English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Christianity
  • Grade 12 ELA
  • Missionaries
  • Storytelling
  • Things Fall Apart
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Debating The Fairness Of The Umuofian Society

    Debating The Fairness Of The Umuofian Society


    In this lesson, students will debate the fairness of Umuofian society and whether anything needs changing. They will remain in character, ensuring that all sides of the issue are fully explored and defended.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.

    Productive Group Discussions

    • The purpose of this Quick Write is to help students think about how they can have a productive group discussion.
    • Call on several students to share, and as they do, highlight the qualities that lead to more productive discussions: listening, taking turns, acknowledging what the other person has said, respect. And also what leads to unproductive discussions: criticism, talking over each other, etc.
      • ELL: It might be important to point out that different cultures have different ways of communicating and expressing feelings and ideas. What in one country is considered a heated discussion could be considered a regular conversation or exchange of ideas in another country. Some cultures have tolerance to interruptions and talking over each other whereas others don’t. Encourage all students to be observant of their communications patterns (which tend to mirror the communication patterns of their family). Becoming self-aware of the way we communicate is a very useful skill that can have long lasting effects on relationships and situations.


    Think back to conversations you have had that have been particularly productive or unproductive. What behaviors led to the conversations being this way?

    • Compile two lists: one of behaviors you see as “conversation starters” and one of behaviors that you see as “conversation stoppers.”

    Open Notebook

    Share your thoughts with your classmates.

    Discussion Protocol

    • Segue from the students’ experiences to the norms for productive and respectful class discussions.
    • Look over the sentence frames and Grade 12 Discussion Rubric with your class; if your students have a lot of experience with class discussions, you may not need to spend very much time on these. If your students are new to class discussions, it’s worth looking closely at key parts of the rubric.
      • ELL: Rubrics are sometimes a little hard for some ELLs to fully understand. Use this opportunity to sit with ELLs to be sure they fully understand the rubric.

    Work Time

    Learn about class discussions.

    • Review the Discussion Protocol, Grade 12 Discussion Rubric, and Discussion Sentence Frames with your teacher.
    • Ask any questions you have.

    Remember, though some students will not be speaking in today’s discussion, everyone is responsible for active participation (listening, note taking, evaluating the speakers) and everyone will eventually get a turn in the “inner circle”!

    Discussion Preparation

    • Especially for the first discussion, and especially if your students are not yet proficient at class discussions, it’s worth spending more time on preparation than on the discussion itself. Between 8 to 10 minutes is plenty for the discussion itself; circulate to make sure that all students are engaging with the ideas during the preparation period.
    • Remind students that one person will be representing their group in the discussion, but they are all responsible for the thinking and planning that goes into that person’s responses.
    • Remind students that they will be in character. This will be a discussion among the different characters in the novel, with each person speaking in the first person from their character’s point of view.
    • Remind students that even though they are in character, they are still responsible for using direct textual evidence and for maintaining a tone of civility in the conversation.
      • SWD: Ask probing questions to make sure that all SWDs fully understand the directives you are giving.

    Work Time

    Prepare for the class discussion with your groups.

    • Complete Discussion Preparation 1 if you have not already done so. Make sure that you have found textual references (quotations) that can help you answer these questions. Your Dialectical Journals are a great place to look!
    • List and answer any additional discussion questions that your group comes up with in your Notebook.

    Open Notebook

    Remember that although only one person from your group will be in the “inner circle,” everyone in your group is responsible for the preparation.

    Discussion of Umuofian Society

    • Display the discussion questions in the classroom.
    • In a large class, it can be useful to have a “fishbowl” discussion, with about eight students (one representative from each character group) discussing in an “inner circle” and the rest of the students as observers in the “outer circle.” If possible given your classroom configuration, it’s helpful to actually create two concentric circles with desks.
    • You might want to assign specific tasks to students in the outer circle, so that they can help the class reflect on the discussion. Assign each outer circle student one of the questions from the Outer Circle Tasks 1.
    • For the first discussion, you may need to play a fairly active role as facilitator; the goal for discussion later in the year will be to step back and let the students run the discussion themselves.
    • It may be a good idea to have a timer visible so that students know how much time they have remaining.
    • After the discussion is over, take a few minutes to debrief with the class. Ask the outer circle students for their observations.

    Work Time

    Follow your teacher’s instructions to begin the discussion. Remember that “outer circle” participants are responsible for active listening, note taking, and evaluation of the discussion. Use Outer Circle Tasks 1 for your notes.

    • What does it mean to have a “fair” society? Whose needs and wants should be prioritized? How should decisions be made? What kinds of things should be punished, and how should punishments be decided?
    • By your character’s definition, is Umuofian society fair?
    • What, or whom, does Umuofian society value? Who wins and who loses in such a value system?
    • Is Okonkwo a pillar of the community, or a troublemaker?
    • Is Okonkwo’s punishment just, and is it just for his family to be punished with him?
    • What needs changing in Umuofian society, and what should stay as is?

    Discussion Debrief

    • If there’s time, hear a few responses.


    Complete a Quick Write.

    • What did you, individually and as a class, do well during this discussion? What could be improved next time?
    • How did your group’s representative do at revealing your character’s thoughts and beliefs? Would you have done anything differently?
    • How do you, yourself (not your character) feel about Umuofian society? Are there points that you particularly agreed or disagreed with in the discussion?

    Open Notebook

    Personal Journal - Entry #8 and Things Fall Apart

    • Encourage students to read through their group members’ entries. There are a variety of ways to look at Okonkwo’s punishment.


    Complete another personal journal entry.

    • What similarities and differences do you see between your community and Umuofia? What aspects of each do you prefer?

    Open Notebook

    For your community group, write an explanation of how your character would react to Okonkwo’s punishment. Respond to at least one other character’s entry.

    Read Chapters 14 and 15 of Things Fall Apart. Add to your Personal Glossary as you read.