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

    The Umuofian Justice System

    The Umuofian Justice System


    How do we decide what’s “fair”? In this lesson, students will think about what they’ve learned so far about Umuofian justice, and about whether they (and their characters) agree with the systems that exist. They’ll also prepare for the next lesson’s in-class discussion.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.

    Fair's Fair

    • This Opening is intended to help students think about the issue of fairness in their own lives, in the novel, and in a universal sense. They may struggle to answer the questions but encourage them to note their thoughts, as being able to see multiple perspectives will lead to richer understanding and discussion than will deciding on one “true” answer.
    • As you review the responses, explore your students’ different ways of interpreting justice. Does intention matter, or only outcome? Should punishment or restitution be the goal of “justice”? Does advance knowledge of consequences matter? Think together about the different ways people can arrive at judgments of “fairness.”
    • Students will be evaluating Umuofian society’s justice, so the more ways they have about thinking about fairness the more depth they will be able to reach in their discussions.


    What is “fair”? How do we decide what a just or equitable consequence is?

    Read “Fair’s Fair.” Then answer the following questions.

    • Which option would you choose and why?
    • Would your answer change if the boys weren’t friends? If cell phones weren’t prohibited in school? If Jamie hadn’t been insulting Andrew, but instead Andrew had grabbed the bag unprovoked? If Andrew had known the cell phone was in the bag?
    • Have you ever been treated unfairly or seen someone treated unfairly? Why did you feel the treatment was unfair?
    • When thinking about fairness, what matters most—punishing the person who did wrong, making amends to the victim, preventing further wrongdoing? Explain.
    • How do we decide what’s fair, and who gets to make that decision? What gives someone the right to decide on justice or consequences?

    Open Notebook

    Share your responses with your classmates. How would you say you and your classmates decide what’s fair?

    Wrongdoing in Things Fall Apart

    • With your students, briefly review the different incidences of fairness and justice they have read about so far in Things Fall Apart.

    Work Time

    What have we learned about Umuofian ideas of fairness?

    With your classmates and teacher, briefly review the following incidents from Things Fall Apart. Each is an example of some kind of wrongdoing, which is followed in the novel by some kind of resolution (for example, punishment or restoration).

    • In Chapter 2, an Umuofian woman was killed in Mbaino.
    • In Chapter 4, Ojiugo angered Okonkwo by not cooking his meal.
    • In Chapter 4, Okonkwo broke the peace in the Week of Peace by beating Ojiugo, his third wife.
    • In Chapter 5, Okonkwo gets angry at Ekwefi, his second wife, because he thinks she has killed his banana tree.
    • In Chapter 5, Okonkwo gets angry at Ekwefi because she insults him.
    • In Chapter 10, Uzowulu and Odukwe have a dispute about Mgbafo. Odukwe says that his sister has been severely beaten, and Uzowulu is upset that his wife’s family has taken her back.

    Umuofian Justice Review

    • Allow students to choose whether they want to work independently, with a partner, or in small groups.
    • ELL: Be sure that your pace is adequate, and, if needed at any point, present the questions in writing. Provide sentence frames as appropriate, but be aware that some ELLs might not need them, especially if the questions are shown in writing (students can borrow some of the words from the questions to construct their answers).

    Work Time

    Choose one of the incidents to analyze in further detail.

    Return to the chapter and consider the following:

    • Who was involved in the problem?
    • What was the “wrong” that was committed?
    • What were the motives and effects of this wrong?
    • Who decided on the resolution, and what were the effects of the resolution?
    • Finally, what principles are expressed through these decisions? What, or who, is valued?
    • Complete the Umuofian Justice Review to record your thoughts.

    You Have a Choice
    In this class, you will sometimes have a choice of how you want to complete your assignments. You can choose to complete this task independently, with a partner, or in a group.

    Discussion Preparation

    • In the discussion, one representative from each group will speak for the whole group. You can decide how you want to do this: you may want to pick randomly, take volunteers, or preassign the speaker.
    • For the first discussion, it’s probably a good idea to have a confident speaker from each group as the representative. Other students will be responsible for analyzing and evaluating the discussion.
    • All students are responsible for the discussion preparation.
    • Students should continue reading Things Fall Apart if they finish the discussion preparation early.

    Work Time

    In the next lesson, you will be participating in character in a discussion about Umuofian society. You will speak as your character, using the pronoun “I” and explaining your character’s perceptions and opinions.

    At this time, your task is to prepare with your group members. Discussion Preparation 1 contains questions you may analyze in the first class discussion. For each question, write your answer from the point of view of your character . Then decide how you will back up your viewpoint. What evidence (quotations) can you find in the novel to support your character’s opinion? Finally, think about possible counterarguments: things others might say to refute your points. How would your character respond to these counterarguments?

    • Complete Discussion Preparation 1.
    • After you complete Discussion Preparation 1, list and answer any additional discussion questions that your group comes up with in your Notebook.

    Open Notebook

    If you finish, continue reading Things Fall Apart.

    The Umuofian Justice System

    • Remind students that this analysis is coming from them, and they should step out of character as they complete this writing.
    • SWD: When writing these descriptions, allow additional time for some students to discuss with a partner before writing, to help them organize their thoughts.


    Complete a Quick Write.

    • In your own words (not your character’s), describe the Umuofian justice system in three sentences or less. This should reflect your opinion, and should refer to specific events from the book.

    Open Notebook

    Things Fall Apart and Discussion Preparation

    • Remind students that they will need to use specific textual evidence in the discussion; the more prepared they are, the more interesting the discussion will be.


    Read Chapters 11–13 of Things Fall Apart. Continue to add to your Personal Glossary as you read.

    • Prepare for the next lesson’s discussion.