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Teaching Guide

Teaching Kaffir Boy

Parental supervision advised.


Ready to destroy what little innocence your students might have left in them? Then Kaffir Boy is the text for you.

In this guide you will find

  • an activity about banned books (like this one).
  • lessons on personal narratives about race (like this one).
  • discussion questions on masculinity, identity, and truth—or lack thereof—in non-fiction books (like this one).

We're not afraid of a little controversy. Our teaching guide is fearless.

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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.

Instructions for You

Objective: When we teach literature, we tend to get pretty wrapped up in the primary source—i.e., the book. Natch. In this activity, students will have the chance to critique a secondary source and learn—hands-on—more about the glory of interviews. As a bonus, they'll exercise their creative chops as they write a reflective, autobiographical narrative essay.

Oh, also: this lesson can be coupled with the "Researching the Histories Behind Kaffir Boy" activity to create a unit.

Length of Lesson: 1 class period (with a little homework in advance and an essay assignment for homework after the in-class activity)

Materials Needed:

Step 1: Before you even get started in class, ask students to read Mathabane's Time interview for homework. They should also write a brief response to the interview. To help them focus, you can provide some of the following questions:

Do you think Mathabane's thoughts about racial relations in America are accurate? Why or why not?
What has your experience with race been like?

Step 2: Whew, we've finally made it to class. Let's start things off with a discussion about the reading. Remember that students might not have a ton of experience with secondary sources, so it'll be important to talk about the practical side of things, too. In addition to the questions that the students thought about for homework, here are some questions to help focus the discussion:

  • How does the interviewer get Mathabane to elaborate on his thoughts?
  • Are there any questions the interviewer could have asked but didn't?
  • What do we learn from an interview that we can't learn from an essay? Why is the interview format so revealing?

Step 3: Once it's clear that students have a grip on the article and the idea of analyzing a secondary source, ask them to find a partner and exchange homework assignments. Each student will read the other student's response and, while reading, create interview questions that probe more deeply into the partner's response. Aha! Now that's what we call putting a discussion to good use.

Step 4: It's go-time. Students will exercise their interviewing chops and interview their partner about his or her response. If possible, have the students record the interviews (even a good ol' fashioned cassette tape will do); otherwise, ask them to take notes. The notes or recordings will be given back to the student being interviewed as a resource for the reflective essay.

Step 5: For homework, students will write a reflective essay focused on their personal experience of race in America and how it compares to Mathabane's descriptions of his experience with apartheid. Encourage them to think about their experiences with the interview process to help them reflect more deeply on the subject. Get personal!

(California English Language Arts Standards Met: 9th and 10th grade: Reading Comprehension 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.7, 2.8; Literary Response & Analysis 3.2, 3.3, 3.5, 3.7, 3.8, 3.9, 3.12; Writing Strategies 1.1, 1.2, 1.4, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9; Writing Applications 2.1; Written & Oral English Language Conventions 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5. 11th and 12th grade: Reading Comprehension 2.2, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6; Literary Response & Analysis 3.2, 3.3, 3.5, 3.7, 3.8, 3.9; Writing Strategies 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.9; Writing Applications 2.1, 2.3; Written & Oral English Language Conventions 1.1, 1.2, 1.3)

Instructions for Your Students

Apartheid South Africa was a pretty nasty place. But according to an interview he gave in Time magazine, it seems like Mathabane thinks that race issues in the U.S. are similar today. Hmm. Do you agree? What is your experience of race in America? 

In this activity, you'll get a chance to read Mathabane's side of things and then decide for yourself.

Step 1: For homework before class, you're going to read Mathabane's interview with Time magazine and jot down your thoughts about the interview in a brief response to the following questions:

  • Do you think Mathabane's thoughts about racial relations in America are accurate? Why or why not? 
  • What has your experience with race been like?

Remember, this is a personal response, so don't just stick to describing Mathabane's view. Be sure to include details from your life, your experiences, and your observations.

You're going to share these reactions in class and with a partner, so make sure you've put some thought into them.

Step 2: Sharing is caring. After some in-class discussion, you'll get a chance to read another student's response. As you're reading, take on the persona of an interviewer, and think of questions you might ask to get your partner reveal herself more. Feel free to refer back to the Time interview and class discussion for strategies on how to do this.

Step 3: It's game time: use your probing skills and your newly acquired strategies for interviewing to ask your partner more about his response. And be sure to record his responses so he can reflect on it later—we don't know about you, but Shmoop is pretty forgetful.

Step 4: Now it's time to tie everything together. For homework, you'll write a reflective essay focused on your personal experience of race in America and how it compares to Mathabane's descriptions of his experience with apartheid. Make sure you think about your experiences with the interview process: this will help you reflect more deeply on the subject. Get personal!

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