Beginning of the Storm (The )

6, 7, 8

Using award winning literature, the learners will describe and analyze bigotry in Mississippi during the Great Depression. They will also define and give examples of community capital in the rural community where the story takes place and explain the importance of family. Learners will recognize the author's techniques that convey meaning and build empathy with readers.

PrintFive Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learners will:

  • define and use the vocabulary of Reconstruction and the Great Depression.
  • define and give examples of community capital in the story.
  • evaluate the author’s use of dialect in the novel.
  • identify how families contribute to the socialization of their children.
  • evaluate how individuals and families cope with discrimination in the story.
  • Copy of African-American gospel music from the time period (for example: Testify! The Gospel Box [see Bibliographical References]).
  • Teacher reference: Historical Background (Handout One)
  • Student copies of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Home Connection 

Ask the students to ask their parent(s) or guardian what family beliefs and structures were passed down to them from their parents. Ask them how they feel community capital has changed since they were in middle school. Ask the students to write down the responses and discuss their findings in class.

  • Taylor, Mildred. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. New York: Puffin Books, 1991.
  • Various Artists. Testify! The Gospel Box. Rhino Records. June 15, 1999.


  1. Anticipatory Set:When the learners are seated, turn off the lights and ask the learners to listen closely to gospel music. When the song is complete, ask them their thoughts on the song, when they think it was written, why it was written and how they feel it would have affected the people of the time. (Note: Begin each succeeding class period with the playing of the same gospel song to set the tone of the story and the times.).

  2. Provide a short background of the time frame of the book for the learners. Historical Background (Handout One) may be used. Make sure students understand the specific historical vocabulary that pertains to this period.

  3. Distribute the novels. Ask the students to read the novel like a play and assign characters whenever possible (including a narrator role which may rotate).

  4. Note that the novel is written in the dialect of the people and is meant to be read in that fashion. Ask students why the author would choose to write using the dialect of the people. What advantages does it give the reader? What disadvantages are there in its use?

  5. Note: If a chapter is not completed in class, assign the rest of the chapter for students to read at home (if individual copies are available). This lesson covers the first four chapters of the book.

  6. As the class gets further into the book, ask them to make observations on the importance of the family and community to the different cultures in the book. How would individuals “make it” without the support of their families and community?

  7. Explain that when various members of the community work together to solve a problem, this can create community capital, that is, a positive attitude between groups which carries over into good will toward each other and the ability to work together to solve the community’s problems. Ask the learners to note examples of community capital in the story. (This is on-going throughout the book.) Have students evaluate the value of community capital in the small rural community where times are hard. Do the learners believe there is community capital in their school and in the local community? If so, give examples.

  8. Stop during the reading of the novel to discuss situations of distress, disrespect or discrimination. Note how the parties involved handle the situations and the effectiveness/ineffectiveness of those actions. Identify how the families in the story contribute to the socialization of their children in good and bad situations.


To ensure that students have a strong comprehension of what is occurring in the novel, give small, five-question mini-quizzes at the end of each chapter. After several chapters have been read, you may give a larger quiz (or small test) over the chapters covered stressing characterization, community capital, the families, and their belief structures.

Cross Curriculum 

After completing the novel, arrange a trip for students to go to a local senior citizens’ home. Assign each student (or pair) to a senior. Have the students talk to the seniors about how their community has changed since they were teenagers. Discuss the importance of family and what kind of influence families had on their own beliefs. When the students have completed the interview, ask them to type out copies to give to the seniors. Then ask to make a bulletin board in both the senior home and at school, relating their experiences.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify how families contribute to the socialization of children.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define the phrase <i>community/social capital</i> and discuss how it relates to all communities.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Discuss examples of groups denied their rights in history.