Author: Octavia E. Butler
Title of work: Parable
of the Sower
Using critical pedagogy, Cathie Wright-Lewis encourages students to
connect current events with fiction. In this lesson, Wright-Lewis provides
perspective on Octavia E. Butler's novel Parable of the Sower by
asking students to make connections between newspaper articles and issues
Butler raises in the book. Drawing on these texts, students then project
how the world might change and how they can shape that change. Finally,
Wright-Lewis encourages students to involve themselves politically by writing
letters that call for social justice.
To prepare for the lesson, view The Expanding Canon video
program 7, Part I. Online, review the Session 7 theory
information about the authors
and literature, resources,
and the downloadable print
guide. Read Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower.
- board and/or chart paper
- a screen or monitor on which to show a clip from the video program
3, Part I, either on a vhs tape or from the Web (optional)
- newspapers or collections of newspaper articles (which the teacher
may provide or ask students to provide)
- copies of Parable of the Sower
Standards for the English Language Arts
Teachers may want to show students the interview with Octavia E. Butler
from The Expanding Canon video program 7, Part 1.
1. Cathie Wright-Lewis begins her lesson with a discussion about Chapter
11 of Parable of the Sower with the whole class. Wright-Lewis asks
questions such as:
2. Students read a passage from Chapter 11 in Parable of the Sower.
Wright-Lewis leads a discussion about the treatment of religion in the text,
and encourages students to write down key points that come up in discussion.
The discussion focuses on students' concerns, but Wright-Lewis makes sure
that students consider:
- What are some of Lauren's concerns?
- What is the nature of the community environment? Why is it so dangerous?
- What is the cause of these problems?
3. The students divide into six groups that focus on a single assigned news
area: social news, political news, economic news, environmental news, spiritual
news and, science/technological news. Wright-Lewis explains that students
eventually will pool information from all the groups. Each class group receives
a chart and writes their group's name (e.g., "Environmental News") on the
- Lauren's need to change God's name and to create her own concept
- Her new concept of God
- Her age/maturity and her commitment to shaping her own destiny
- The positive changes Lauren is trying to make in the community
|NEWS EVENTS FOR ___________________
|NAME OF NEWS EVENT
|NEWSPAPER ARTICLE ABOUT EVENT
|TRENDS REPRESENTED BY EVENT
|RELATED TRENDS IN PARABLE OF THE SOWER
|PASSAGES IN PARABLE OF THE SOWER DEPICTING
4. Each group compiles recent newspaper articles that describe current events
in their news area. Students list news items on their charts, along with
any ideas they may have about the trends they're tracking. Some of the questions
that Wright-Lewis asks the class to consider include:
5. The groups share their findings with the class.
- Are all the stories about your news area in one section of the newspaper?
Are there tangential issues that you also need to track?
- Can you describe any trends that are emerging?
- How might these trends lead to the situation described in Parable
of the Sower?
6. Students write a report using evidence from newspaper articles to demonstrate
how contemporary American society might become like the society in Parable
of the Sower. They consider some of the following questions:
7. Wright-Lewis asks students to take action for positive change by writing
a letter to a politician based on the predictions they have made.
- What do you think should happen right now, or within the next 20 years,
to change the course of history so we don't end up with problems like
those in the book?
- To whom should we write?
- What should we say to that person?
8. After students have begun to draft their letters, Wright-Lewis asks them
to share portions with the class. Students finish these letters as a homework