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By Devon Erlich
Students will focus on the novel A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines which outlines the emotional and intellectual journey of a wrongfully convicted black man and his teacher before the convicted’s execution in a Cajun community in the 1940’s. The themes presented in the book will raise questions for the students such as What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be educated? And Is justice always just? They will explore the idea that many issues surrounding justice, racism, and human responsibility are just as prevalent today as for the characters presented in the novel. Not only will students investigate major themes in the novel, but they will also focus on literary elements. The class will question the author’s motivation for writing the novel and for choosing certain characters and settings; they will discuss how author’s stylistic choices help develop the theme or conflict in a story. The unit will culminate in a cooperative learning project that asks the students an essential question raised by the novel, do we control our future or do forces outside of our control determine our destiny?
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