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Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. Box , Florence, KY The main activity of the lesson involves students rewriting the ending of the novel so that Marlow tells Kurtz's fiance the truth about his last words. It includes objectives, materials, procedures, adaptations, discussion questions, evaluation methods, extension activities, annotations of suggested readings and web links, vocabulary, and related academic standards and benchmarks addressed in the lesson plan.

The lesson plan also contains a description of a video clip related to the lesson, comprehension questions related to the video clip, and answers to those comprehension questions. Students will understand the following: Critics have debated some of Conrad's choices in Heart of Darkness. Students will understand how the novel reflects the world as Conrad saw it.

For this lesson, you will need: Elicit from students their emotional responses and analytic interpretations of Conrad's ending for the novel. As this activity proceeds, students will have a chance to write their own ending for the novel. In Conrad's version, Marlowe decides not to tell Kurtz's fiance about her betrothed's final degradation. Instead, he tells her that Kurtz spoke her name.


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After students discuss their responses and interpretations of Conrad's ending, share with them critics' comments on the ending. Critics have often written about Marlow's white lie at the end. Some critics say it illustrates Conrad's ideas about how we all must be protected from the savagery inside us, just as Marlowe protected Kurtz's fiance from the ugly truth about the decline of the man she intended to marry. Other critics, however, call it the novel's one striking moment of weakness, when Conrad just couldn't bear to keep telling the novel's heavy story.

With the preceding discussion in mind, as your students to write an alternative scene in which Marlow does tell Kurtz's fiance the truth, not only about Kurtz's last words but also about everything Kurtz had become. As students start prewriting, ask them to consider the following: When students proceed to drafting, encourage them to stay with Conrad's tone and writing style.

After time for peer editing and revision, ask volunteers to read their new endings aloud, leading into a discussion about the choices that students made. Younger students might engage in a class discussion of alternative endings but should not be expected to draft and revise written work. How can one's environment affect one's actions, feelings, and morals? Is this statement believable or not? Have you ever experienced a change in yourself that resulted from a change in your environment?

What kind of change was it? Are these distinctions valid? In Heart of Darkness, Kurtz is depicted as an upstanding European who has been transformed by his time in the jungle — away from his home, away from familiar people and food, and away from any community moral support that might have helped prevent him from becoming such a tyrant. There was nothing and no one, in essence, to keep him on the straight and narrow. Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Was there ever a time in which you felt alone, in a strange environment, or different from everyone else around you?

How did that experience affect you or change you? Did you find yourself pulled toward base, cruel instincts as Kurtz was? What did you do to cope with those feelings? Kurtz's dying words are a cryptic whisper: Is there more than one possibility? Why do you think Conrad made this scene so ambiguous?

Some readers claim that Heart of Darkness is strictly a political novella. Others, however, say it's really a story about the human condition. Can a work of fiction be interpreted in different ways? Should readers consider the author's intent when analyzing a story? Heart of Darkness can sometimes seem to readers like an incredibly dark, depressing story that paints civilizations in a very negative light.

Did it seem this way to you, or did the story contain any positive moments? If so, what were they? Why did they seem positive? You may evaluate each student's written work using the following three-point rubric; Three points: Giving Voice to Africans Some readers of Heart of Darkness have argued that the story is racist because Conrad's African characters rarely speak and have little or no individual identities.

Invite your students to discuss this criticism of the novel and to revise the novel to counter the critical attack. Ask each student to imagine that he or she is one of the African characters from the novel and now has an opportunity to write a journal entry describing experiences in the novel from his or her perspective. Advise students that their journal entries should not be retellings of scenes from the novel; rather, students should create scenes that logically might have occurred during the course of the novel but that Conrad chose not to depict. Be sure to encourage students to communicate the feelings of the characters they are pretending to be.

When they are finished, ask a few volunteers to share their work with the class. Even the United States began as a group of 13 colonies.

Heart of Darkness Lesson Plan. Heart of Darkness Lesson Plan.

Ask your students to use the library and Internet to learn about other instances of colonization in the world. It is what some critics believe to be "'among the half-dozen greatest short novels in the English language. They can use the skills they learn analyzing Heart of Darkness to access independently other texts that are just as difficult. They will learn that different types of texts require different approaches, that as readers, they must read Heart of Darkness and other texts like it with intent.

Secondly, Heart of Darkness is especially fertile ground for interpretation. One theme students will see immediately has to do with race and the character of Marlow. Wimsatt and Monroe C.


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  • Beardsley argue in "The Intentional Fallacy" 6 —we ignore Conrad's intent when we judge Heart of Darkness ' success as a literary work? Or can the work be judged on its own merits, regardless of what Conrad intended? These are the text-specific questions students will deal with in their discussions in class, conversations I hope they will continue outside the confines of our classroom walls.

    Finally, my students are on the verge of new lives. Many will be on their own for the first time, away at college and making adult decisions for themselves, from the mundane to the serious. They are coming of age in a world in which the use of social media connects us to people on the other side of the globe by simply clicking "Accept Friend Request," where it is more commonplace to text than to call, where we have over a thousand "friends" we've never met and whose voices we've never heard, where strangers follow our character thoughts on issues big and small.

    This begs the following question: Have we become merely observers of life rather than participants, posting pictures of our lives rather being actively engaged in them? Heart of Darkness is a work fraught with such questions about the nature of humanity, about our responsibilities and obligations to ourselves and to others to act in ways that are humane, and what the consequences are for us as a people when we act in inhumane ways or fail to stop others from doing so.

    The goal of my unit is to teach my students interpretation skills specifically using Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. It is the question I go back to every year as I plan the readings and works we will study during the course of the school year. While I am cognizant of the fact that it is the one work that students either love or hate; that there seems to be no middle ground; that those who hate Heart of Darkness are the ones who "just don't get it" and struggle mightily with not just vocabulary which can certainly be daunting but not insurmountable but with the enormous amount of symbolism and ambiguity in Conrad's work, they need not stay lost in the murkiness of the landscape, unable to glean meaning from the actions of the novel's characters.

    I would like to provide them a way to navigate all this by guiding them through close readings of particular passages which we will do as a class, then they will do in pairs or small groups, and finally individually , and allowing them to process information both verbally through class discussions and in writing via journals and essays.

    Enduring Understanding 1, below. By the end of this unit, it is my hope that students will have further developed their skills in the art or science of interpretation through close reading and analysis of the text, and learned the importance of supporting their opinions with appropriate evidence from the text.

    Enduring Understanding 3, below With these skills, they will be able to access other complex texts—whether they be novels, poems, or expository texts—with confidence. During the last week of classes before Overfelt tore down the wing in which my first classroom was located in order to replace it with a new, state-of-the-art science wing, my colleagues and I, who were being relocated to the new C-wing designed for 21 st century collaborative learning communities, invited students both current and former to leave messages on the walls, their good-byes to the place where they had been nurtured as scholars, where many of them had laughed, cried, fought, made up, made friends, and, for some, likely made a few enemies.

    Word spread, and they came—before school, between classes, at break, during lunch, and after school. They took up permanent markers to leave impermanent messages bold and tender and cryptic and funny on walls that would soon be a pile of rubble to be hauled away, leaving no physical evidence of the sometimes life-changing events that had taken place within them. But, of the over two hundreds epitaphs scrawled on my walls and doors and windows, only one brought tears to my eyes, a simple eight-word statement by a graduate:.

    That epitaph sums up why I believe the essential questions below are integral to the teaching of Heart of Darkness. I do not see my job as simply to teach English literature and writing. I believe that as an educator, I have an obligation to help my students become better people, responsible and informed citizens of the communities they will live and work in, which, in this age of Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Tumblr, and Instagram, are becoming more than ever interconnected and increasingly interdependent.

    They are inhabiting a global community, and the essential questions below will get them thinking about their place in society and how their actions or inaction may have consequences far beyond their ken. Essential Question 1 below is the foundation question. In determining whether Heart of Darkness is a racist text, students must examine the very current argument about whether we are living in a "post-racial" society.

    But even before they can begin discussing that question, they must come to some answer about what that phrase even means. They can then explore whether there is value in reading literature that engenders such strong reactions in readers that there is still debate over whether or not it should be taught. My hope is that they will come to the conclusion J. Rather than depend on someone else's opinion, we need to. Though there is no exact date when the Modernist period in English literature began, it is generally accepted that the seeds of its inception began to be seen in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

    Its emphasis on the inner self and consciousness, its view of society in decay or decline, and the sense of loss, alienation, and disillusionment, is often described as a reaction to world events that called into question Victorian ideals and sensibilities and to the Romantic world-view in which the focus was on nature and the individual. It eschewed the conventional characteristics of literature; the omniscient third-person narrator was replaced by the first-person or multiple narrators, and stream-of-consciousness style narration made its appearance.

    Heart of Darkness fits this description. Joseph Conrad was a Polish-born writer who did not begin learning English, his third language, until he was in his 20s. He lost his mother when he was eight, his father when he was twelve, and was raised by his uncle thereafter. From a very young age, he was fascinated with the sea, recounting that when he was nine years old, he pointed to the blank part of a map of Africa and announced emphatically, "When I grow up I shall go there.

    In , he joined the British Merchant Service, in which he served fifteen years. He became a British citizen in He travelled the world as a seaman, sailing to places such as the Caribbean, the West Indies, South America, Bangkok, and Singapore, before signing with a Belgian company to command a steamboat in the Congo, 10 this experience being the basis of Heart of Darkness.

    He authored several books, including his first, Almayer's Folly in , and Heart of Darkness , which was published in serial form in In King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa , Adam Hochschild recounts Belgium's King Leopold II's policies that resulted in "killing in the Congo [that] was of genocidal proportions, [but] was not, strictly speaking, genocide," in that "the Congo state was not deliberately trying to eliminate one particular ethnic group from the face of the Earth.

    In , after several years of negotiation with the United States and other European powers, King Leopold was granted sovereignty over the Congo Free State by the International Association of the Congo. Hochschild details the "four closely connected sources" that resulted in a tremendous population loss during and , with the greatest loss of life in the 's: Students will read the following texts because all address the question of whether Conrad and, thus, the novella are racist.

    Because I want students to interpret Heart of Darkness and, individually and as a class, come to their own conclusions about it, they will read these articles after reading Heart of Darkness.

    I want these pieces to serve as a starting point for the less text-specific inquiries of the Essential Questions above. These essays will encourage them to consider other interpretations, to analyze how those interpretations differ from their own, and to evaluate not only the validity of the conclusions and the evidence used for others' interpretations but also to re-examine the evidence they use to support their own interpretations and conclusions.

    Chinua Achebe , the Nigerian-born poet, novelist, and professor at Brown University, details several instances in the novella that he believes prove that "Joseph Conrad was a thoroughgoing racist. In it, he writes that from a Western perspective, Africa is viewed as "a foil to Europe, a place of negations at once remote and vaguely familiar, in comparison with which Europe's own state of spiritual grace will be manifest.

    To Achebe, it was an effort "totally wasted" because Conrad provided no "alternative frame of reference by which [readers] may judge the actions and opinions of his characters. Although he agrees with Achebe that "much of Heart of Darkness dehumanizes Africans" and that "the image Conrad projects of African life can hardly be called flattering," 27 Hawkins asserts that Conrad's depiction of the Congo cannot and should not be read as representative of "all the cultures and situations" in Africa. He believes that Conrad's "comparative reduction and neglect of Africans" in the novella was intentional.

    He interprets the passage in which Marlow journey's up the Congo, describing it as "traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world" 31 not as evidence that Conrad supported imperialism because of an inherent sense of superiority of European culture but rather as a way to focus readers on the idea on European hypocrisy, that those who purported to desire bringing civilization to Africa "[did not] live up to their own ideals as civilizers" 32 and in fact may have called into question the "validity" of those very ideals.

    Conrad's marginalization of Africans in the novella was a deliberate decision to have the narrative structure mimic societal structure. Of the critical essays to accompany our study of Heart of Darkness , the most difficult and most likely in need of scaffolding is Armstrong's. Armstrong acknowledges the different ways in which Heart of Darkness has been interpreted, on the one had as a text perpetuating racist stereotypes as advocated by Achebe and on the other as "a model of…the most promising practices in representing other peoples and cultures.

    Rather, " Heart of Darkness is a calculated failure to depict achieved cross-cultural understanding. Though he has many opportunities to engage in such "[ ]dialogical encounters," he does not take advantage of them but rather remains an aloof observer of the people and the landscape and activities going on around him,. Marlow's inability to bridge the power gap that separates him from the native Africans becomes representative of the text's inability to engage in the type of dialogue necessary to begin understanding.

    Armstrong sees Achebe's accusations similarly, as a failure to recognize Heart of Darkness as an opening salvo exploring the possibility of connecting with the "Other"; yet the charges Achebe makes in his response are valuable because "they break the aura of the text and reestablish reciprocity between it and its interpreters by putting them on equal terms" and that acknowledging "how unsettlingly ambiguous this text is about the ideals of reciprocity and mutual understanding" allows us to begin to "engage in the sort of dialogue with it which Marlow never achieves with Africans or anyone else.

    Before we begin, I will provide 1 a very short overview of Modernism and the Modernist movement in literature, 2 a brief biography of Conrad, and 3 introduce them to the historical and geo-political context of the novella. Enduring Understanding 2, above This is necessary because many of my students will have some general knowledge of European and American imperialism but not the specific history of Belgian encroachments on the Congo and the devastating effects of the Belgian government's policies and practices on the native African population.

    This will be the starting point for students to explore the broader issue of the effects of imperialism on both the perpetrators and its victims. Finally, using Heart of Darkness , students will learn to look closely at the literary devices used by Conrad to arrive at some understanding of the questions raised by the work, themes that they may encounter on the Advanced Placement English Literature Examination, which they are all required to take in May.

    I love having my students engage in class discussions. They are a wonderful way to get students thinking and to practice putting their thoughts together in words coherently and logically, and to do it more quickly than they thought they could. They learn to articulate their opinions in academic language and to support their ideas with evidence from the text, which they must read closely and deliberately in order to participate cogently and thoughtfully.

    At the beginning of the school year, I provide students a list of phrases that they use to help them converse like literary critics. At first they make a big show of using the phrases and we all laugh, but it quickly becomes part of their discussion lexicon. These phrases become an integral and necessary part of maintaining a college-level classroom culture, one in which students own the language of literary criticism.

    At the very least, students will have engaged in whole-class discussion by the time we begin our study of Heart of Darkness. Usually, I lead the first formal, graded one. Sometimes, however, I will have a student whose behavior in informal discussions makes me think he or she will be particularly adept at running a discussion with minimal guidance and participation from me—and very rarely will that student disappoint.

    I use whole class discussion at the beginning of the school year to gauge students' comfort level with participation and to begin getting them comfortable with participating verbally since they are required to do so quite often in class. In a fishbowl discussion, I choose ten students to begin in a circle discussion. They will need to bring discussion questions and their text s in order to participate.

    In order for a student on the outside to enter the discussion, he or she must "tap out" a student in the circle. This teaches students not just manners but also how to listen closely to argument and how to segue smoothly, with as minimal disruption as possible to the flow of conversation. Of the three discussion formats, 39 the Socratic seminar is perhaps my favorite method. Because of the size of my classes it is not unusual to have 35 students in a class , the seminars are conducted over two days, with one group the quiet ones going on the first day and "the talkers" on the second day.

    Neither group is immutable; students may, based on their performances in prior seminar and discussions, be moved or ask to be moved from one group to another. In general, before they come to me in AP English, students have not had much opportunity for formal class discussions, and few students have even participated in informal class discussions.

    Because of this lack of experience, I spend minutes detailing for them the procedures and my expectations. Requiring them to support their interpretations with evidence from the text helps them learn to synthesize ideas to come to perhaps a new or better understanding of the text. Because of the difficult nature of the text, I will read much of chapter one aloud while students follow along in their books although, if I have particularly strong readers, I may call on them periodically to read part of a paragraph or short section , stopping often to ask comprehension questions.

    This oral reading is a crucial step, necessary before students are assigned to small groups of no more than four to work through chapters two and three together. I do this to model for them how to handle Conrad's long, syntactically complex sentences, and to demonstrate the importance of slowing down and attending to punctuation, something they often ignore in their attempt to "just get through the chapter," and so they will know how to read when they are working together. Though group readings may seem to slow down the process, students benefit from their discussion about how they see the text and what they see in it to help them in interpreting what they see.

    Full text of "ERIC ED Heart of Darkness. [Lesson Plan]."

    They may make connections to the text text to text, text to self, text to world , or they may analyze a particular literary device or technique. Dialectical journals are also useful in preparing students for class discussions. It focuses them on a specific text and requires them to read closely. Students are allowed to use their journals during discussions to help them pinpoint where in the text a particular idea and supporting quote can be found, allowing their conversations to be organic and academic at the same time. For each of the Advanced Placement subjects, the College Board administers examinations that purport to evaluate a student's mastery of the subject matter.

    For English Literature, the examination includes a multiple-choice section and an essay section that requires students to respond to specific prompts on a poem or pair of poems, a short prose passage, and a thematic question often referred to as "Question 3" for which they choose an appropriate piece of literature. So, every year, before I return students' first in-class essays to them, I ask them what "AP" stands for, and every year the first verbal response because their first response is to look at me like I have lost my mind is "Advanced Placement.

    For our purposes, I tell them, they need to add a second definition of what "AP" stands for: But when I pass back their essays with both a letter grade and number score based on the AP scoring guide, their laughter quickly dies out; some quietly share their scores with the person next to them; others shrug and shake their heads in response to silent inquiries about how they did. I introduce the essay this way not to discourage them as much as it is to humble them a bit, to break them of their preconceived notions that the way they have "always" written in their past English classes, that the process that has gotten them the "As" they so covet will be "good enough" in AP.

    They quickly learn that 1 even the highest achieving of them need lots of practice in writing responses that adequately address the prompt, 2 grammar and mechanics count even on timed essays, and 3 40 minutes to write an essay on a prompt as complex and involved as the AP prompts is not an easy task but is a doable one. Students, therefore, will write several in-class essays to prepare them for the AP exam essays. The timed essays, however, are more than just preparing for the Advanced Placement exam.

    Like discussions, the timed essays are a way for students to practice expressing cogently and thoughtfully their interpretations of the text. This first week will be dedicated to "getting our feet wet. We will then begin chapter one. They will use reading questions developed by Kris Tully and Robert Litchfield 42 to work through this and the other two chapters. I will read some of chapter one, stopping often to check for understanding and to allow students to ask for clarification and write answers to the reading questions, and to identify and define vocabulary words.

    I will also have students read along with an audio recording of the novella 43 so that they can hear how different readers emphasize different words in the same text. This should lead to a brief discussion of whether and how that affects their own understanding and interpretation of text. Students will then assemble in their assigned groups to complete chapter one and begin chapter two.

    As they read, I will be circling among them, answering questions and asking them some of my own in order to push them to come to some understanding on their own. If a particular group seems to be having particular difficulty, I may sit with them for an extended period of time as I will do throughout the unit. At the end of each class, each group will assign nightly homework to its own members so that they stay on schedule. Groups are encouraged to spend time outside of class working together, although this is not always possible when students have sports or familial obligations.

    The first part of week two will be dedicated to students completing group readings of chapter two. We will spend class time identifying and defining problematic words in the chapter. This will also be time for students to ask clarifying questions about characters and plot before they take a test on chapter one so that I can assess whether they understand the text on the most basic level. If they do not, we will spend time reviewing.

    We will conduct a whole-class close reading of what I call the "maps" passage in which Marlowe relates his childhood fascination with maps "Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps" to "The snake had charmed me. We will end the week with a whole-class discussion led by me or by a student volunteer. Each student will come to class with five questions that fall on the higher end of Bloom's Taxonomy, which we will have discussed earlier in the school year.

    They must also have their text in order to participate. At this point in their reading, students will have developed a preliminary opinion about whether Heart of Darkness is a racist text. Students will explore this issue, citing specific evidence from the novella to bolster their arguments. Depending on the quality of the discussion, the issues raised, and student interest, the discussion may go a second day.

    Students will start the week by taking a test on chapter two. They will also begin their group readings of chapter three. The major assignments for this week are the close-readings students will do in pairs. The passage is about Marlowe's description of his initial visit to the Company offices.

    The next day we will debrief as a class and discuss their interpretations of the passage. For the fishbowl discussion, students will come to class with five discussion questions. I will have placed ten chairs in the middle of the classroom. I will choose the initial ten participants, who take their places in the circle, with one student to open the discussion.

    Learning Objectives

    Those not in the fishbowl may enter the discussion after ten minutes have elapsed. A student who wishes to participate in the discussion taps the shoulder of the student whose place he wishes to take. Once in the circle, a student must remain for at least five minutes and may not leave until "tapped out" by another. As always, depending on the quality of discussion, the issues raised, and student interest, the fishbowl may go on to a second day.

    To begin our final week, students will complete chapter three in their groups. We will, as we have done for each of the first two, identify and define problematic words and review the chapter prior to the chapter three test. Once students have completed chapter three, I will assign the essays by Achebe and Hawkins to read and journal, using the dialectical method for the upcoming Socratic seminar. For the dialectical journal, students will use a spiral-bound notebook.

    For each entry, students will fold the page in half lengthwise.