Sharon Draper’s Before the Ever After, CLICK HERE for the unit on TpT.
Sharon Draper’s Before the Ever After is an important and timely novel, tackling themes of racism, identity, and family. The story follows a young football star whose life changes after a football injury leads to his father developing dementia. As his father’s condition progresses, the protagonist learns more about his family history and identity. Teaching this novel in your classroom can be an incredibly rewarding experience for both your students and you as an educator. Here are some tips on how to bring this thought-provoking story into your classroom.
Introduce the Novel in an Engaging Way
Before beginning the novel, it’s important to introduce it to your students in an engaging way that will pique their interest. Ask questions about what they think the book might be about based on its title and cover art. You can also discuss why this book is relevant now—to help contextualize it within current events—and discuss any real-life parallels between the characters’ experiences and those of people today.
Utilize Group Discussions and Activities
Throughout reading the novel, engage students by having them participate in small group or large class discussions or activities related to topics covered by the text. For example, you could have students act out scenes from the book or create graphic organizers that analyze characters’ relationships with one another. This will help them better understand literary elements like character development while also giving them an opportunity to express themselves creatively.
Provide Opportunities for Reflection Once your students have finished reading Before the Ever After, provide them with opportunities for reflection on what they’ve read and learned throughout their time studying it. Questions such as “What was a major theme of the novel?” or “How did characters respond to difficult situations?” can help facilitate conversations around deeper meanings behind certain moments in the novel. This will also help reinforce key points from each chapter that may have been missed during initial readings of certain passages or scenes from earlier chapters.
Themes and Discussion Topics
Before the Ever After focuses on themes such as identity, family dynamics, communication, resilience, and more. Teachers can use these topics to spark meaningful discussions with their students about how to navigate difficult situations in life. For example, teachers could ask questions like “How does ZJ cope with his father’s injury? How might you have handled this situation differently?” or “What challenges does ZJ face when he starts school? How do these challenges compare to your own experiences?” By asking these types of questions, teachers can get their students thinking critically about the text and its themes.
Writing prompts are another great way to engage students with Before the Ever After. Teachers can assign writing assignments that require students to write from ZJ’s perspective or put themselves in ZJ’s shoes by imagining what they would do if they were in similar situations. For example, teachers could assign an essay where students explore how they would handle a situation like ZJ’s if it happened to them or their family members. Writing prompts are an effective way for teachers to help students think deeply about characters and plotlines while also honing their writing skills.
Collaborative Learning Activities
Finally, teachers can plan collaborative learning activities based on Before the Ever After that involve multiple students working together towards a common goal. For example, teachers could assign groups of students different characters from the book and ask them work together to create presentations exploring those characters’ perspectives on various events throughout the story. This type of activity allows for critical thinking and encourages collaboration among peers—all while teaching important lessons from Sharon Draper’s novel!
Sharon Draper’s Before the Ever After contains many themes that make it great material for classroom discussion. The novel explores topics such as identity, family dynamics, trauma, and healing. Encourage students to think deeply about these topics by having them identify specific examples from the text where characters interact with each other or respond to life events in different ways. Ask students questions about how their own experiences have been shaped by these issues and invite them to consider how they might have acted differently if faced with similar circumstances.
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Journaling can be a helpful tool for exploring a variety of perspectives in Sharon Draper’s Before the Ever After. Ask students to select one character from the book and write from that character’s point of view as they experience certain events throughout the story. This exercise encourages empathy as well as critical thinking skills which can be beneficial when discussing any novel or nonfiction text in class. You may also want to ask students to write letters between two characters or diary entries describing their thoughts after particular scenes take place so they can gain even more insight into how events are affecting each character differently and why those differences exist.
Role playing is another great way for students to think outside of themselves and explore different perspectives within Before the Ever After. Assign roles based on characters from the book and have each student present their chosen character in front of class. This activity will allow them to practice public speaking skills while gaining a deeper understanding of how various characters respond to different situations throughout the novel’s plotline. In addition, role playing allows students to consider how their emotions might change depending on which role they are playing at any given time — making it an ideal activity for teaching empathy in literature classes!
Learning Sharon Draper’s Before The Ever After can be an engaging experience for both you and your students that provides insight into complex issues facing our world today such as racism, identity, family dynamics, etc. Engage your students early on with exciting introductions of what they should expect from reading this powerful novel before diving into class discussions or activities related to its themes throughout their readings of it and then provide ample opportunities for reflection at its conclusion so that they can fully grasp all of its messages before moving on!
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