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the expanding canon teaching multicultural literature
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Session 7 Critical Pedagogy: Octavia E. Butler and Ruthanne Lum McCunn - Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan 1
Lesson Plan 2


REFLECTION - Interactive Forum

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Download the Session 7 Guide

Ruthanne Lum McCunn
Title of work: Thousand Pieces of Gold

Sandra Childs uses critical pedagogy to help students understand Ruthanne Lum McCunn's Thousand Pieces of Gold. The class discusses the Chinese practice of footbinding and then explores how contemporary American women suffer to make themselves conform to society's standards of beauty. Divided into groups, the students read first-person accounts by women addressing the pressure to conform. In a simulated tea party, each student takes on the persona of the article's author/narrator. The activity prompts students to contemplate and write about the political effects of cultural practices. The author Ruthanne Lum McCunn visits the classroom, discusses the historical basis of the novel, and answers students' questions.

To prepare for the lesson, view The Expanding Canon video program 7, Part II. Online, review the Session 7 theory overview, strategies, information about the authors and literature, resources, and the downloadable print guide. Read Thousand Pieces of Gold and related articles -- some texts available in the print guide.

Teachers will need the following supplies:
  • board and/or chart paper
  • yellow sticky notepaper
  • screen or monitor on which to show a clip featuring Ruthanne Lum McCunn from the The Expanding Canon video program 7, Part II (optional)
  • copies of Thousand Pieces of Gold
  • copies of the following stories/ articles: "Tar Baby" by Joseph Khalilah, "A Woman's Silent Journey" by Erika Miller, "My Body Sucks" by Alexis Young, "Finding My Eye-dentity" by Olivia Chung, "Bubbe Got Back" by Ophira Edut, and "My Jewish Nose" by Lisa Jervis. Some texts available in the print guide.
Standards for the English Language Arts

In advance of the lesson, Sandra Childs asks students to read Thousand Pieces of Gold.

1. Childs begins the lesson by asking students to summarize the novel, asking questions such as:
  • Why was it controversial for Lalu to work in the fields?
  • Why did they bind her feet?
2. Childs then describes the process of foot binding to her students. She gives each student a yellow sticky note. While she reads from The Splendid Slippers, students write their thoughts on the yellow notepaper. Childs emphasizes the importance of listening to the voices of the women in that culture who are saying "Stop." She suggests to students that, rather than judging a culture, "You can actually empower and listen to the voices in that culture that are critiquing it, rather than doing it from an outside perspective. That's one of the ways you can wrestle with these issues."

3. After students share the thoughts they've written down, Childs asks them to place their sticky notes on the floor. She points out that each note is about the size of a bound foot. She then prompts students to discuss:
  • What other things did Lalu have to do to be considered beautiful?
  • Why are these things fashionable?
4. To explore connections between the politics of beauty in Lalu's era and contemporary America, Childs asks students to list things people do to make themselves beautiful. She prompts them to find broad, cross-cultural patterns by asking:
  • Why do we find these things attractive?
  • Why is this necessary?
  • Why do people participate in this?
5. Each student shares one item from his/her list.

6. Childs divides the class into groups and gives each group a piece of writing to analyze: "Tar Baby," "A Woman's Silent Journey," "My Body Sucks," "Finding My Eye-dentity," "Bubbe Got Back," and "My Jewish Nose." Each group writes a paragraph in the voice of the narrator.

7. In a simulated tea party, students take on the personae of the authors/narrators of the pieces they analyzed, mingling to hear others' stories. Childs asks students:
  • What do these women have in common?
  • What do their stories tell us about the politics of beauty?
8. Author Ruthanne Lum McCunn visits the class, discusses the historical research she conducted to write the novel, and answers students' questions. (Teachers may want to show students a clip featuring Lum McCunn from The Expanding Canon video program 7, Part II.)

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