Exploring The Impact Of Colonialism
In this lesson, students will create found poems—poems using language from the novel itself—to explore the impact that colonialism has on people’s self-esteem, and on the Igbo people in particular.
- Read the lesson and student content.
- Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
- If possible, display the quotation from Imran Khan for the class.
- If your students need to take a few minutes to discuss colonialism in order to complete this assignment, briefly go over the term with them.
- ELL: In explaining the term, be aware that some of the ELLs may come from countries that have a recent history of colonialism. Invite students to share. Be sensitive to their experiences especially if they are difficult ones.
One of the themes of Things Fall Apart is the effect of colonialism on Umuofian society. Colonialism is the practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically. Write responses to the following questions.
- Interpret the following quotation, rewriting it in your own words: “Colonialism deprives you of your self-esteem and to get it back you have to fight to redress the balance.”
- What did Imran Khan mean by these words? Do you agree or disagree? Explain.
- Think about the characters you have met so far in Things Fall Apart. What seems to provide their self-esteem? Would this be compromised by colonialism?
- Does fighting restore balance?
- Lead a brief discussion to review the students’ responses. Chapter 14 describes Okonkwo’s depression caused by his inability to gain the status he craved and expected in Umuofia. Chapter 15 describes the arrival of white British missionaries to the region.
Discuss your thoughts with your classmates. Consider the following prompts.
- Okonkwo’s self-esteem seems to be founded on his prominence and success in the culture that he knows; consider how colonialism—which would completely restructure the way Umuofian society functions—could affect the self-esteem of Okonkwo and others.
- Discuss the results of the arrival of white men in Abame—was Okonkwo correct, and should the villagers have armed themselves? If not, what should they have done instead?
- Is there a way of restoring balance when your culture is being invaded or taken over?
- What might the pros and cons of fighting back be?
- Demonstrate how to create a found poem using words and phrases from the text. Model choosing evocative language and crafting it to communicate a message.
- You may want to give students the option of planning in pairs, but each student should be responsible for his or her own poem.
- SWD: Be aware of how difficult it can be to do this exercise. If you find that some students need support, consider grouping those that need extra help and work with them as a way of supporting them.
- Students can browse through each other’s work, but do choose several examples to look at together.
- See what similarities and differences emerge. Discuss what the poems reveal.
Create a found poem about self-esteem and colonialism in Umuofia, using Okonkwo and the Igbo people as your inspiration. Use the language of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart as your words. The following instructions describe how the task works.
- Look through Chapters 14 and 15 of Things Fall Apart, selecting words and phrases that stand out to you as particularly interesting, evocative, melodious, or meaningful.
- Combine the words and phrases you found into a poem that says something about the effect of colonialism on the people involved with it: think about their self-esteem, their connection to their heritage, their beliefs about the future, their perceptions of the outside world, and so on. You may want to consider creating a strong speaker whose point of view you express, or even writing with the voice of two different speakers.
- Every word in your poem must come from the text, but it does not need to be in the same order that it appears in the book. Be creative!
Share your finished poem with your teacher and classmates. Then read through some of your classmates’ poems.
- What do you notice about your classmates’ work? Are there themes that are repeated, or phrases that seem to occur again and again?
- What do these poems show you about identity, self-esteem, and visions of colonialism in Umuofia?
- If time allows, hear a few of the students’ Quick Write responses.
Complete a Quick Write.
- What do you think the proper response for the Umuofians would be as the Europeans begin to infiltrate their land and communities? Do you agree with Okonkwo, that they should fight back with the weapons at hand? Are there other ways of fighting back that are possible? Explain.
Personal Journal - Entry #9 and Things Fall Apart
- Remind students that “fights” don’t need to be earth shattering. They could be fighting against a teacher’s unjust perceptions, for example, or against the words of an unkind peer. The purpose is to see which tools students use in their struggles.
- ELL: It is important that students be supported since this activity has a heavy language load. Support students by allowing them to discuss with a partner if they so choose and by giving them additional time.
Complete another personal journal entry.
- Describe a time in your life when you had to “fight back” against something you didn’t agree with. How did you fight? Did you use weapons, words, actions? What was the result of this fight? Explain.
Read Chapters 16 and 17 of Things Fall Apart. Continue to add to your Personal Glossary as you read.