English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Characters
  • Grade 12 ELA
  • Novels
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Why do we tell painful stories?

    Why do we tell painful stories?


    Why do we tell painful stories? In this lesson, students read an article about Chinua Achebe, the writer of Things Fall Apart, in order to figure out his motivation for writing this novel and to learn about the issues facing Nigeria in the late 1800s.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Make sure that you are familiar with how to access and annotate readings and save your annotations; you will be teaching the students how to do so in this lesson.

    Guiding Questions

    Have students share their responses to the Guiding Questions with their classmates.

    * * ELL: In sharing observations with their classmates, monitor that some ELLs do not avoid this activity by not volunteering and staying quiet. Always be careful that ELLs feel encouraged to share even if their command of the language is weaker and their pace is slower.


    Share your responses to the Guiding Questions with your classmates.

    • How do our conflicts shape and show our character?
    • How can we tell a story about ourselves that’s both honest and positive?
    • How do definitions of justice change depending on the culture you live in?
    • What are ways individuals can react to a changing world? To a community that doesn’t accept us?

    What Do You Know About Nigeria?

    • Encourage students to think of questions about Nigeria. You may need to give them a little bit of background to help them get started, but as much as possible encourage them to work with what they already know, even if it is not very much.
    • Review the students’ responses together, compiling a class KWL chart.

    Work Time

    The first novel you will read this year, Things Fall Apart , takes place in Nigeria in the late 1800s. Use the KWL chart to keep track of what you already know and what questions you have about the setting of Things Fall Apart .

    • Fill in as much as you can in the Know and Want to Know columns of the KWL chart.

    Later, you will return to the chart to fill in the What I’ve Learned column.

    Bearing Witness, With Words

    • Take students through the steps of accessing the article and making annotations. This will be a vital skill for the students this year, so it’s worth taking the time to make sure they are all comfortable.
    • Introduce the concept of Read Aloud; you will read aloud, modeling your thinking and annotations as you go. Read the first paragraph or two of the article to the class, pausing to annotate, marking and explaining your thinking.
    • An annotation is provided as a Teacher Resource to help with the Read Aloud.
    • Circulate as students work, making sure they are all comfortable making annotations.

    Work Time

    Now, you’ll read an article about the author of Things Fall Apart . This article may answer some of your questions, and it may create more questions for you. Follow along with your teacher to access the article and begin annotating it.

    • Mark parts of the article that answer questions you posed.
    • Mark parts of the article that raise more questions about Nigeria.
    • Mark parts of the article that you find confusing. Write notes in the margin to explain your questions about these sections.

    Continue the work you began with your teacher, annotating as you read.

    What I Learned About Nigeria

    • As students share, update the class KWL chart.

    Work Time

    What questions from your KWL chart can you now answer about Nigeria? What else have you learned? What questions still remain?

    • Update your KWL chart with those answers. Fill in what you have learned in the What I’ve Learned column and add any additional questions that arose as you read in the Want to Know column.

    Share your results with the class.

    Unit Accomplishments

    • Make sure students are clear about the requirements of the unit.


    This first unit of the year is important for many reasons. Not only is it a chance to get to know your classmates and teacher, it’s when you’ll get used to the routines of this classroom and become good at using your digital course. You’ll also dig into the work of the year, reading your first novel and completing your first major writing assignment. Review the Unit Accomplishments and ask your teacher any questions you have about them.

    • Read and analyze Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart , viewing the events and conflicts of the novel through the eyes of one of the central characters.
    • Write a two-part narrative project: one narrative told through your character’s perspective and one personal narrative about an incident in your own life.

    Personal Journal - Entry #1 and Further Inquiry

    • Some students may want to take the opportunity to spend a longer amount of time on this assignment, and to delve more deeply into the past of the people they are writing about. Allow them to do so if they wish.
    • SWD: Writing three paragraphs can be challenging for some SWDs. If that is the case, be sure to offer support before sending students off to do their homework. Providing students with sentence frames or even a quick outline for each paragraph might be a great help. Always encourage students to use a dictionary.


    Throughout this unit, you will keep a series of personal journal entries. At the end of the unit, you’ll review these entries to look for material for a more formal writing piece. Create a Personal Journal in your notebook and complete the following for your first personal journal entry before the next lesson.

    This novel will be, in part, about changes that are handled differently by different generations. Ask someone of an older generation about one of the most shocking, meaningful, or difficult changes he or she has observed over his or her life. Then write at least three paragraphs to answer these questions.

    • What was the change, and why was it so important?
    • How did he or she react?

    Open Notebook

    This assignment might inspire you to do even more. Read the Further Inquiry assignment and consider completing it.