, write about a time you were part of a group that judged or ostracized one of its members (other than you). Why did this happen? How did the group respond? Why do you think the group behaved the way it did? Finally, compare your feelings at both ends of the spectrum. How does it feel on one side versus the other? Is there anything you can take away from both personal experiences?

    4. Think (10 minutes)

    a. Respond (W.11-12.4, 6). Ask students to read the Think questions, watch the corresponding video clips, and respond to the questions, either in class or for homework.

    5. Write (50 minutes)

    a. Discuss (SL.11-12.1). Read the prompt you have chosen for students, and then solicit questions regarding the prompt or the assignment expectations. Whichever prompt you have chosen, make sure you are clear about the assignment expectations and the rubric by which you and the other students will be evaluating them.

    b. Organize (RL.11