Chapter II.

FOR TEACHERS: Using the Listening and Reading Guides as Model Lesson Plans for Remembering Slavery

Whether you choose to have students listen to the tapes/broadcasts, or read selections from the book, Remembering Slavery is ideal for classroom use, serving as a dramatic centerpiece for a unit on slavery and American history (or some other subject) that is certain to excite and engage your students. The Learning Guide questions and activities throughout this book (in the Listening and Reading sections) can easily be used as lesson plans to enhance the educational experience of listening to or reading the interviews with former slaves.

Here are some specific suggestions for how you can tailor the sections of the Learning Guide to the classroom and to your students' specific interests and individual levels:

PREVIEW: Each section of the Listening Guide and Reading Guide begins with a preview, designed to help begin considering the major issues of that tape/broadcast or chapter from a variety of perspectives.

When using the preview in class, have students "freewrite" in response to the preview questions. This means having the students write for a set amount of time without fear they will be graded or judged on the writing. This writing is NOT to be shared; rather, it is an opportunity for each student to think personally about these issues and questions. The writing serves as a form of meditation, paving the way for a more thoughtful and serious reading of the material. Knowing that the writing will not be turned in enables the students to respond truthfully and fully, without fear of censorship.

Although the writings themselves need not be read aloud or discussed, you can spend some time after the freewriting period having a general discussion about the lesson preview with the class. At this time, some may wish to share sections of their free writing out loud.

LISTENING TO THE TAPES/BROADCAST: As not every student will have access to the tapes or be able to listen to the broadcast, it makes the most sense to have the class listen to the tapes or broadcasts together in the classroom. While you probably will not be able to listen to both parts in their entirety within a single class period, the recordings can easily be split into a series of listening sessions spread out over several class periods. This will also enable you to frame each listening session with questions and activities, to make certain the students are fully responding to and digesting what they hear.

Before the first listening session, you'll want to prepare your students for the challenges of listening to these taped interviews and dramatic readings. Rather than reading the list of "Tips for Listening" above, you might have the class develop its own guidelines for careful listening. This will help the class become more active participants in this listening experience before you begin the first tape. Start by having the class freewrite about and/or discuss the difference between "hearing" something and "listening" to it. Then encourage the students to reflect on those occasions when it was or is important for them to listen carefully and identify the strategies they've already discovered for themselves in these situations. These strategies can be compiled on the blackboard in a list that can be expanded as the class brainstorms other ways to listen carefully to the tapes.

A NOTE ON ISSUES OF LANGUAGE: With both the tapes/broadcasts and the book, it is particularly important to address the issues of language and dialect the students will encounter. You might use this as an opportunity to address issues of language in general. Have the students share their own observations, if they've had them, of regional differences in the way people speak and the words they use (such as the differences between "soda" vs. "pop").

The experience of encountering difficult or unfamiliar words presents an opportunity for an interesting collaborative class project. As students read or listen, have them make a note of any terms with which they are unfamiliar. They can report these to the class, who can together compile a class glossary. The words can be assigned to various students or groups, whose job it is to attempt to uncover the word's meaning and origin, and then report back to the class. At some point, you can photocopy the glossary and distribute it to the class.

One issue related to language that will certainly come up in class discussion is the former slaves' frequent use of the words "colored" and "nigger." This too can serve as an opportunity for the class to discuss and learn about issues of language and labels. In preparation, you might have the class read Gloria Naylor's "A Question of Language," in which she describes the first time, as a child, a classmate called her "nigger" and she came to understand that the word, one she frequently heard in her family and community in a friendly manner, had an alternate, derisive meaning. You might then discuss such questions as: What role does the context in which a word is used affect how it is interpreted? Why can the same word cause pain or anger in one situation, and be viewed as harmless in another? Why do certain words have such power? Is the saying "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never harm me" actually true? Have you ever been hurt by a name or label that was applied to you? On the other hand, what names and labels do you embrace?

FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS: Each section of the Study Guide includes a series of questions to be considered after each part of the tapes/broadcasts or each chapter of the book. These questions are designed to emphasize main points, as well as generate more thought-provoking discussion.

These questions should not be used as a "test" for how much the students have understood or as a homework assignment to make certain they're keeping up with their work (treating the questions in this fashion turns this entire project into a chore rather than the exciting and engaging experience it should be). Before discussing the questions in class, though, you should give the students some time to freewrite responses to the questions (see directions for free writing in previous section). The opportunity to write before speaking will help students focus their thoughts and identify questions after the rather challenging readings. When you then get to open discussion, they'll be more prepared to say something, having had this opportunity to think on their own. These first writing should be only for the students' eyes, and not be turned in for a grade. This will ensure that the students write honestly about their responses; removing the anxiety of grades and review of their work may enable them to think and write in far more detail.

After the students have written in response to the questions, you can begin to generate more open discussion. One option is to open the questions up to the entire class; students might read what they wrote, or speak whatever is on their minds. An alternative is to split the class into smaller groups; within each group members can discuss their responses to the questions. After all of the groups have had time to talk, the class can again meet as a whole and a representative from each group can provide a brief "report" about what was discussed.

In addition to writing about and discussing questions provided in the Study Guide, students should be encouraged to formulate and share their own questions after each listening or reading session. These questions might simply be about aspects of the interviews they did not understand, or students might brainstorm topics about which they would like to learn more.

ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES: Each section of the Study Guide concludes with suggested activities and projects designed to encourage readers to build on the tape or chapter's subject matter in a variety of ways These activities lend themselves to more formal assignments and group projects for students; they might also give you and/or your students ideas for assignments of your own.

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