Things Fall Apart: Teaching through the Novel. Author: EdSitement.

This lesson plan provides activities to help students understand the novel better through these activities: Mapping the Changing Face of Africa, Telling One's Own Story: Differing Perspectives, and Revising History through Writing.  Major focuses of these lesson are to have students compare/contrast history represented in literature vs. history represented in historical accounts as well as how an author's perspective affects his or her writing. This lesson plan can be used to help students analyze Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, usually taught in 10th grade.  This lesson contains various links to websites and resources within the resource itself, including maps and essays, all of which can be used to increase the level of understanding of this novel.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
CLE 3002.8.1
Demonstrate knowledge of significant works of world literature.
CLE 3002.8.3
Recognize the conventions of various literary genres and understand how these conventions articulate the writers vision.
CLE 3002.8.4
Analyze works of literature for what is suggested about the historical period in which they were written.
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning objectives: 
  • Become familiar with some African literature and literary traditions
  • Become familiar with elements of African and Nigerian culture
  • See how historical events are represented in fiction Be able to differentiate between historical accounts and fictionalized accounts of history
  • Understand narrative perspective as culturally-positioned (Afrocentric versus Eurocentric perspectives)
Essential and guiding questions: 
  • How does Achebe see the role of the writer/storyteller? In what ways does he use fiction as a means of expressing and commenting on history?
  • To what extent is Things Fall Apart successful in communicating an alternative narrative to the dominant Western history of missionaries in Africa and other colonized societies?

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 
  • Debate the aims and outcomes of writing in African languages versus colonizers' languages.
  • To extend the notion of rewriting history from previously excluded points of view, have students analyze the way Achebe represents women in Igbo society within Things Fall Apart, and ask them to and write a paper discussing women's roles and status in the novel.
  • An interesting comparison to the women in Things Fall Apart read the essay by John N. Oriji, "Igbo Women from 1929-1960" in West Africa Review1 (2000), and write a paper comparing the role of women in the novel and the historical role that Igbo women played in the Aba Women's Revolt in Nigeria during colonialism.
  • Have students complete an at-home project or an in-class essay on The Role of the Writer in Society. In addition to publishing many novels chronicling the history of colonial and post-colonial Nigeria through the lives of fictional protagonists and their communities, Chinua Achebe has spoken out and written several essays on the role of the writer/storyteller within his or her society.
  • Write on the board or distribute to the class the following quotes that Achebe uses to describe his mission as a writer: "Here is an adequate revolution for me to espouse – to help my society regain belief in itself and to put away the complexes of the years of denigration and self-abasement. And it is essentially a question of education, in the best sense of that word. Here, I think, my aims and the deepest aspirations of society meet" (Quoted by George P. Landow in "Achebe's Fiction and Contemporary Nigerian Politics", available through the EDSITEment-reviewed resource Internet Public Library). "The writer's duty is to help them regain it [dignity] by showing them in human terms what happened to them, what they lost.
  • There is a saying in Ibo that a man who can't tell where the rain began to beat him cannot know where he dried his body. The writer can tell the people where the rain began to beat them. After all the novelist's duty is not to beat this morning's headline in topicality, it is to explore in depth the human condition. In Africa he cannot perform this task unless he has a proper sense of history" ("The Role of the Writer in a New Nation"). Have the class discuss what these statements say about Achebe's view of the role of the writer/storyteller in society. As a final project, ask students to write an essay that analyzes the ways in which Achebe fulfills his role as a writer according to his definition through Things Fall Apart. For additional information, see the essays "Africa and Her Writers" and "The Novelist as Teacher" in Chinua Achebe's Morning Yet on Creation Day: Essays. New York: Doubleday, 1975.
  • An alternate assignment would be a comparison of Achebe's views on the role of the writer with those of the Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka in his Interview on writing, role of writer, and political activism, available through the EDSITEment-reviewed resource Conversations with History.