Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Week 1: Introduction

To Read or Watch, Week 2:
1) Study the Big Ideas and Themes listed at the right of this page.  Read the selections of quotations below them. 
2) Sanborn, Mark.  Excerpt from
You Don't Need a Title to Be a Leader: How Anyone Anywhere Can Make a Positive Difference

Writing Due Friday: Power of Storytelling
How much of what you have learned about family values, ethics, and morals has been learned through family stories?  Write a personal narrative essay about the power of story in your life; reflect on the role stories play in your understanding of your family, yourself, and your values.  Assignment Details

Big Ideas for 1st Quarter
power of story
discovering purpose, passion, and leadership potential
dignity, integrity, self-respec
power through conviction

Story is a basic principle of the mind. One story helps make sense of another.
The stories we hear and the stories we tell shape who we are and who we become.
The power of stories and poetry is lost if we don't listen.
The power of leadership can come from within - not from what we do, but from who we are.
Literature inspires. Language leads.
Leadership can be a magnet or a beacon rather than a bullhorn or an organizational hierarchy.
Effective leaders share similar qualities.
Out of adversity comes strength of character.
Character counts.

Week 2: Begin Their Eyes

To Read or Watch, Week 2:
1) Zucker, David and Jerry (dirs.).  Airplane , video. Excerpt.  1980.  (0:31)
2) African-American Dialect.  Video. 
YouTube.  (4:04)
3) Alvarez, Louis, & Andy Kolker.  "Linguistic Discrimination in School."
XX American Tongues.  Video.  Center for New American Video, 1987.  (4:41)
4) Patrick, Peter L., Professor
.  "Answers to Some Questions About Ebonics"
XX University of Essex. 
5) Do we have a dialect?  Our Dialect
Quick-Write: Discuss the attitudes these people have about language: in what ways are they correct or incorrect?  For fun: Audio Dialect Quiz

Tues: Ch 1-Janie Returns p 17-24 (7 pgs) - followed by focus question 1
Wed: Ch 2-Janie's Youth; Nanny's Story p 25-37 (12 pgs) - focus question 2
Thurs: Ch 3-Logan Killicks & Ch 4-Janie Leaves p 38-50 (12 pgs) - focus question 3

Literary Elements:
Frame Story

Slang, and

Writing Due Friday: Developing Voice by Writing in Dialect: Write a short story or a short, informal opinion on any topic.  Write it at least twice more, choosing two or more of the following voices: Hillbilly, Valley Girl, Bostonian, Inner City, grease monkey, professor, punk-druggie, skater, pro sports guy, new-age mystic guru, King James preacher, young child, California airhead, Texan, New York City, Indian, Cockney, Australian, etc. 

21 accents in 2 1/2 minutes

Week 3: Their Eyes

To Read or Watch, Week 3:

Author Study:
Zora Neale Hurston  video
Setting Study: 
Etonville, Florida  video1  video2
Ch 5-Jody Become Mayor; the Streetlamp; beginning of the Town's Resentment
p 51-68 (17 pgs)

Tues: Lennon, John.  "Woman is the Nigger of the World" , pg 250.  video vers.
Brady, Judy.  "Why I want a Wife".  pg 252. 
Ch 6-the Mule and the Beggar Woman
p 69-77 & 88-95 (25 pgs), followed by focus Q4. 

Wed:  Their Eyes Were Watching God.  Film.  Darnell Martin (dir.) 2005.  First 50 minutes. 

Thurs: write essay

Fri: Ch 7-Janie & Jody Fight & Ch 8-Jody dies, p 96-108 (12 pgs)

Literary Elements:
a figure of speech in which a comparison is implied by analogy but is not stated; the comparison of two unlike things without the use of "like" or "as" ("us colored folks is branches without roots." page 15)
XXX See English Terms   
Simile:  a comparison of two unlike things using "like" or "as" ("Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf with things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone."   p 8)
XXX See English Terms    Unlikely Similes
Personification:  a metaphorical figure of speech in which animals, ideas, things, etc. are represented as having human qualities (the night time put on flesh and blackness.", page 10)
XXX See English Terms

Writing Due Friday:

Essay Option:
Judy Brady wrote "Why I want a Wife" to complain about men's high expectations of women.  On the other hand, many women have high expectations of the modern husband.  Write an essay like hers, but one which details all the demands put on a husband.                     o

Ideal Relationship:
What is the ideal relationship between a man and a woman? Do their have to be equal? Do they have to be identical? Do more traditional roles work? Do relationships work if the people have significant differences in intelligence, values, etc.?

Creative Writing Option: Write a short story exercising your skills in metaphor, simile, and personification. 

Focus Questions
What qualities do effective leaders share?
How do you live a life that will inspire others?
How can you lead through relationships with people as opposed to leading through control over people?
How do ordinary people transform into extraordinary individuals?
What factors influence the development of leadership qualities?


"Story is a basic principle of mind. Most of our experience, our knowledge, and our thinking is organized as stories. The mental scope of story is magnified by projection - one story helps us make sense of another."   Mark Turner, cognitive scientist.
The Literary Mind: The Origins of Thought and Language

"Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners."
     Virginia Woolf

It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
     "Invictus" Henley

There was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.
"There Was a Child Went Forth"
     from Leaves of Grass  Walt Whitman

I am a part of all that I have met.
        "Ulysses"  A.L. Tennyson

Week 4: Their Eyes

Ch 9-Jody's Funeral, p 109-114 (5 pgs)


Ch 10-Arrival of Tea Cake, Ch 11-Fish and Daytime Thoughts
Ch 12-Phoeby Warns Janie,
pg 115 (21 pgs)- followed by focus question 5.

Wed: Split into groups and select one of the audio pieces below.  Listen and then present a summary to the rest of the class. 

Golding, Barrett.  Excerpt from "The Sound of 1930s Florida Folk Life" NPR.  Audio and Text Files.  Audio 22 min. 

"Zora Neale Hurston, Through Family Eyes" Liane Hansen's interview of Lucy Ann Hurston"
Weekend Edition Sunday 1-14-04

Grosvenor, Vertamae. "Crafting a Voice for Black Culture". 
Morning Edition: NPR Intersections.  8-04-05. 

Alice Walker on Zora Hurston's "Spiritual Food"

Edwards, Bob.  "Interview of Alice Walker". 
NPR.  4-26-04. (Can print using free trial membership)

Thurs: Ch 13-Tea Cake's Fun, Ch 14-The Everglades, Ch15-Jealousy, p 138  (22 pgs) 

Literary Element: Irony occurs the when the reader or viewer encounters a sharp difference between reality on the one hand, and appearance or expectation on the other.  See English Terms

Friday: (if writing is done; if not, then Monday) Next Section of Film Their Eyes Were Watching God.  Darnell Martin (dir.) 2005. 

Writing Due Friday: Character Analysis
Use either one of these character analysis charts as a pre-write, then write an essay analyzing how Janie character changes and develops in Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God.

character analysis chart 1
character analysis chart 2

Additional Materials for Their Eyes were Watching God
Folklore & Their Eyes Lesson Plans

Incorporating Dialect Study into the Language Arts Class   

Hazen, Kirk  Teaching About Dialect.  ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics Washington DC.

Dialect Lesson Plans from National Geographic

Dialect Lesson Plan from ReadWriteThink

Walker, Alice.  "Janie Crawford".  from
Good Night, Willie Lee (also printed in Alice Walker in the Classroom, Carol Jago). 

Goodwin, Jan. "Buried Alive: Afghan Women Under the Taliban".

Week 5: Their Eyes

To Read or Watch this Week:
Ch 14-The Everglades, p 152           

Tues: Ch 15-Jealousy, p 159

Wed: Ch 16 & Ch 17- Mrs. Turner , p 162 (14 pgs)

Thu: Ch 18-Hurricane, p 177  (13 pgs)

Fri: Ch 19-Sickness & A Trial, p 192 (21 pgs)
and Ch 20-Conclusion  p 216 (3 pgs)

Finish Film.  Their Eyes Were Watching God.  Darnell Martin (dir.) 2005. 

If Time Allows: Two Read-Aloud Freebies: "Richard Cory" and
Herriot, James.  "Chapter 61". 
All Creatures Great and Small

Genre Study:  Parable and Proverb

Writing for Week 5:
"On Friendship" Poem from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran   
The Love Chapter
What does the term Trophy wife mean? 

Write a brief essay on money and happiness, or money and marriage. 

Comparison Essay Review the leadership qualities you identified in this unit and in your family stories.  Compare your initial thinking about leadership and values with your current thinking about leadership characteristics. How does your understanding of the role of story influence the function of leadership?

Themes of Their Eyes Were Watching God:
Money isn't necessary for love or happiness.

"Classing off" leads to isolation.

Know when to speak; know when to be silent.

Being in a good relationship is best;
Being financially and emotionally independent is
Even if it brings financial security, a bad relationship is
Being a party girl without either a stable relationship or stable finances is the

Week 6