Three Book Activities for "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry"
Dramatic Monologue Activity
Among the activities for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is the dramatic monologue. Students will assume the role of one of the characters from the novel and provide a 3-5 minute speech about the character’s response to events and other characters from the novel. Students should make sure to mention some of the events that have already occurred to their character before expressing how the character responds, why they might be confused or upset or frustrated, and stating what they hope for as a resolution. If students are especially shy, they can record their monologue using a webcam or video camera and transfer the video onto a pin drive or burn it onto a disc to share with the class.
Activity- Novel in a Bag
Use a standard-sized brown bag for this next project. On one side of the bag, the student will draw a picture of the protagonist. The next side should be for a conflict faced by the protagonist. The third side of the bag should have a picture of the setting. Lastly, the fourth side should have a new book cover page, including the title and author’s name and an illustration for the book. Inside the bag the student will place four items which could symbolize events from the story, the story characters, and themes from the novel. The symbolic items should be figurative and not as literal. If the symbolic items are not immediately available for the student to bring in their bag, they can draw a picture of the symbol on an index card or bring in a picture cut from a magazine.
- Side One—Protagonist illustration
- Side Two—Illustration of a conflict faced by the protagonist
- Side Three—Illustration of the setting
- Side Four—Illustrate a new book cover page with the title, author’s name, and an illustration
- Inside the Bag—Four items to symbolize themes, content, or characters from the novel
On presentation day, have students place the items with their bag on their desk. Leave a number card on each desk. Have students move about the room to observe the bags and symbolic items while making note on a sheet of paper what they feel each item might symbolize and commenting on the four sides of the brown bag. When all bags have been observed, students will take turns sharing their notations and comments for each numbered project.
Afterward, point out the differing perspectives among students. Ask how these differing perspectives might relate to characters like Cassie and Lillian Jean or any other characters from the novel. How do the differing perspectives relate to the subject of racism or to the world in general? Finally, after all of this discussion, ask students if they have any unanswered questions about the novel.
Dealing with Ethics Activity
Lessons for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry should include a chance for students to speak their minds. Students who read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry will eventually identify situations and confrontations in the novel which make them feel uncomfortable and which they might not be able to comprehend. Provide students with the tools for social discussion by sharing definitions for ethics, prejudice, racism, and tolerance. Allow them to pick out the items in the novel which made them feel uncomfortable, and then discuss among themselves. Part of a child’s identity is formed by knowing where they stand with such issues, and this activity will allow them an opportunity to voice their opinions.
Ethics is a system of moral principals governing the appropriate conduct for a person or group. Share this definition with students. Ask where they learn how to behave and to know what is right and what is wrong. On a sheet of paper, ask students to write a list of the controversial issues within the novel. Some examples of these issues include:
- Cassie’s dealing with Lillian Jean
- Momma being fired for what she taught
- TJ taking advantage of Stacey
Students will inevitably begin to talk about racism and prejudice. Make sure they understand the definitions for both. Provide students with a definition for racism and for prejudice. Here are some examples:
Racism—to feel superior to a group of people from another race because they possess qualities or abilities that are different
Prejudice—an unfounded hatred, fear, or mistrust of people of another religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, or social status based on inaccurate stereotypes, irrational feelings, or insufficient knowledge of that group of people
Move students into small groups and ask them to discuss the issues on their lists. They can respond to the issues by answering some of the following questions:
- Why did the characters respond this way?
- How were they treated?
- Who was responsible?
- What happened as a result?
- What does it mean to be fair?
- How should people behave?
Make sure to not impress your own personal beliefs on students and explain why it is important to respect everyone’s belief system. Provide students with one final definition:
Tolerance—the acceptance of views which differ from our own
If discussing topics such as ethics, racism, prejudice, and tolerance is a touchy subject in your school or classroom, broach the subject in a different manner. Incorporate picture books, try role-playing scenarios, or read about non-fiction historic accounts. These topics are not pleasant to discuss, but they are necessary, and if presented in the proper way, students will be able to make their own informed decisions about the world around them.
Let the characters from the novel come to life through student projects and discussions. Allow students to express their opinions, be creative, and become involved with the issues prevalent in Taylor’s profound novel. Activities for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry will create opportunities for memorable interactions in a learner-centered environment while inspiring how students perceive future novels and their own world.
Taylor, Mildred D. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Bantam Books: New York, 1976.
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