English Language Arts, Composition and Rhetoric
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Grade 12 ELA
  • Narratives
  • Writing
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    The History of Missionary Work & Colonialism In Africa

    The History of Missionary Work & Colonialism In Africa


    What background knowledge do students need in order to understand this novel? In this lesson, students learn more about Nigeria, the culture of the Igbo people (whom Achebe writes about), and the history of missionary work and colonialism in Africa.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Consider how you want students to work in pairs. Also consider and prepare for the transition from whole-group instruction to partner work: will they need to rearrange the desks to face their partners, or will they just work with the person next to them? It may be worth practicing the transition once or twice.
    • Make sure you are comfortable using, demonstrating, and explaining how you want students to share.

    Personal Journal #1

    • Hear responses from a few students. You may want to keep a list of ways people have reacted to change visible to the students.


    Share some of what you learned while doing your homework.

    • What ways have people reacted to change?

    Background Articles

    • This activity introduces students to the idea of Independent Reading and gets them used to the process of choosing their own reading.
      • SWD: Be sure that all students are engaging in the activity successfully. If you find that some students need support, consider grouping those that need extra help together and work with them.

    Work Time

    Today, you’ll study the background information that will help you understand the changes that Chinua Achebe’s characters faced in Things Fall Apart . Different students will read different articles. You’ll be responsible for sharing the information you learn.

    Throughout the year, you’ll have opportunities to work with classmates on Independent Reading assignments. Later in the year, you’ll choose longer works, such as novels, to read outside of class time in groups. Today, you’ll have the chance to choose your Independent Reading article, and you’ll read with a partner, without teacher support, to get a sense of how Independent Reading groups will work.

    The articles you’ll choose from provide background information about Nigeria and colonialism.

    • Read through the descriptions of the articles and then choose which one you would like to read.
    • The full articles will be presented later in this lesson.

    Nigeria and Colonialism

    • The articles address a variety of topics and themes present in the novel. There will be more than one pair reading each article.
    • If you already have a sense of your students’ reading levels, you may want to encourage students to choose accordingly.
    • This is the time to set expectations regarding paired reading. Think about what would work best for your students:
      • ✓ Do you want them to read out loud together?
      • ✓ Do you want them to read silently, with predetermined check-ins to discuss?
      • ✓ Are there particular strategies or approaches you want to emphasize?
      • ✓ Do you want to provide students with several options?
      • ELL: In forming pairs, be aware of your ELLs and ensure that they have a learning environment where they can be productive. Sometimes this means grouping them with native English-language speakers so ELLs can learn from their partner’s language skills. Other times it means grouping ELLs with students who are at the same level of language skills so they can take a more active role and work things out together. Yet other times it means grouping ELLs with students whose proficiency level is lower so ELLs get to play the supportive role.
    • How much tone setting do your students need about working effectively in pairs? If you believe they need it, you may want to have a short discussion or even a brief skit about effective and ineffective collaboration.
    • As you circulate, pay attention to how pairs are working together as well as to how well they understand the articles. If you are not satisfied with the quality of the partner work, stop the class and address this. Partner work will be an important routine this year.

    Work Time

    What kinds of changes will Achebe’s characters—Igbo people in the late 1800s—face? How might they respond to these changes?

    With your partner, read carefully through the article you have chosen from the gallery on the next screen. As you read, annotate your article in the following ways.

    • Mark anything that provides clues about the changes the Igbo people may face in the novel.
    • Mark anything that gives you insights into how the Igbo people might feel about or respond to these changes.
    • Write notes in the margins explaining what you learned from the marked sections.

    About Nigeria and Colonialism

    • The articles address a variety of topics and themes present in the novel. There will be more than one pair reading each article.
    • The purpose here is for pairs to compile their information into a class chart or an electronic space that can be accessed by the entire class. Encourage them to react to what others have written; remind them that these pages will be a resource for the entire class.
    • Demonstrate how you want students to share based on the available technology. Depending on your students, you may consider having a sample page that they can add to in order to make sure that everyone is comfortable with the process.
      • SWD: As you demonstrate, be sure to pause and to ask for feedback as to whether all students are following your explanation without problems. If that is not the case, stop and find out what is posing the difficulties and modify your explanations accordingly. Use as many visuals as possible.
    • Go through each of the topics, letting the students who contributed to each page or chart explain what they learned.

    Work Time

    Work with your partner to figure out what the most interesting or important things you learned are.

    • Together, add to the class page or chart about your article. You may comment on what others have written, or simply add your own insights.
    • As your class goes through the different pages or charts, explain what you learned and what you have shared.


    • This Closing reflection is meant to give students a way to consolidate what they have thought about in this lesson. If time allows, you may want to have several students share predictions or questions.


    Think back on what you learned in today’s class and list:

    • 3 types of characters you think you might encounter in Things Fall Apart
    • 2 predictions about conflicts you might see in this novel
    • 1 question you still have about the novel or about Nigeria

    Open Notebook

    Personal Journal - Entry #2

    • Remind students that culture clashes can come in many different forms, and are not necessarily about particular regions, religions, or ethnicities.
      • ELL: Be very sensitive to ELLs when posing these questions. Some students may have had cultural clashes not only with their schoolmates when they arrived from abroad, but also within their family. That is, some children get integrated into the new culture (in this case the United States) very easily and then they feel a cultural clash with their own family. Additionally, some students feel a cultural clash when they go back to visit their family in their country of origin. This is a very sensitive topic and not all students will have the degree of self-awareness required to acknowledge it and share it.


    This novel will be, in part, about a clash of cultures: one group coming in and trying to replace the way of living that exists.

    • What culture clashes do you see in your own life or in modern American society? You might think about different generations that disagree, or different groups you see within the school community, or ways in which your own beliefs don’t mesh with the people around you.

    Open Notebook