Their Eyes Were Watching God
Think Aloud
Chapters 7-14

Reading selection: Three paragraphs of Chapter 9, starting with the beginning of second paragraph of the chapter (“Janie starched and ironed her face and came set in the funeral behind her veil…”) and continuing through three paragraphs, ending with the sentence, “Like all the other tumbling mud-balls, Janie had tried to show her shine.”)

Step 1:
Set up the reading by focusing students on the context for the reading passage:

Throughout Janie’s marriage to Joe, he has subjugated her (or made her subservient to him) in many ways. The most obvious symbol of this subjugation has been Joe’s rule that Janie wear her hair tied up in a handkerchief.

After Joe dies, at the end of Chapter 8, Janie goes to a mirror to look, as the narrator explains it, for the young girl that she once was, that she hoped was waiting for her, even after her long marriage. The final moment of Chapter 8 foreshadows the new beginning that commences in Chapter 9.

The first paragraph of Chapter 9 describes how the town of Eatonville has put on a funeral for Joe that was “the finest thing Orange County had ever seen with Negro eyes.”

Check in with students to ensure they understand where this passage appears in terms of plot and character development. Answer any questions they have.


Step 2:
Go over the reading skills from the list that you will use with students to think aloud about the reading passage.

• Activate background knowledge
• Set a purpose/reason/goal for reading
• Make personal connections
• Make predictions
If students are unfamiliar with what each strategy means, explain each to them, using the descriptions in “Suggestions for how to use these materials.”

Explain that, as readers, we use some skills BEFORE reading, some DURING reading, and some AFTER reading.

Step 3:
BEFORE READING. Focus on the skill(s) you will use to think aloud about the reading passage.

• Activate background knowledge
• Set a purpose/reason/goal for reading
Activate background knowledge by discussing with students: Talk about what might happen in this scene, based on knowledge of the themes, the characters, and the dilemmas they face. Ask questions such as:

• Janie has long sought to be liberated from Joe’s belief that gaining wealth, success, and status are the things worth striving for in life. After he dies she looks in the mirror and, seeing herself, takes her beautiful hair out of her kerchief. What might this act indicate about what direction Janie will go in next?

• After Nanny died Janie’s faced an opportunity to re-evaluate her life and make changes. Joe’s death is another opportunity for her to take stock. Compare the changes Janie made after Nanny’s death to those she might make now.

• What do you know about Janie’s marriage to Joe that would contribute to a contrast between her interior thoughts and her exterior behavior?

Set a purpose, a reason, or a goal for reading by taking students going through the following:

• Formulate the essential questions you have at this point in reading the novel, which you this passage might help you answer.
o Use the “KWPL” worksheet, writing out notes to respond to the first 3 of the 4 questions.

• Ask students, “What is an appropriate reason to read this passage, given what you understand from previous chapters about Janie and her journey? For example, how could Janie show herself that she is liberated from the confines of her marriage to Joe Starks?

• What relationships in her life have been meaningful to her? Have those who we might assume she has been close to, such as her mother or grandmother, provided her with anything she might now rely on for stability?
• What do you think Janie aspires to now? What has been missing in her life that she might now be free to seek?


Step 4:
DURING READING. Focus on the skill(s) you will use to think aloud about the reading passage.
• Make personal connections
Begin reading at the paragraph that starts with the sentence, “Janie starched and ironed her face and came set in the funeral behind her veil” Read through three full paragraphs and finish with the final sentence of the third one, “Like all the other tumbling mud-balls, Janie had tried to show her shine.”

Encourage students to make personal connections, asking questions such as:

• How is the ideas and situations in this passage like or unlike something I know or have experienced?
• How can I connect the ideas in this passage to other passages in this novel (or other texts outside of this one) I have read?
• How is this passage (and the ideas presented in it) useful or relevant to me?

Step 5:
AFTER READING. Focus on the skill(s) you will use to think aloud about the reading passage.
• Make predictions
Model making predictions, asking such questions as:
• This passage describes Janie having a sudden, intuitive insight into the reality or essential meaning of life. This is known as an epiphany. What is Janie’s realization about how to obtain true joy in life? What do you think it means about the choices she will make next in her life?
• Janie seems to evaluate all of the relationships so far in her life that could have made a difference in her meeting her dreams. One by one she evaluates and discounts them. What do you imagine will be the qualities of the next relationship she seeks?
Step 6:
Student self-directed think-aloud.

Give students the chance to think aloud with the selected passage, using the skills you have chosen (or others that they find useful).

If students cannot write in the text, have them use Post-It notes to write their reading notes on and stick them in their copy of the novel.

ADDITIONAL DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR THIS THINK ALOUD:

1) What in Janie’s past with Joe makes the gesture of burning up the head rags and wearing her hair in a thick braid so significant?

2) In the third paragraph of the passage, Janie is described as reflecting on her past so that she can consider her future accurately. She realizes things she had kept hidden from herself. What are they? She is described as having been “whipped like a cur dog, and run off down a back road after things.” What details about her past help you fully grasp her desire to embark on a journey to the “horizon”?

3) One of the most interesting images in the novel is the image of Janie “starching and ironing” her face. Is the veil in this sentence literal or figurative (a metaphor for something else)? Follow the image through the paragraph and discuss what makes the veil “expensive.”

4) What does Janie understand about how she feels about her grandmother? What is the basis for her feelings, as the passage details them?

5) What do the “sparks” and the “mud” represent in the final part of the 3rd paragraph? (Begin with the sentence, “When God had made The Man, he made him out of stuff that sung all the time and glittered all over” and read through the end of the paragraph.)

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