The Color Of Water Unit Plan

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

This high school unit plan addresses the genre, themes, and life events in James McBride's memoir 'The Color of Water'. Lesson plans, activities, discussion questions, and project ideas are included to help you design a comprehensive novel unit.

The Color of Water by James McBride: Unit Summary

James McBride's memoir, The Color of Water, explores complex themes as it recounts both his and his mother's life. In this unit plan, your high school students can learn more about the genres of memoir and autobiography. Then, they can engage in the novel with discussion and activities and respond to it with a summative lesson plan. Thematic elements are also addressed, including cultural and personal identity, domestic violence, and prejudice. The unit wraps up with a lengthy list of project ideas to help students apply what they've learned in creative and unique ways.

Genre Study

Most sources categorize The Color of Water as a memoir. However, it is on the cusp of autobiography, as well, because it tells the story of his mother's entire life. Discuss the subtle differences between the genres by using this Memoir Lesson Plan and this Autobiography Lesson Plan. Ask students to identify the elements of each one and pay attention as you read to see what they find in the book that applies to each type of writing.

Use these Memoir Writing Prompts throughout the unit so students can build up a collection of their own stories while reading those of McBride and his mother. Additionally, these Autobiography Activities can get students engaged in analyzing their own lives and sifting through their memories for writing inspiration.

Read and Respond

While reading the book, it's important to provide time for students to digest the material and discuss it with one another. Use The Color of Water Discussion Questions, which are separated by chapter sections. Incorporate some of The Color of Water Activities to keep students engaged in and responding to the material. Wrap up your novel reading with this summative The Color of Water Lesson Plan to review key concepts and themes.

Thematic Elements

The Color of Water is chock-full of complex themes. Use these lesson plans to delve more deeply into a few of them, including cultural and personal identity, prejudice, and domestic violence.

James and his mother both struggle with defining their personal identities and determining how they tie into their cultures. Use this Cultural Identity Lesson Plan and this Personal Identity Lesson Plan to help your students explore more about these topics. Students can engage in meaningful ways to determine how they define themselves, as well.

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