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Lesson: What I Say About Who I Am: A Study of Their Eyes Were Watching God


Author: Tamara Batarseh
Subject Area: Reading/Language Arts
Grade Level: 9 - 11

Introduction

Throughout our reading of Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, an African-American author who lived during the Harlem Renaissance, we will explore the development of identity and personal narrative. The big questions we will consider are: What is Janie’s identity and personal narrative and how does it develop throughout the story? How does Zora Neale Hurston’s identity and personal narrative influence this novel? What are our identities and personal narratives and how do those influence the reading of this novel and other literature? This lesson, based on Chapters 1 & 2 of the book, is an introduction into the world of the author, novel and concepts of personal narrative and identity. I look forward to exploring with you! Miss B

Goals

1. To develop an understanding of the background of the novel. 2. To gain an appreciation and understanding of dialect, particularly Southern African-American dialect spoken in the book. 3. To learn about the importance of personal narrative. 4. To discover the meaning of identity.

Directions

1. Investigate either the biographical information about Zora Neal Hurston or the historical information about the Harlem Renaissance. Be prepared to share the answers to the questions with the class. 2. Look at Vocabulary Builder. 3. Do the Activities.


Background Builder Background

Title: Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) URL: http://www.zoranealehurston.com
Directions: Zora Neale Hurston is considered one of the pre-eminent writers of twentieth-century African-American literature. Hurston was closely associated with the Harlem Renaissance and has influenced such writers as Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Gayle Jones, Alice Walker, and Toni Cade Bambara. In 1975, Ms. Magazine published Alice Walker's essay, "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston" reviving interest in the author. Hurston's four novels and two books of folklore resulted from extensive anthropological research and have proven invaluable sources on the oral cultures of African America.? (from The Official Website of Zora Neale Hurston, 2007) Read the following sections of the website: *Biography *Chronology *Books & Audio


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Title: The Harlem Renaissance URL: http://www.jcu.edu/harlem/index.htm
Directions: Their Eyes Were Watching God was first published during the Harlem Renaissance, a renewal of arts and culture in black America during the 1920?s and 1930?s. Look at the link to literature. Name three other authors who wrote during this period. Listen to music excerpts. What was the popular music of the time? Who were the artists?


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Vocabulary Builder Vocabulary


Message: The dialogue of the characters in Their Eyes Were Watching God is written in dialect. According to dictionary.com, dialect is a regional or social variety of a language distinguished by pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary, especially a variety of speech differing from the standard literary language or speech pattern of the culture in which it exists. In other words, dialect is the language of a particular group of people.Once you begin translating the dialect, it becomes easier to understand other words. Below is a translation of common words used throughout the text.
Vocabulary Words:
Ah I
dat's that's
mah my
lak like
de the
naw no
chillun children
useter used to
astin asking
wid with


Activity: What Did You Say?


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Goals


Directions

Watch the video clip that discusses the origins of African-American language as it developed from Gullah. Use the dialect words in the Vocabulary Builder section to translate the dialogue on page 3 of the novel. We will share these translations in class.



Activity: This Is My Story


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Directions

1. Read the introduction of Janie's personal narrative on pages 6 and 8 when she talks to Phoeby on the porch. 2. Read through all the links about creating a personal narrative. 3. Journal your own personal narrative. Select an event or use one of the Sample Prompts from the website to help you get started.



Activity: I'm What?!


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Goals


Directions

1. In Chap. 2 , p. 9, Janie describes her reaction to discovering that she's black. Go to the link above and read the poem "Skin Again" by bell hooks. 2. What does this poem say about identity, particularly skin color? 3. Write a hand-written letter to young Janie based on the ideas of this poem. We will share these letters in class.




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