British Imperialism: Gordimer’s “The Train from Rhodesia”
This lesson is part of my 12th grade unit on British Imperialism. If you are interested in purchasing the entire unit as one bundle, it is available here.
I use this lesson as part of my larger Imperialism Unit which is aimed at studying the literature of the era to uncover the perceptions and emotions of individuals caught on both sides of Imperialism. The concept of Imperialism involves the major work of nations (war, exploitation, servitude, enslavement), yet the literature exposes the conflicts, emotions, and true human nature of those people who lived within the social and political systems. I want my students to understand that there are people, relationships, conditions, choices, and motivations in every era of history; it is easy to judge historical events and figures from our contemporary standpoint, but it is important to remember that everybody has a back-story. These stories reveal that the relationships within the Imperialistic social structure were not always what they seemed.
This lesson includes:
A copy of Gordimer’s text “The Train from Rhodesia” which is available in many 12 grade literature books. Students are encouraged to annotate the text as they read in order to prepare for a Socratic Seminar. When they annotate, encourage the students to mark passages that show very descriptive imagery, write questions beside parts they don’t understand and underline and then mark any other sentence they feel may be important. Remind students that annotating is not the underlining of the text; it is what they write in the margins to explain WHY they underlined something. On this first reading, students will mainly be reading for comprehension. Based on your students' skill level, you may choose to model annotation on the Smartboard.
Guiding discussion questions requiring close reading and critical thinking. The questions encourage students to look for clues about the divided world of South Africa and consider the differing individual perspectives of the characters.
Identification level short answer quiz on the text to ensure that students have done the reading.
Socratic Questions based on close reading, annotation, and presented concepts.
Depending on your pacing, and if you assign portions of this work as homework, there are @ 2 classes of viewing, reading, interacting, discussion, and writing.
My class began reading this in class so I could clarify any difficult sections and they finished it as homework. Students were directed to read, annotate the story, and be prepared to answer the discussion questions in class. The next class period, they took the quiz and I allowed them a limited time to work with a partner to go over homework questions.
I then passed out copies of the Socratic Discussion Questions (you can project them on the SmartBoard). Students were directed to use their annotations as jumping off points for discussion.
Key Words: Gordimer, British Literature, Short Story, Close Reading, Critical Thinking, Setting, Imperialism, Socratic