Lesson Activity One
The Starting Line
- To build community, the students will be invited to share aloud their earliest memory of a time they felt the freedom to make their own choice about something important to them.
- Students will free write about a time in their life when they felt their right to self-determination, or the right to choose their own path, was limited by some aspect of their identity (e.g. gender, age, culture, race).
- Tell students they will be discussing their writing with an elbow partner. Be sure to give students some low-risk examples they might have experienced. Perhaps they’ve had an experience where a parent or caregiver didn’t let them see a movie they wanted to see based on age? Perhaps they weren’t allowed to play a sport because it was only offered to one gender in their community or school?
- If students want to share a more high-risk, personal example, remind them that they will discuss this with a classmate. They should only share what they feel comfortable sharing. Classmates also should be reminded to listen with respect and compassion.
- Students discuss their experiences with an elbow partner. Remind students to share only what they feel comfortable sharing. Remind classmates to practice active, respectful listening during the sharing.
- Partners will be invited to volunteer to share with the class at large. Again, remind the students to practice active, respectful listening.
Lesson Activity Two
Troy Maxson—What shaped him?
- Students will read silently the passage titled “The Play” from Fences.
- Individually, students will free write their ideas about what the passage is conveying about the play. As a class, students discuss their responses.
- In small groups, students will read aloud scenes from Fences that address Troy’s experiences with discrimination and his limits to self-determination. Returning to their small groups, students will discuss how the scenes relate to each other and what they reveal about Troy’s worldviews and the relationships he forms with his family and friends.
- The class will discuss how Troy’s experiences put him at a different place on “the starting line” from the white men in his same circumstances, in baseball and as a sanitation worker.
- As an exit slip, students will view the photo depicting 1968 Sanitation Workers holding signs with the words “I am a Man” made famous during the strike. Responding in the voice of Troy Maxson, what might he say about the image?
Lesson Activity Three
Creating an equitable starting line
- Students will do a quick write, responding to the quote “Born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.” What does this quote mean to them? Students will be invited to share responses. If students do not understand the quote, explain that it is an idiom about baseball that means that some people are born with advantages they are unaware of, that give them a head start in life. Discuss what some of these advantages are and why someone might be unaware of them.
- The class will discuss the questions, “What barriers have we set up as a society to limit the opportunities and self-determination of others?” and, “Are we all starting from the same point in the race of life?”
- In small groups, students brainstorm ideas for removing these barriers and creating a more equitable society. Each group will draft a vision statement and offer two solutions to share with the class at large.
Teachers should assess participation in small and large group discussions based on their own standard for class discussion participation.
Each student will complete a 3:2:1 exit slip. They will write:
- three things they learned about how discrimination shaped Troy Maxson’s worldview and relationships,
- two barriers that continue to limit equity in our society and
- one thing they will do to create a more equitable society.
Remind students that they can choose to respond to the last part of the Exit Slip with an effort they will make at the classroom level, school level, neighborhood level, city or beyond. It’s up to them where they want to start. There is no wrong answer!