Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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In Search of the Novel: Teachers & Lesson Plans

Frazier O’Leary

Frazier L. O'Leary, Jr. has been a teacher of English at Cardozo High School in Washington, DC, since 1976. He has a bachelor's degree in English from The American University and a master's degree in Liberal Arts from St. John's College, and he has finished his course work for his Ph.D. in Literature at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He currently teaches AP Literature and Language, Senior English, and SAT Prep. He is a Faculty Consultant with the College Board in both AP and Building Success. He has coached various sports at the junior high, senior high, and university levels and is the happy father of five wonderful children.

Lesson Plan for A Lesson Before Dying


To bring an author and other resources from outside the classroom into the class so that students can hear the author’s voice and feel his or her purpose and so that the novel can assume a more intense and realistic context.


Do research at the local library and organizations like PEN/Faulkner to find out if any authors are living and working nearby, and then invite one in to read from his or her works and to answer students’ questions. Also invite other people from the community who can discuss their experiences in relation to those in the novel.


One of my classes was fortunate enough to have a visit from Gaines on the eve of the publication of A Lesson Before Dying. They had read the novel, and our discussion was very exciting. One of the highlights was Mr. Gaines’s reading the chapter that included Jefferson's diary. Mr. Gaines was affected by his own words, and his feelings were infectious.

I invited a former student who had been in and out of prison for the previous twenty years, to visit the classroom. His writing skills, though not so low as Jefferson's, allowed me to discuss with my class how much art imitates life. We translated some of Jefferson's paragraphs into standard English so that students could see and hear cultural differences.

Lesson Plan for Song of Solomon


To search for Toni Morrison's characters and style.


As a culminating activity, students are assigned to write an additional chapter, Chapter 16. The only guidelines for this exercise are that the chapter must be at least 250 words long and that it must flow logically and artistically from the end of the book.


I have given this assignment for over twenty years, and none of them has ever sounded alike. I find this an exciting way to end the study of this particular novel especially when the students share their work.


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