At my new school, tenth graders read Things Fall Apart, so I'm teaching it for the third semester in a row. One of the great things about teaching the same book over and over is that I get to tweak my previous lessons instead of trying to come up brand new ones.
This time, we did the Kony exercise as a pre-reading activity. We watched the video, read the same article, and then I had students answer questions about article that steered them toward author's purpose and persuasive techniques. The day after they did this work, we had a circle discussion on whether or not the Kony video worked, how people from different cultures should and do interact, and what colonialism means to both the colonizers and the colonized.
I'm not sure if spending more time on the activity, the kids being a year older than the ninth graders I did this with last year, or their honor status had anything to do with the increased level of participation and dialogue. But I'm definitely going to keep this as a frontloading activity rather than a summary. The activity also let the kids know that while Things Fall Apart starts out as a chronicle of traditional Igbo life, the book quickly becomes a text in conversation with the world around it.
I don't know about you other English teacher nerds out there, but I remember being really excited in college to start thinking about books as cultural artifacts and not just pleasant ways to pass the time or think about the world within the book. The whole experience was really cool to see happening for my tenth graders now. Societal awareness in English class, FTW.
Although I do have to wonder if this particular activity will be spent by this time next year. I definitely need to be on the lookout for cultural memes aimed at teenagers that give us a way to explore colonialism in the present day. Any ideas?