This lesson plan's activities are based on Teaching Idea #2 ("Labels”) for "The Guest". The format is based on models from the National Council of Teachers of English.
Length: 1-2 50-minute class sessions
Grade Levels: 10-11
- Make inferences about the figurative meaning of the term "The Guest" (CCS 4)
- Trace the development of meaning around the term as the story progresses (CCS 3)
- Before students begin reading, ask what the titular phrase "The Guest" suggests to them. Who might be considered a guest (in a home, in a place)? What does it mean to refer to someone as a guest (as opposed to a relative, a friend . . . )? Have students brainstorm their answers in small groups and then share out.
- As students read, have them mark passages that help them understand why the grandmother is called "The Guest."
Use the questions below to guide a class discussion:
- Who calls Hend's grandmother "The Guest"? (If students respond, "Everyone," have them consider further. Would her parents have called her that? How about others from the Coptic Estate? When is she first called "The Guest"?)
- Why is she called "The Guest"? Have students consider both the obvious reasons (e.g., she is not a Bedouin) and more subtle possibilities (e.g., she lives separately, and differently, from the other wives; she is the only wife to give birth to a son.) Different characters might have different reasons for using that label—one of the other wives might intend it differently than do other family members, for example.
- What might Hend's grandmother have called herself, if she'd had a choice? Have students use evidence from the story to support their answers.
- Literary Essay: Students expand their answers to one of the discussion questions above.
- Essay: What kinds of people are labeled, or mislabeled, in your part of the world? Who gives them the labels? How do those labels shape their lives and fates?
- Creative writing: Students write their own short stories or memoirs featuring outsiders and the names conferred on them by insiders.
Supporting English Language Learners (ELLs)
- Activate background knowledge: Have students write about or discuss (in small groups) childhood memories of grandparents or other older relatives with whom they enjoyed spending time. What were the relatives like? What were they like as children? What did they do together? What kinds of things did the relatives say?
- Clarify language in assignments: Meet with English language learners to discuss the concepts of insiders, outsiders, and labeling before you give the written assignments in Students Assessment/Reflection above. These are abstract concepts and students will benefit from examples and conversation before beginning to write.