199 Lesson Plan for Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Madisen Bentzlin and Lillian Savage

Step-by-step process:

1: We will begin the class by introducing and reminding the students of the text Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and lead them to the opening move. We want to start off with an outside critique of the novel because we want the class to view an outside perspective on the book, letting them analyze an opinion of the book other than their own.

2: After completing the opening move either on their own, or in the posted document on Teams, as a class we will discuss the answers and see what people think. This is an opinionated question, so it will allow others to be open minded to different thoughts, instead of just having one right or wrong answer. Also since this book brings up a sensitive topic, we did not want it to be argumentative. But the quote is long and descriptive from James Baldwin, and we wanted a good discussion to rise out of the question. This is the opening move prompt below.

OPENING MOVE:  A quote from James Baldwin’s critique of the novel.

“The ‘protest’ novel, so far from being disturbing, is an accepted and comforting aspect of the American scene, ramifying that framework we believe to be so necessary. Whatever unsettling questions are raised are evanescent, titillating; remote, for this has nothing to do with us, it is safely ensconced in the social arena, where, indeed, it has nothing to do with anyone, so that finally we receive a very definite thrill of virtue from the fact that we are reading such a book at all. This report from the pit reassures us of its reality and its darkness and of our own salvation; and ‘As long as such books are being published,’ an American liberal once said to me, ‘everything will be alright.’”

-Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?

3: After discussing the answers to the opening move, we will move on to the padlet activity that we made. The questions we posted in each padlet were creative and will help the students think more deeply about the text’s meaning. I think that our activities for this project will help the students understand the overall meaning and themes of the book, and see some outside perspective on how this book affected society at the time it was written. Additionally, we connected a padlet question to the other readings from other group presentations, and I think that will help the readers connect the themes to the other readings.

4: The questions we choose for the Padlet were descriptive and the class should be able to answer them with evidence mixed with their own perspectives. The questions were:

  1. How does the role of women compare to The Heroic Slave and The Female American? Is it more positive or negative?
  2. How is religion portrayed in this novel? What effect does it have on the reader?
  3. Abraham Lincoln claims that this novel helped start the civil war- Do you agree or disagree? Did it help start the war or was the ball already rolling so to speak?
  4. Why does this book affect readers more in comparison to Douglas and Delany?

We split the class up into four groups and had them answer their assigned padlet question; when they finished with said question then they can move onto the next. There isn’t a set time limit for the groups so everyone has enough time to think about the question and answer it thoughtfully. After everyone is finished, we would regroup and go over each padlet and discuss how each group answered the question. The main goal we have is for the class to be able to have a wide, enthusiastic and participation-filled discussion for Uncle Tom’s Cabin.


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The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature: A PSU-Based Project Copyright © 2016 by Madisen Bentzlin and Lillian Savage is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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