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House on Mango Street

Lesson Plan:
A Lesson Before Dying


Teacher Interview : A Lesson Before Dying

Click image to see QuickTime® video.
A Lesson Before Dying "addresses the basic predicament of what it is to be a human being, striving for dignity in a universe that often denies it." Therefore, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Capital Punishment, and the Death Penalty are topics used to enhance the students reading of Ernest Gaines's novel A Lesson Before Dying. The students will grapple with Human Rights issues, the workings of the justice system, and analyze the death penalty cases. The topics for discussion are designed to assist the student's ability to critique a literary work, and draw parables between the death row case of Jefferson (the fictional character) and Abu Qadir Al-Amin (an ex-death row inmate).

The listening preparation aided the students with comparing Jefferson's death-row sentencing with Mr. Al-Amin's death-row case. Hence, by comparing the two death row cases, the students were better prepared for developing and posing interview questions for Mr. Al-Amin, the guest speaker. The Listening and Speaking Standards are essential for developing the student's ability to engage in meaningful dialogue.

Front Row (L-R) Taha Abozayd, Abu Qadir Al-Amin, & Hamza Algahim Back Row: Cedric Pounds, Videographer and Producer

The personal interview with Mr. Al-Amin, allowed the students to compare a fictional Death Row court case with the case of an exonerated ex-death row inmate, and make inferences, and draw conclusion about social, ethical, racial and political aspects of the real life court case and a fictional court case. (A Lesson Before Dying, Teacher Comments)

Click image to see QuickTime® video "Capital Offense" which students produced during their study of A Lesson Before Dying.

The six-week unit activities will focus on the various social, and political aspects of A Lesson Before Dying. The students will look for markers, e.g. social justice, ethical, racial and political aspects of the novel. Students will engage in meaningful dialogue about how words are used to humiliate and redeem one's character. The students will also learn to identify main ideas, use main ideas to draw inferences, conclusions, and generalizations about the novel.

Ultimately, the students will compose a journal using textual evidence, develop a high school exit and employment portfolio, create a Death Penalty Documentary, and complete an essay final that addresses the essential question ("What quality of will must a Negro possess to live and die in a country that denied his humanity"). Thus, this unit is primarily designed to boost the student's self-esteem, aid students in developing their critical thinking, reading comprehension, oral speaking, and writing skills.

The student high school exit/employment portfolio is a culmination of lessons that stem from the novel, A Lesson Before Dying. The student portfolio includes an autobiographical book, an A Lesson Before Dying journal, teacher recommendation letters, resumes, awards, and student created personalized business cards. Consequently, the novel, A Lesson Before Dying introduces the students to the concept of accountability, responsibility, critical thinking, moral values, ethical awareness, and loyalty to self and other people. Thus, the study of the novel is linked to the six-week unit activities designed to boost self-esteem, introduce employment interview techniques, and highlight the computer technology skills required by the employment industry.

Unit Overview
Essential Question
Content Standards
Technology Integration Process
Materials Used
Concluding Assignment
Teacher Commentary
Handout: Template 1
Handout: Template 2
Student Work
Project 1: Role Playing
Project 2: Documentary
Writing Sample 2
Writing Sample 3
Teacher Interview:
Lesson Before Dying
Teacher Interview:
Another Lesson
Teacher Interview:
Essential Question
Teacher Interview:
Self Esteem
Teacher Interview:
Writing & Technology
Student Interview :
Video Documentary:
Capital Offenses
Student Interview :
Student Presenters
Student Performance:
Martin Luther King Jr.
Student Performanc :
Jackie Robinson
Student Performance:
Maya Angelou
Student Interview:

Urban Dreams
OUSD Curriculum Unit
A Lesson Before Dying
by Ernest Gaines
Subject: English/ELD
Grade Level: 9th

Lesson Plan Author:
Mary Scott
School: Skyline High School
Organization: OUSD