© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
 
Teaching Guide

Teaching Cry, the Beloved Country

There's no crying in Shmoopball.

GO TO STUDENT LEARNING GUIDE

Supplies needed to teach Cry, the Beloved Country: tissues (note the "Cry" in the title), a map of South Africa, and this teaching guide.

Cry, the Beloved Country is a tough book filled with difficult moral choices, but we're here to help you navigate the challenges that plague South Africa, like racism, violence, and whether or not to say hello to Charlize Theron if you see her at SoulCycle (don't do it).

In this guide you will find

  • assignments and activities about apartheid and much more.
  • reading quizzes to keep students just as engaged as they would be if they were watching Die Hard 9.
  • historical resources that connect similar political movements and other literary works about apartheid.

Save yourself some tears, and make good use of this teaching guide.

What's Inside Shmoop's Literature Teaching Guides

Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring literature to life.

Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop’s teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

With your purchase, you’ll get unlimited access for 12 months. And if you like what you see, you can subscribe to all 200+ Teaching Guides for just $19.84/month.

Instructions for You

Objective: Remember the last time you sat down and wrote a friend? Or when you last received a handwritten note? Yeah, we didn't think so. And as foreign as letters have become to us, they're practically unheard-of artifacts from perhaps the Jurassic period to your kiddos. But letters are a prominent plot device in Cry, the Beloved Country, so we're going to have students write a few missives for themselves.

In this lesson, students will choose an instance within the novel where a letter was mentioned and then make inferences to actually write that letter themselves. They'll also use their mad knowledge of the characters to write the letter using an accurate voice and style. This lesson should take one to two class periods.

Materials Needed:

  • Cry, the Beloved Country text

Step 1: Once you've introduced students to the rare and ancient artifact of the letter, ask them to brainstorm parts of the novel where they remember letters being important and make a class list on the board. Need a refresher yourself? We've got you covered; here are the top five most important letters, in Shmoop's humble opinion:

We know there are more, but these five letters seem to be pretty important as far as moving ye ole plot along.

Step 2: Next up, students will choose one of the letters from your list to write for this assignment. We recommend boiling your list down to the letters you feel are most important, or you can just use our handy top five.

Now, this isn't just an exercise in letter-writing—it's an in-depth study of character and inference for the novel. As such, students should (cue the groans) reread the part of the novel where their letter shows up and even (more groans) annotate that section of text with thorough notes about what's happening, why it matters, how the events connect to the larger plot, and what they reveal about the themes and characters involved. To help get those groaners in gear, try having them respond to these questions:

  • Who is writing the letter? Brainstorm everything you know about this character and check out Shmoop's character pages if you need help.
  • Who are you writing the letter to? What do you know about this character?
  • Why are you (the character) writing this letter? What do you wish to accomplish or what do you want to communicate?
  • Why does this letter matter to the plot? How does it relate to the other events of the novel? What would happen if this letter was never received? 
  • Does this letter connect to any of the novel's themes? How can you address those themes in your version of the letter?
  • Based on the characters involved and your purpose, what tone of voice will be appropriate for this letter? Will the letter be casual and friendly or formal and professional? 
  • What kind of information will the letter include? Will you reveal personal details, or is this strictly business?

Step 3: In the service of reviving the art of letter writing—if only for this activity—you may want to review the proper conventions and formatting of a letter with students. You can also choose to go ultra-old-school and make these letters hand-penned, or you can have students type and format on the computer.

When students are ready, set them loose to write a 1-2 page letter based on the inferences they made in step 2. These letters should use a style and voice appropriate for the character writing the letter, and the details should clearly align with the text. When students finish their letters, ask them to find three pieces of text evidence that support their choices and explain how each quote relates to a choice they made in the letter.

Step 4: Now let's send, er, swap those letters! Have students trade letters with someone else. Then students will take on the characteristics of the receiver and write a reply back for more characterization and inference fun. Here are some questions to get them started:

• What do you know about the writer and receiver of this letter?
• What is this letter about? What would be an appropriate reply?
• What is your character's reaction to the letter he/she has received? How does your character feel about this letter emotionally?
• How will he/she reply? Will he/she be honest in his/her reply or will he/she have to be very, um, diplomatic? What emotions might come through in the reply?

You can make these second letters a bit shorter and have students respond on the same sheet as the original (let's save some trees).

Step 5: Time for a follow-up appointment: What did your students learn in this process? Let's find out:

  • What discoveries did you make about the characters involved in these letters?
  • Why are these letters important to the novel?
  • What role does communication play in moving the events of the story forward?
  • How do these letters relate to some of our themes?
  • What clues did you use to make your inferences? How did you decide what information to put in your letters?

Instructions for Your Students

Since you all were born into a world of hand-held instant communication devices, a good old-fashioned letter might seem like an unheard-of artifact from perhaps the Jurassic period. But letters were a mainstay of communication not so long ago, like in the '40s when our novel takes place. Because letters are important to the plot and reveal so much information in Cry, the Beloved Country, let's craft a few to help us dig into the characters and events of the book.

Step 1: Where in the novel do letters make an appearance? Let's start with a brainstorm session, and then we'll boil our list down to the most important letters.

Step 2: Next up, you will choose one of the letters from our list to write for this assignment. We even provided handy summary links for each letter to help jog your memory about that part of the novel. We're just naturally helpful like that.

Now, this isn't just an exercise in letter-writing—it's an in-depth study of character and inference for the novel. As such, you should (cue the groans) reread the part of the novel where their letter shows up and even (more groans) annotate that section of text with thorough notes about what's happening, why it matters, how the events connect to the larger plot, and what they reveal about the themes and characters involved. To help get those groans in gear, try responding to these questions:

  • Who is writing the letter? Brainstorm everything you know about this character and check out Shmoop's character pages if you need help.
  • Who are you writing the letter to? What do you know about this character?
  • Why are you (the character) writing this letter? What do you wish to accomplish or what do you want to communicate?
  • Why does this letter matter to the plot? How does it relate to the other events of the novel? What would happen if this letter was never received? 
  • Does this letter connect to any of the novel's themes? How can you address those themes in your version of the letter?
  • Based on the characters involved and your purpose, what tone of voice will be appropriate for this letter? Will the letter be casual and friendly or formal and professional? 
  • What kind of information will the letter include? Will you reveal personal details, or is this strictly business?

Step 3: Are you armed with brilliant inferences and insights from those questions? Then let's get to work. You'll use the info you gathered in step 2 to write a 1-2 page letter that uses a style and voice appropriate for the character writing the letter. You knew we were going to hit you with text evidence somewhere, and here it is (sorry, you've already used your groan quota for this lesson, so just deal): When you finish your letters, find three pieces of text evidence that support your choices and explain how each quote relates to a choice you made in the letter.

Step 4: Now let's send, er, swap those letters! You'll trade letters with someone else, and then take on the characteristics of the receiver and write a reply back for more characterization and inference fun. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What do you know about the writer and receiver of this letter?
  • What is this letter about? What would be an appropriate reply?
  • What is your character's reaction to the letter he/she has received? How does your character feel about this letter emotionally?
  • How will he/she reply? Will he/she be honest in his/her reply or will he/she have to be very, um, diplomatic? What emotions might come through in the reply?

Step 5: Time for a follow-up appointment: What did you learn in this process? Let's find out:

  • What discoveries did you make about the characters involved in these letters?
  • Why are these letters important to the novel?
  • What role does communication play in moving the events of the story forward?
  • How do these letters relate to some of our themes?
  • What clues did you use to make your inferences? How did you decide what information to put in your letters?

Already have a license?
CLICK HERE to sign in!

OPTIONS FOR PURCHASE

I am buying...
I am buying...
For teacher(s).
Price: $14.92
Good things come
in affordable packages.
GET A QUOTE FOR YOUR
SCHOOL OR DISTRICT
Teachers, want access to all courses for your own use at a low monthly rate?
Subscribe for only as long as you need.
Share


WANT MORE HELP TEACHING CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY?

Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Quizzes    Flashcards    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
back to top