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A "New English" in Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart": A Common Core Exemplar

EDSITEMENT! National Endowment for the Humanities

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Note that this resource was reviewed during the Spring 2014 review period. The resource may or may not have been updated since the review. Check with the content creator to see if there is a more recent version available.

Review

This resource was reviewed by OSPI in Spring 2014. Learn more about the review process and the data analysis approach.

The version reviewed was last updated: 10/29/2013.

Background from OER Project Review Team
EDSITEment! is a partnership among the National Endowment for the Humanities, Verizon Foundation, and the National Trust for the Humanities and is a member of the Thinkfinity Consortium of educational websites. This is a lesson plan with three activities rather than a full unit. This should factor into the viewer's analysis of the review results.

EQuIP (Learn more)

Exemplar if improved (9.0)
Chart with scale of 'meets criteria' from 0 (None) to 3 (All). Alignment: 3.0, Key Shifts in the CCSS: 2.5, Instructional Supports: 2.0, Assessment: 1.5.

Achieve OER (Learn more)

Chart with scale from 0 (Weak) to 3 (Superior). Explanation: 2.5, Interactivity: 0.0, Exercises: 1.75, Deeper Learning: 2.25.

See standard error chart for the review scoring

Reviewer Comments (Learn more)

Minor (1.5)

Comments/Ideal Use:

This lesson provides excellent background for the teacher and effectively scaffolds the writing assignment for students by progressing through a study of the similes, proverbs, and folktales. Teachers will need to adapt the activities to their specific students, but this should not be a major revision. This progression of the lessons has the potential to effectively build student understanding in order to complete the assessment.

The stated assumption of this lesson is that students will have read and discussed the novel. The depth of that understanding is crucial to the success of this lesson. This lesson should fall within a unit on the novel Things Fall Apart by Achua Achebe after the students have completed reading. Students should have a clear understanding of the events and characters in the novel. New or experienced teachers can use this lesson assuming they have time for preparation.

Challenges:

  • Assessment essay will need to be adapted for specific students.
  • Most of the prompts have an implied requirement of using evidence from the text but do not directly state it. If the students are at the point where they know this is an expectation whenever they write, then the prompts work as they are. Otherwise, the prompts should be revised to state directly that students must use textual evidence for support.
  • Assessment rubric is weak. The rubric provided is more of a checklist with more emphasis on form and style than content.

Suggestions:

  • Teacher revises the prompt for the students involved. Source could offer options.
  • Develop a full rubric that is CCSS aligned.
  • Add a revised prompt which includes phrasing for use of textual evidence. Keep the original. Teachers can use the one that best meets students' needs.

Comments/Ideal Use:

As a close reading activity, the components lead to the shifts required in the CCSS, making this unit a nice addition to looking at language and how an author uses components of language to reveal culture through text.

This unit is ideally an addition to a larger unit as indicated in the instructions. Any teacher level can use it, the instructions are clear and there are support documents to help a teacher to teach the materials.

Challenges:

  • Rubric is a checklist - should be a scale of what it means to meet a set of standards.

Suggestions:

  • Develop an actual rubric rather than a checklist.

Comments/Ideal Use:

The ideal learning environment would likely be high school 9th-12th general education or 9th grade Honors/AP. The teacher experience could vary. This material seems like it would benefit or work with both veteran teachers as well as novice teachers. Veteran teachers would probably move through the materials a bit more quickly with the students and utilize the parts that they would get the most 'bang for the buck'. Novice teachers would probably take a little more time and rely somewhat more heavily on the supplemental and extended learning to enhance their own practice and familiarity with the content and how they could utilize it to effectively target CCSS for students through literature and other various instructional resources that might be new.

Challenges:

  • The assessment portion seems weak or undeveloped. There are tabs / hyperlinks to the assessment portions, however the rubrics are undeveloped and overall mastery by the student is determined by a final essay rather than a set of assessments that could be developed along the way that show alignment to CCSS presented.

Suggestions:

  • Further development of these assessments based on the work provided by the authors. Develop a matrix for scoring. Align with CCSS.

Comments/Ideal Use:

This lesson allows teachers to focus on RL4 and RL 6. These lessons ask students to consider "what the novel means" and allow teachers help students "analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United Sates" (RL.6).

These materials would work in any standard or advanced level 9th or 10th grade classroom. There are engaging extension activities as well that might be used to stretch the learning in an honors classroom or with students in a standard level classroom who are ready for some deeper or broader thinking. There is adequate background and support given that an experienced or less experienced teacher would feel confident in teaching the lessons. Because there is no suggesting of time or pacing, it might be more difficult for a new teacher to pick it up. The unit might be especially engaging for a classroom with students who are learning English. There is a chance to compare and contrast how language makes meaning in their first language with English. I am thinking of proverbs in their home language or folktales from their own culture. There are not supports for language learners included in these lessons already so those would need to be put into place to give a language learner access to text and some of the learning activities.

Challenges:

  • Calls the summative assessment writing assignment a "persuasive essay" when it is really an argument.
  • No scoring rubric to accompany writing assignment. The document they call a "rubric" is a list of questions that might help students think about the organization, development and composition of their essay but it does not provide clear guidance for how the essay should be scored.
  • Writing assignment seems to pop out of nowhere. No writing standards listed and no teaching of writing anywhere in the lessons as written.

Suggestions:

  • Change the prompt so that it asks students to write an argument. The language of CCSS Writing standards asks students to write arguments.
  • Make a scoring rubric for teachers to use as they are teaching, students to use as they are writing and then for teachers to use as they grade the assessment.
  • Change the summative assessment to a reading assessment. Save some passages from the novel that contain all of the elements of Achebe's writing studied in the unit. Ask students to analyze the chapter to show how it illustrates Achebe's "New English". OR, include some writing standards in the list of standards. Then, either clearly establish what writing skills must be in place for as student to be able to write the essay, or include writing instruction in the lessons.

Creative Commons License
This work by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.