A Lesson Before Dying
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
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)
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.