NEA Big Read
Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God

by Zora Neale Hurston

The wind came back with triple fury, and put out the light for the last time… They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.

Zora Neale Hurston, 1934 (Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

  1. Public Presentations: Your students have now given a number of presentations about the novel’s themes. Have students give their favorite presentation to a Big Read partner: a bookstore, literary organization, or library.
  2. Parents' Night: Host parents for a Hurston celebration. Include music from Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, or King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. Have students re-enact their four favorite scenes from the novel. Have student visual artists create illustrations to assist parents in understanding the scenes and the historical moment. Have a number of students present their ideas about the novel, concluding with what they learned from this experience.
  3. Timeline: Create a historical time line to display in your classroom. Use this as a way to explore the time in which Hurston lived. For a more specific focus, create a time line of Harlem Renaissance events, including Hurston’s contributions.
  4. Cover art: Create a work of art to serve as a new cover for the novel. Have a show of student work at a local bookstore or Big Read sponsor. As an alternative, have students create a new title for the novel and create a corresponding image.
  5. Cultural Heritage: Invite an anthropologist to guide students in collecting social and cultural data. Ask students to collect songs from their own cultural backgrounds. Work together to create a class songbook. Extend the project by having students determine how these songs reflect specific values.
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