Lesson Plan : Death of a Salesman - Biff

Teacher Name:
 M. I. Friedman
 Grade 11-12
 Literature Activities

 Biff, the Golden Boy
 This is the first in a group of lessons that examine Biff's character, primarily in terms of ethics. Since he is the only character in the play who actually changes, he is sometimes considered the main character. The students may wish to discuss the symbolism of Biff's burning his University of Virginia tennis shoes.
 Aim: How does the desire to be successful lead some to commit unethical acts? Outcomes: Students examine the how the drive to be on top may influence a person's judgment in terms of ethical and unethical behavior. The "We're #1" handout allows students to examine their own attitudes toward being the best--being #1.
 Students will be able to determine the problems that arise from the drive to be number one; they will be able to understand what happens when someone is no longer number one.
 Death of a Salesman "We're #1" handout
 Read-Aloud: 1. Read pp. 87 - 90 aloud. Teacher reads Willy, and assigns Linda, Bernard, Biff, Happy, and Charley. Focusing Questions: 1. What is going on in this scene? Where is everyone going? Why does Willy get angry at Charley? Quick Write: Have students write a paragraph that discusses what they would be willing to do to be number one. Ask them to write about whether they would be willing to do anything that would normally be considered unethical. Have them tell how far they would go in unethical behavior, in their drive to be on top. Ask them why they would be willing to commit unethical acts to be number one?
 Classroom Conversation: 1. Have the students discuss their responses to the "Quick Write." 2. Ask students why we Americans seem to place such a high premium on being number one, that we would commit unethical acts in order to be on top. Read-Aloud/Talk-Aloud: 1. Distriubte "We're #1" handout. 2. Ask volunteers to read each stanza of John Updike's "Ex-Basketball Player" (p. 2) aloud. 3. Allow students a minute or two to answer the two questions that follow the poem, then have them share their answers. 4. Ask the students why they suppose Flick ends up the way he does. Ask them to consider what this might mean for Biff. Have them consider what might make Biff's fate different from Flick's.
Checking For Understanding:
 Have the students share their responses to the first page of the handout.
 1. Ask the students to explain why the drive to be on top inspire some otherwise good people to behave in an unethical manner. 2. How have we seen Willy's desire to be the best lead him into unethical behavior? How does that drive to be on top influence Biff? How does Biff change?
 Students' ability to clearly respond to the aim will lead them to understand not only Willy Loman, but also Biff. Students, in recognizing how Biff changes, can see that the American drive for success can actually be a destructive force.
Teacher Reflections:
 The order in which the handout is presented is reversed, so as to allow the students to use a comparison of Flick and Biff to guide their responses to the first page. I think by going from the specific to the general, the students have a better chance of being able to assess the dangers that accompany the drive to achieve the modern version of the American dream.

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