Lesson Plans for Desiree’s Baby: An Opportunity to Study Racism that Transcend Time

Lesson Plans for Desiree’s Baby:
An Opportunity to Study Racism that Transcend Time

Teacher: Eddie Stiltner Date of Observation: 12/04/14
Department: English Department Chair: Professor Lucas
Course Title: LR_ENG 231 01 FA14 Grade Level: 10
Title of Lesson: “Desiree’s Baby” by Kate Chopin Class Period: 10:50 Day: 1
Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the lesson the student will be able to:
• evaluate females’ roles in the 18th century through a fictional story.
• understand traditional aspects of female roles through the historical evidence.
• recognize and evaluate the destructive and restrictive nature of traditional female roles, both women and girls.
• analyze the significance of phenotypes, skin coloration, and social expectations due to these characteristics.

Lesson Structure (with estimated time allotment):
(5 minute time limit) Preface Task:
1. Request the students to remove all material from desks except pencil and paper. Ask the students to list ten of their most distinguishing 5 physical and 5 character traits.
(9 minutes) Discussion
• Ask for volunteers to read a few physical and character traits from their list and why they added them.
(9 minutes) Prompt discussion
2. Using open ended prompt question to encourage class discussion.
• Ask how many students used color to describe themselves.
• Ask the class is the color of a person skin significant to their placement in society and why.
• Does the class think their opinions would be similar to those of high school students from other regions of the country? Why?
• Collect list for daily participation grades.

(3 minutes) Evaluation
3. Show the class the following three images, using the classroom’s computer hooked to the projector: Ask the class to examine the images for three minutes.




(5 minutes) In class Writing
4. Request that each student to write a paragraph about what they think the artist is trying to convey in the painting.
• Inform the students to write about one, two, or all three paintings.
• Encourage the students to make connections between the paintings.
(9 minutes) Open Discuss
5. Begin a class room discussion:
• Ask the students to compare and contrast any of these images to the contemporary society of Hickory, North Carolina.
• Encourage the students to relate the image in retrospect to their daily lives.
• Retrieve class’s paragraphs for daily participation grade.
(4 minutes) Story Introduction
4. Introduce the story, “Desiree’s Baby:”
“Desiree’s Baby,” is a fictional story by Kate Chopin. The story takes place in Louisiana in the mid-nineteenth Century, featuring a main character named Desiree. Desiree Valmonde is an orphaned child raised in the white society by loving adopted parents. The story focuses on Desiree maturing into a beautiful lady, marrying an aristocrat, and starting her own family. Chopin’s story features women’s roles and societal roles induced by skin color during the 1800’s leading to a surprise ending.
(4 minutes) Homework Instructions
5. Write assigned homework on the room’s blackboard, chalkboard, or whiteboard.
• Read Desiree’s Baby by Chopin pages 177- 180
• Pay close attention to sections that relate to women’s roles and societal roles based on skin color.
• Write a paragraph analyzing an aspect of women’s or skin color’s role in the story.
• Paragraph needs to be typed and follow MLA guide lines.
• Due at the beginning of the next class.
Dismiss class.

Teacher: Eddie Stiltner Date of Observation: 12/09/14
Department: English Department Chair: Professor Lucas
Course Title: LR_ENG 231 01 FA14 Grade Level: 10
Title of Lesson: “Desiree’s Baby” by Kate Chopin Class Period: 10:50 Day: 2

Tuesday class:
(8 minutes) Quiz
1. Ask class to clear desk except for pencil and prepare for a quiz.
• Pass out test making sure no student turns the test over until every person has a copy.
• Inform class the time limit for the test is 6 minutes.
• Take role while students are taking exam.
2. Collect quizzes for daily participation grade.
(2 minutes) Class preparation
3. Divide class into four groups by counting 1-4 repetitively until all students are in a group. This class has 4 groups.
• Inform the students to separate into assigned groups and take their homework from the weekend with them.
• Request students to take their book, pencil, and paper for notes or collaborative work.
(3 minutes) Distribute Worksheets
4. Pass out worksheets. Each group will have different paragraphs from the story to insure a thorough discussion of the story. (See attached pages for group worksheets)
(5 minutes) Explain Worksheets
5. Use a work sheet as a visual aid and explain all sections of the worksheet.
• Writer for the group
• Members’ names
• Group name
• Paragraph
• Bullet lists
• Ask a person to volunteer to read the groups assigned paragraph to the class.
6. Explain the expectations deemed for each student during the group project:
• Each student must participate.
• Find the paragraph from the worksheet in the text book.
• Each student must read the paragraphs silently.
• Encourage all members to respect each other’s opinions as well as voice their own during the group workshop.
• Inform the students of a time limit of ten minutes.
• Ask the group to complete worksheet.
• Walk around the room helping any group as needed.
(24 minutes) Class Discussion
7. Bring the groups attention back to class. Randomly select a group to start the discussion. Continue allowing all groups time to present their group project. (Each group is permitted 6 minutes)
• Ask the groups volunteer to read the paragraph to the class
• Ask for a member of the group to volunteer and explain the major point they had bulleted on their worksheet.
• Continuing rotating the discussion around the room until all groups have presented.
(5 minutes) Open Discussion
9. Finish the class by encouraging students to ask questions or describe their favorite part of the story.
10. Remind students to check the syllabus for the next class reading and dismiss class.
11. Collect student‘s homework and group work sheets as they exit the classroom for daily patitipation grades.

• What was the name of the orphan? Desiree
• What color was the woman that raised Desiree? White
• How many children did Desiree have? 1
• At the end of the story a letter was tossed into the fire. Who does it identify as mixed raced? Armand
• Write a paragraph describing what you would do at the end of the story if you were either Desiree or Armand. Choose only one character to write about.

Group 1
Group’s reading person:
Group’s presenter:
Group members:
Each group should ask for volunteers for a person to read aloud the paragraph, with quotes assigned to specific group, when it is their group’s turn to present. Also request a volunteer to present your group’s paragraph by reading it aloud to class. The group should be prepared to answer any questions from the class or the teacher.
Madame Volmonde catches a glimpse of the child and immediately says, “This is not the baby!” Find the quote within the fictional story, “Desiree’s Baby,” by Kate Chopin. As a group, analyze this statement and write a detailed paragraph explaining it. What details does this statement give the readers? Does Madame Volmonde’s reaction tell the readers anything? Define the words Bayou and cochon de lait?

This section is for teachers copy only:
Emphasize this first statement indicating the relevance of the color of the child’s skin. Discuss Desiree and Armand behaviors before and after this section of the story? Has anything changed in their relationship? Why? Encourage conversation about attitudes of the parents and societal expectations. Elaborate on any societal repercussions to a family having mixed raced child.

Group 2
Group’s reading person:
Group’s presenter:
Group members:
Each group should ask for volunteers for a person to read aloud the paragraph, with quotes assigned to specific group, when it is their group turn to present. Also request a volunteer to present your groups paragraph by reading it aloud to class. The group should be prepared to answer any questions from the class or the teacher.
Armand is reading one of the old letters from his mother to his father from their courting days and it says, “night and day, I thank the good God for having so arranged our lives that our dear Armand will never know that his mother, who adores him, belongs to the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery.” What does this quote say to its readers? Is Armand racist? If so, will he overcome this racism? Define the words corbeille and layette.

This section is for teachers copy only:
Discuss the racial and social hierarchy of the South during this period. Inform the students that if Armand’s true heritage were know he would loss his social status. Ask the students if they can relate this to any similar situations in our contemporary society where heritage must be hidden.

Group 3
Group’s reading person:
Group’s presenter:
Group members:
Each group should ask for volunteers for a person to read aloud the paragraph, with quotes assigned to specific group, when it is their group turn to present. Also request a volunteer to present your groups paragraph by reading it aloud to class. The group should be prepared to answer any questions from the class or the teacher.

Desiree has realized her baby is an interracial child and writes a letter to Madame Valmonde stating, “My mother, they tell me I am not white.” What does this say about Desiree’s attitude toward skin color? Will Desiree come to terms with being “not white?” How will this affect her perspective of her own heritage? Define the words peignoir and quadroon.

This section is for teachers copy only:
Discuss the relationship between Desiree and Madame Valmonde. Evaluate the trust between the two women. Considering all the characters in the book, why does Desiree contact Madame Valmonde?

Group 4
Group’s reading person:
Group’s presenter:
Group members:
Each group should ask for volunteers for a person to read aloud the paragraph, with quotes assigned to specific group, when it is their group turn to present. Also request a volunteer to present your groups paragraph by reading it aloud to class. The group should be prepared to answer any questions from the class or the teacher.

After the baby started developing characteristics of a mixed race child, Desiree starts to walk toward the door and says, “Good-by, Armand.” Why is she leaving? Does Armand want her to leave or does he have no choice due to the baby’s mixed race? Define the words unwonted and Negrillon.
This section is for teachers copy only:
Evaluate Desiree’s and Armand’s options. Does this couple have any chance of staying together? If so, how would society treat the couple? Ask the students if our contemporary society continues to have biases against interracial children.

Reflections from Within: A Story of Failure
After reading “Desiree’s Baby” by Kate Chopin I decided to use the short fiction story for my final project for English 231. I’m an education major, planning to teach at residential schools, so I thought of doing a teacher planner for the tenth grade level. This is approximately the age group I hope to teach after I graduate. I thought this will be a wonderful opportunity to show residential students, by and large profoundly deaf individuals, an aspect of the hearing society that seems to be an overwhelming theme in Chopin’s culture, prejudices based on phenotypes. This type of behavior, which affects many aspects of the hearing world, constantly eludes and mystifies the deaf culture. I think that I could build a bridge from the written language to the conceptual world, allowing a Deafy, a politically correct and accepted label by many profound deaf people, unique opportunity to insights into the hearing world. I have never taught an English class, so I will use techniques such as group work, reading individual paragraphs, and class discussions when teaching this narrative.
Group work can be a wonderful learning experience; students can learn multiple perspectives of a story from this activity and receive encouragement from other participants which builds a strong connection among peers. These bonds often give a sense of confidence within each other and extend much further than the class room. Another important part of group work is the development of familiarity amongst students which can lead to friendships that may never have developed otherwise. Students meet people with similar views and ideas along with learning how to come to terms and respect those that are different that theirs. Group work permits me to divide the French words amongst the student, allowing a better understanding of the text. For me group work has often proven to be one of the best teaching methods; therefore, I felt obligated to add this technique in my teaching guide.
Another aspect I feel that helps students is reading aloud. Often this is the only time they come in contact with the reading material. Today’s students have a hectic lifestyle that consumes much of their lives which leaves little time to read assigned material. I also enjoy the review of the material, because it refreshes my memory of the details and gives a new perspective from reading the material again. This is an amazing way of encouraging the student to actually review important aspects of the story; however, because reading aloud would be impossible for a Deafy group, individual rereading would be required. Additionally, a reading of specific paragraph can help both hearing and deaf students acquire major themes within the work on a smaller scale.
Perhaps my favorite part of any literature class is the open discussion, so I add this as an element for my teaching plans. Open discussion has the ability to enhance every students understanding of the story from multiple perspectives. Often, an element of a story can be brought to the entire class’s attention, encouraging other students to build on the point. This process can lead to a variety of interesting aspects of the story that a teacher plans could never anticipate. This process allows me to evaluate a situation from multiple perspectives and ultimately develop one’s personal understanding of material better than comprehension on an individual basis alone.
Finally, arranging a meeting and bringing the text containing the story that is to be taught is required. In a casual discussion of the story with Deafy peers, a realization was made; they do not understand the material. A volunteer was asked to read a page and explain it to me. They all immediately responded “no, that is too much and too hard.” Then a lady volunteered to read a few paragraphs. She highlighted any English words that she did not understand. It was mind-boggling when she highlighted eighty to ninety percent of every paragraph. I realized that these high school graduates did not understand the written language of English.
After evaluating these reading skills I contacted a teacher at Gallaudet University. She explained that most of the students from residential schools prefer Gallaudet and other predominately deaf colleges, because their reading skills are between the third and fourth grade level. At this point I realized my lesson plan which is required to relate to my college level English 231 class, could not be taught in a residential English high school class.
I personally thought it would behoove the Deafy community to understand the hearing cultures prejudges correlating to color and these themes are clearly presented in “Desiree’s Baby” by Kate Chopin. I feel that understanding this foreign ideology of biases and discriminations due to phenotypes would allow a better relationship and understanding between the two cultures. Deafys are discriminated against everyday so that creates a bond between the members which makes them less likely to discriminate based on phenotypes. This type of discrimination would contribute to making their small group even smaller, so the practice is basically non-existent. Although I understand the need for this cultural connection, I find it impossible to relate this idea to them from the written language of English. I personally feel I let these students down. I will continue to try to learn how to teach these students as my goals of teaching at a residential school is not hindered by this minor setback.
However, the project was not totally lost as I tweaked the lesson plan and developed it for a mainstream school system. Racism affects this group of students in our contemporary society, so I feel it is just as important for them to understand it from a historical perspective. I plan to use the same technique for the mainstream students as I had originally designed for the residential students, including group work, reading paragraphs and class discussion. I do feel like I let myself down by not being able to share Chopin’s story, “Desiree’s Baby;” however, I will use this as a learning experience. I will continue my studies at Lenoir Rhyne and hope to build the skills I need to eventually instruct this story to residential students.


Abortion: A Conversation Initiated by Necessity

Abortion: A Conversation Initiated by Necessity

Some subjects are so unconformable to talk about that they become a taboo. Russle Banks’ “Black Man and White Woman in a Dark Green Rowboat” and Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” share a common controversial theme of abortion. Both writers use a dialogue between fictional characters in order to develop a vivid plot of each couple’s struggle with this unmentionable issue. Neither Banks’ nor Hemingway’s stories actually mention the word “abortion;” however, it is clearly evident through the characters’ conversations. Because of both Banks’ and Hemingway’s skilled use of a minimalist style, their characters’ dialogue, personality, and vague ending issues allow this difficult subject to emerge from multiple perspectives.

Banks and Hemingway use dialogue as a major literary technique in telling their stories. Both writers allow their main characters to tell an encrypted story which forces the reader to analyze the text by reading between the lines. However, neither writer clearly identifies the two main characters. Banks’ story, “Black Man and White Woman in a Dark Green Rowboat,” does give a few physical details of the characters; however, they are vague and provide few details about appearance other than describing a tall, slender, masculine, black man that looks “like an Arab. A sheik” (63). This biased description of the man is given by the white woman, indicating she feels superior to him. The white woman’s age is given as one of the few somewhat concrete details of her appearance: “twenty or maybe twenty-one.” (63). Banks does not give either character a name. This writing style almost dehumanizes the characters as it allows their conversations to take precedence, become their identities, and tell the story.

Hemingway’s story, “Hills Like White Elephants,” also uses dialogue between the main characters as a major component in telling the story. Although Hemingway does apply a name to the female character, it is a vague nickname, “Jig” (417). Similar to Banks’ narrative, Hemingway’s story almost completely omits physical details about the main characters. The story does specify that the man is an American who can speak Spanish. Hemingway’s characters are faceless much like a blank slate, allowing the reader to understand them only through their conversation with each other. By allowing the physical aspects of the characters to become mundane, Hemingway’s dialogue forms a sequence of events that become the story nearly are absorbing the identities of the characters themselves.

Both Banks and Hemingway establish their stories through the roles of two main characters in which one character seems to dominate the other. In Banks’ story the “girl” is completely in control of the situation as she has scheduled an appointment for later that evening (64). She discusses the situation with her mother and completely leaves the man out of all decision-making: “I told Mother” (64). The young man realizes he has no say in the decision-making process; nevertheless, he elaborates his discontentment: “I hate this whole thing. Hate. Just know that much, will you” (65). His plea is a cry of dissatisfaction and not one of rebellion; it is as if he simply accepts the decision. The girl’s response to the situations was “Well. We’ve been through all this before. A hundred times,” indicating her decision was final (65). Banks’ female character is dominant and fully in control of the situation with her mother’s support.

While Banks permits femininity to be the prevailing force in decision-making, Hemingway uses the male as the dominant character. The man in Hemingway’s story pressures the woman, Jig, into an abortion through subtleties in his conversation that make it seem like the woman has the power to finalize the decision: “I think it’s the best thing to do. But I don’t want you to do it if you don’t really want to” (418). The man continues to domineer the conversation with Jig by saying, “It’s really an awfully simple operation” (417). This shows that the man is directing Jig to have the surgery through nonchalant conversation. The man ultimately leaves very few choices for Jig as he dominates and manipulates the situation: “You don’t have to be afraid. I’ve known lots of people that have done it” (417). This insures that Jig will have the surgery.

Each couple follows a decision-making process with an evaluation of the outcome and what they believe will happen to their relationship after the unspoken procedure, abortion. Banks and Hemingway employ open-ended narratives which do not give us exact details of the conclusions of their stories. Banks ends his story with the couple coming to shore and then walking off in different directions; “… the black man turned away from the dark green rowboat and carried his fishing rod and tackle box away…the girl… stepped carefully out of the boat and walk to where she lived with her mother” (67). The reader is left in suspense. Does the girl have the surgery? Does the couple see each other again, or is the fact that they are walking away from each other symbolize a permanent separation? The author leaves the ending open, allowing the reader to evaluate the ending by adding his or her conjecture from within the story.

Hemingway also leaves his readers with an open-ended story. At the end of the story, ““Hills Like White Elephants,” the couple is drinking at a train station, waiting for a train to arrive. Hemingway peculiarly adds details of the man moving the luggage: “He picked up the two heavy bags and carried them around the station to the other tracks” (419). Is this Hemingway’s way of telling the reader that the man is leaving the woman by means of a different train? No details are given on the potential surgery or the couple’s future together. The reader is left to decide the ending of the story. This open-ended story forces the reader to imagine or predict the ending; therefore, as with Banks’ story, the reader’s own speculation becomes the ending of the story.

Russell Banks and Ernest Hemingway both intentionally and skillfully entangle their reader’s emotions in the very controversial topics of abortion in both of these stores. Both authors focus on their characters’ struggles with abortion through dialogue, personality, and vague endings to allow readers to imagine the end of the story from their own perspectives. Since this subject is so hard to talk about and makes many people uncomfortable, perhaps that is the reason Banks’ “Black Man and White Woman in a Dark Green Rowboat” and Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” express their perspectives through a minimalist style. The author’s minimalist styles allow the characters to render a realistic dialogue through casual conversations, focusing on a difficult subject that is not explicitly mentioned, abortion. This allows the dialogue of the primary couple to tell a story, promoting dual perspectives within the story. Although it is obvious from both fictional couples’ conversations, the stories’ theme of abortion was never actually stated. Such intensely personal and controversial issues are so huge that they often absorb the identities of those involved in them, even when that person is the reader.

This link is an interesting adaptation of Russell Banks story, “Black Man and White Woman in Dark Green Rowboat” on YouTube.

This link has the full text for Ernest Hemingway’s short story, “Hills Like White Elephants.”


Works Cited

Banks, Russell. “Black Man and White Woman in Dark Green Rowboat.” The Story and Its Writer. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014. 62-67. Print.

Hemingway, Ernest. “Hills Like White Elephants.” The Story and Its Writer. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014. 416-19. Print.

A White Heron: A Journey From Within

A White Heron: A Journey From Within

    Sarah Orne Jewett’s short story “A White Heron” focuses on the transformations in a young girl’s life that result from her adjustment to a new environment. Living with her grandmother in a rural setting, Sylvia, the protagonist, meets an ornithologist whose intentions of adding the elusive white heron to his “stuffed and preserved” bird collection (441) rouse new and contradictory feelings within her. While acting as a guide to help him search for the longed-for heron in the countryside and the forest Sylvia goes experiences a journey of self-discovery. Jewett crafts a realistic feminine vision using the protagonist, Sylvia. As an author, she allows the reader to glimpse the initializing of Sylvia’s feminine strengths through introducing a combination of contact, choice, and challenge.

Contact with the “friendly lad” (444) is what sets Sylvia’s development in motion. The ornithologist stimulates Sylvia’s self-assessment as a contributor to her impoverished household with an offer to reward her for information about the heron’s nest: “I would give ten dollars to anybody who could show it to me” (441). Sylvia knew how much this money would improve the dire financial situation that she and her grandmother, Mrs. Tilley, are experiencing; however, she realizes the potentially bleak outcome for the heron if its location were revealed. Jewett’s scenario establishes an alluring situation which forces Sylvia to ponder the realities of easy money in comparison to her strong, feminine instinctual sensibilities of love and compassion in relation to nature.

Introducing the element of a choice for Sylvia in an otherwise routine and idyllic life becomes the pivot point for the remainder of Jewett’s narrative. The following day Sylvia and the sportsman enter the vast forest in search of the elusive heron. Sylvia is enticed by the stranger’s demeanor, creating internal thoughts which woke “…the woman’s heart, asleep in the child[’s]” core (442). Although Sylvia’s fascination toward the stranger sparked “a dream of love,” she found the strength to overcome this emotion by finding valor from her inner womanhood. Sylvia acknowledges this strength and applies it to the search by staying “a few steps behind” the ornithologist, showing passive aggression by participating in the search, but not helping find the bird (442). This quiet resistance indicates Sylvia has discovered her untapped womanly strengths and has applied it to a coherent strategic silence.

Although Sylvia’s discovery of her inner feminine strength is initiated through contact with the stranger and her choice to forego the reward for information about the heron, her most profoundly enlightened moment occurs when she challenges herself by climbing the old pine tree. The view from top of the tree, seeing the ocean, animals, plants, and especially the majestic white herons, inspired internal curiosity and a sense of freedom. This overwhelming experience helps Sylvia connect to the grandiose aspects of nature, allowing her immature, feminine mind to imagine unattainable desires:  “Sylvia felt as if she too could go flying away among the clouds” (443). This new sense of reality and possibility within Sylvia’s adolescent mind comes as a result of her overcoming the challenge of the tree climb and provides her with the determination she needs to think like a strong woman and protect the things she cherishes, even when she knows she will be “[rebuked]” by those she cares for (444). She uses this newfound ideology to protect the herons by purposefully not revealing their location.

The choices and challenges that Sarah Orne Jewett offers to her protagonist, Sylvia, in the “A White Heron” are what ultimately allow Sylvia to develop more mature emotional and rational concepts from a juvenile female perspective. Sylvia uses the results of these challenges, recently-obtained self-discoveries and inner strength, to emotionally protect herself and physically protect the white herons from the sportsman. Jewett features the protagonist, Sylvia, in order to show the unlimited adversities often faced by young girls and the internal or external struggles of gender. Jewett’s story shows the unfolding of complex ideas in Sylvia’s mind as she learns to value what she loves beyond its social or commercial worth. Its message is one of the evolutions of feminine power, delicate and organic, one of inspiring young women to realize their potential and giving them the confidence often needed in a society that frequently sees women’s roles as insignificant.

Work Cited

Jewett, Sarah Orne. “A White Heron.” The Story and Its Write: An Introduction to Short Fiction,     9th ed. Ann Charters. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s, 2014. 438-445. Print.