Their Eyes Were Watching God
Think Aloud
Chapters 1-6

Reading selection: final two pages of Chapter 3

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Step 1:
Set up the reading and model close reading by focusing students on the context for the reading passage:

Explain to students that this is a crucial scene involving Janie and her grandmother Nanny.

Stop to ask questions and “think aloud” as you review the context with them. Model an ongoing interaction with the text, frequently stopping to check vocabulary understanding and using “I wonder why….?” questions.

Previously in Chapter 3, Janie married Logan Killicks, according to her grandmother’s wishes. She has been living with him for two months and two weeks until she comes back, in this scene, to confide in Nanny; she is restless and discontent with the marriage.

When Nanny asks Janie “whut you come in heah wid uh face long as mah arm for?” Janie responds, “’Cause you told me Ah mus gointer love him, and, and I don’t.” Janie shows that she feels betrayed by Nanny, who had convinced Janie that marrying Logan Killicks would bring her stability and gratitude.

Stop and model thinking aloud, asking students:

  • Why do people expect to find love in marriage?
  • Why did Janie expect it?
  • Do young people expect more of marriage than older people?
Nanny accuses Janie of talking foolishness, of being ungrateful for the house and sixty acres that are hers by virtue of marrying Logan Killicks, and of being mistaken that simple love is going to answer any of her questions. “Dat’s de very prong all us black women gits hung on. Dis love!” she says.

Stop and model thinking aloud, asking students:

  • What were a black woman’s options in 1937 (year of publication of Their Eyes Were Watching God?)
  • What are a black woman’s options now?
  • What are any woman’s options?
  • What are the benefits and/or drawbacks of arranged marriage?
  • What’s the point of love in marriage?
Janie eventually begins to complain to her grandmother about Killicks’ physical traits, his long, flat-sided head, fat neck, and big belly.

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Step 2:
Go over the reading skills from the list that you will use with students to think aloud about the reading passage.

  • Making predictions
  • Visualizing
  • Asking questions
  • Monitoring understanding
If students are unfamiliar with what each strategy means, explain each to them, using the descriptions in “Suggestions for how to use these materials.”

Explain that, as readers, we use some skills BEFORE reading, some DURING reading, and some AFTER reading.

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Step 3:
BEFORE READING. Focus on the skill(s) you will use to think aloud about the reading passage.

  • Making predictions
Discuss with students: Talk about what might happen in this scene, based on knowledge of the topics, the characters, and the dilemmas they face. Ask questions such as:

  • If Janie doesn’t care about Logan’s land, and she does expect to find love, where do you expect her to look?
  • How will Nanny come to terms with the fact that she arranged Janie’s marriage to Logan based on her values, not on Janie’s?
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Step 4:
DURING READING. Focus on the skill(s) you will use to think aloud about the reading passage.

  • Visualizing
  • Asking questions
Begin reading at the paragraph that starts with the sentence, “’Ah don’t keer who made it, Ah don’t like de job…”

Model visualizing, asking questions of students such as:

  • What is the picture your mind creates as you read Janie’s description of Logan?
    • Why does someone’s physical qualities matter so much when you live with them?
    • When you are married to them?
    • How is this a picture of despair? What does despair look like?
  • The final paragraph of the chapter contains many images of nature, such as:
    • “So Janie waited a bloom time, and a green time and an orange time.”
    • “the words of the trees and the wind”
    • “She often spoke to falling seeds and said, ‘Ah hope you fall on soft ground…’”
    • “She knew the world was a stallion rolling in the blue pasture of ether.”
      • What images do these words conjure up for you?
      • What do these images of the natural world tell you about Janie’s interior mind and heart?
Model asking questions, asking questions of students such as:

  • What is the significance of “his toe nails look lak mule foots”?
  • If Janie likens her husband to a mule, how does that support the novel’s overall representation of the mule? [In Chapter 2, Nanny told Janie, “De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see.” In Chapter 6 (if students have read that far) Matt Bonner’s yellow mule becomes the symbol of the exploitation of power]
  • Janie says “Ah wants sweet things wid mah marriage lak when you sit under a pear tree and think…” Why does Janie care so much about the pear tree?
  • “But when the pollen again gilded the sun and sifted down on the world she began to stand around the gate and expect things.” Why is Janie standing around the gate? Is the gate symbolically important?
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Step 5:
AFTER READING. Focus on the skill(s) you will use to think aloud about the reading passage.

  • Monitor understanding and summarize
Model summarizing and monitoring understanding, asking such questions as:

  • In your opinion, does Nanny’s death change Janie’s options as a woman? How or how not?
    • What is an example of something she knows that no one told her? (hint: it is stated in this paragraph).
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Step 6:
Student self-directed think-aloud.
Give students the chance to think aloud with the selected passage, using the skills you have chosen (or others that they find useful).

If students cannot write in the text, have them use Post-It notes to write their reading notes on and stick them in their copy of the novel.

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