Desiree's Baby by Kate Chopin

Desiree’s Baby by Kate Chopin
(full text available online at
11th Grade English

Overview: Students will read and understand the story Desiree’s Baby and its themes by using reading and comprehension strategies.

Standards—11th grade Reading
•    Strand 1, Concept 5: Fluency. PO 1
•    Strand 1, Concept 6: Comprehension Strategies. PO 1, 2, 3 4, 5
•    Strand 2, Concept 1: Elements of Literature. PO 1, 3, 4, 5
•    Strand 2, Concept 2: Historical and Cultural Aspects of Literature. PO 1, 3

--Being “fed up,” Americana, and slavery themes
--History, specifically Antebellum period story

Time: two 1-hour class periods

Selected Stories of Kate Chopin book
Vocab list
Blank sheet of paper

Objective: Use reading and comprehension strategies to understand the story Desiree’s Baby. Make connections to current Americana and fed-up themes.

1. Quick Journal: Have you ever experienced or witnessed racism?
2.    Vocab list—Students write on separate sheet of paper
a.    Imperious—domineering, overbearing
i.    My imperious mother never lets me do anything and has an opinion about everything.
b.    Averted—avert = to turn away
c.    Remnant—piece or part of
d.    Menacing—disturbing
e.    Sumptuous—luxuriously fine or large; lavish
f.    Riveted—to fasten or fix firmly
g.    Conception—understanding
h.    Agonized—agonize = to suffer extreme pain
i.    Espousal—dating period and marriage

2.    Introduce story. What might this story be about, based on the title? What questions do you have based on the title?

3.    Look for answers to these questions (bring up doc on Smartboard)

1.    What is the meaning of the phrase "He was reminded that she was nameless" in the context in which it appears?  (bottom page 1)
2.    Where had Madame Valmonde found Desiree for the first time when she was a baby?
3.    Why had Armand's mother never left France?
4.    What was Madame Valmonde's reply to Desiree's letter?
5.    What did Armand put in the bonfire?
In your own words:
   a) Describe Desiree.
   b) Describe how Desiree and Armand met and fell in love.

Describe and explain the changes in Armand Aubigny's behavior as the story unfolds.

Why was it assumed that Desiree was the reason her child was not white?

Before the last few lines of this story, are there any clues given by the author which hint at the true cause of the baby's appearance?

Why do you think "La Blanche" (bottom page 2) had that name?

4.    Explain footnotes (1st one is at top of second page of story)

5.    Read aloud to class, stopping to clarify through first page, stopping at first paragraph on second page
a.    Students write down anything significant, such as character names/traits, answers to questions

6.    Pairs read through to top pg. 175, then one page at a time, stopping to discuss

7.    After last paragraph, as a class: What does it mean?  “His mother belongs to the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery.”

8.    Have students read Kate Chopin’s bio info in textbook, pg. 590—does this info help understand the story? –also read her info at website
a.    Time period
b.    Setting

Questions (shown above) will be used to assess the students.  Also, class discussion and small group discuss will serve as an informal assessment.

Many of the documents and speeches the class is studying directly relate to racism, as does this story, along with the “fed-up” and Americana themes.

Accommodations for diverse learners
I was excited to teach this story because there are many French terms that are similar to Spanish, so the many Spanish-speakers in this class will hopefully pick up on those terms.  I also plan to point out that sometimes English has similar words to Spanish, such as protagonist (protagonista) and thus a student can try to think of a Spanish word that sounds similar if he is unfamiliar with the English word.