Here are a list of background materials, biographies and teaching plan URLs with light annotation that you can use as resources for creating your own lesson plans. These lesson plans usually come with their own focus and agenda that should be used with a certain amount of circumspection because you may not want to transmit the educational message of, say "Amnesty International" or "Southern Poverty Law Center" unreservedly or uncritically to your students.
http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap10/gaines.html#bio (well-done student site)
Various Lesson Plans geared directly towards A Lesson Before Dying.
Adaptable Lesson Plans
The Southern Poverty Law Center has a number of excellent teaching plans that focus on racism and privilege. None of them are geared directly towards A Lesson Before Dying, however all of them are very relevant to the novel. I am especially intrigued by the "Educational Disparities" which is a math curriculum (with an available math textbook) and the "Small Steps: A Tolerance Program" which I think would be particularly useful with our international student body who may not know the history of anti-African American discrimination or the subtle mechanics of discrimination in the post-Jim-Crow global world.
A Lesson Before Dying Blog: http://alessonb4dying.wordpress.com/
This is a forum where LaGuardia Students, Faculty and Staff can discuss this year’s Common Reading Ernest J. Gaines’s A Lesson Before Dying. This is a place where you can “shout-out” your response to the novel or any of the ideas that the text raises. There will be occasional “prompts” posted to spark discussion, however this should be seen as a place where any and all can raise any issue they want. Please participate by entering a “comment” below the post that interests you.
Good Scholarly Site of The African American Church
Religion plays a major role in this novel. The African American church, additionally, has had a central role in the Black community that was not allowed to join the greater American society. Indeed, it was religion that offered hope, succor and opportunity to the enslaved African American and newly freed Blacks. As such this site is an indispensible scholarly resource with thousands of primary documents available on-line.
Death Penalty Activities/Resources for Students
These are resources to help students explore and get involved with the anti-death penalty movement.
The death penalty's harsh logic is the primary motivator and background of Gaines's novel. As the saying goes "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth will leave the world blind, toothless and hungry." Here are some sites where you can explore the imperfection of this terminal solution.
Excellent Death Row Site (photos and stories)
This is a very thorough timeline of the African Diaspora or history of Blacks in America. If you are struggling for a date, name or issue this is a great resource.
The Progressive View
A People’s History view on slavery, thought provoking, though perhaps a bit out of our time-frame. This is a good site for background information.
Teaching Social Justice using A Lesson Before Dying
This is an interesting article which inspired many of the sites referred to on this site.
Teaching Social Justice through Young Adult Literature Author(s): Jacqueline N. Glasgow Source: The English Journal, Vol. 90, No. 6, (Jul., 2001), pp. 54-61 Published by: National Council of Teachers of English Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/822056