April 20, 2010


At a suburban American high school, with a 70% white, 20% hispanic, and 10% Asian and black population, the classroom intended for this lesson is made of 24 university-minded students in a Grade 11 advanced English literature class.

Unit: The Harlem Renaissance and “A Raisin in the Sun”

The lessons will take place over a week and a half or two weeks, depending on the busyness of the school’s schedule.

Each lesson will be 55 minutes in length. The unit will cover the play “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry and short works from the Harlem Renaissance to illustrate the struggles of African Americans in the U.S. pre WW-II.

The lessons will cover about 1 scene every day until the play is finished, have lessons looking at different social issues and related works each day, culminating in a final grade for the unit that will be half scored based on a group performance of the play and half scored on an individual project.

Depending on the resources available that day from the library, the materials used could range from just the blackboard and paper copies to Powerpoint presentations with projectors. Materials used by students will be various props and costumes for their performances.


Lesson Plan 1

April 20, 2010
  1. Prep – Before Class

Write on board/Powerpoint:

“A Dream Deferred”

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up 
like a raisin in the sun? 
Or fester like a sore– 
And then run? 
Does it stink like rotten meat? 
Or crust and sugar over– 
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags 
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

-Langston Hughes

  1. Settling in – “Deferred”                                    10 minutes

Give students three directions:

  1. Ask students to take out a looseleaf paper and a pencil or pen.
  2. Ask students to read poem silently

After most students have read the poem to themselves, give third direction:

  1. Ask students to ask themselves what “deferred” means in this poem.  Students write up to five sentences discussing “deferred.”  Dictionaries are permitted but original answers only are accepted.
    1. if students are confused about what is asked, say what is required is something original and thoughtful

III. Langston Hughes Bio and Harlem Renaissance Jigsaw Activity    15 minutes

Give a handout sheet about Langston Hughes to half of the students and a handout about the Harlem Renaissance to the other half.

Handout 1: Adapt from: Langston Hughes Bio:

Handout 2: Adapt from: Harlem Renaissance:

Give directions:

  1. Ask students to read the handouts and jot important or interesting things to discuss with a partner.
  2. Ask students to move desks together in pairs when they are done to signify they are done reading.

Play “Take the A Train” lightly in the background:

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More directions:

  1. Give paired students the task of answering questions:
    1. What kind of dreams were shared by Langston Hughes and artists of the Harlem Renaissance?
    2. What influences and motivations were shared by Hughes, a man from the South and a community in New York City?
    3. Does “a Dream Deferred” paint a stark picture of reality or seek to create something more—to move toward achieving a dream?  What is the purpose of art and literature for an oppressed group of people?

IV.          Group Discussion                                                        15 minutes

Circle the desks for a discussion.  Ask the same questions again and ask for a pair’s answers.

After the questions are discussed, ask further:

  1. Has anyone given up a dream or know anyone who has?
  2. Should we never give up on our dreams?
  3. Should put them off until later?

V.      Book Distribution and Silent Reading                             10 minutes

Assign Act I Scene 1 for reading for the next lesson.

Lesson Plan 2

April 20, 2010

Day 2 – Faith

I. Prep – Write on Board Before Class

“Yet Do I Marvel”
I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind,

And did He stoop to quibble could tell why

The little buried mole continues blind,

Why flesh that mirrors Him must some day die,

Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus

Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare

If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus
To struggle up a never-ending stair.

Inscrutable His ways are, and immune

To catechism by a mind too strewn

With petty cares to slightly understand

What awful brain compels His awful hand.

Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:

To make a poet black, and bid him sing!

-Countee Cullen (1925)

II. Settling in – “Yet Do I Marvel” 15 minutes

Explain briefly the mythological significance of Tantalus and Sisyphus as the Greek kings damned to an eternity of desire and struggle without satisfaction, one for want of food, the other for pushing a boulder endlessly uphill.

1. Ask students to take out a looseleaf and pen or pencil
2. Ask students to read the poem silently.

After most students have read the poem to themselves, give third direction:
b. Ask students to write up to 5 sentences about the meaning of the last line in the poem.

III. Review of Reading 5 minutes

Ask a student to recall what happened in the first scene of A Raisin in the Sun.


1. What are the major conflicts experienced by the family? Experienced by which members?
2. Who is Beneatha? What is she experiencing?
3. Who is Mama? “?

IV. Small Group Discussion 15 minutes

Have students join pods of four.

Assign each student in the pod a concept:

1. Poverty and Wealth
2. Level of Education
3. Family
4. Self Identity

Ask the following questions, asking each student to consider from the view of their concept:

1. Consider two characters, Beneatha and Mama, and their attitudes toward religion.

A. How does each factor (poverty/wealth, education, family, and self-identity) influence Beneatha’s religious beliefs?
B. How does each factor influence Mama’s beliefs?

2. Think about Countee Cullen’s poem and the conditions of the Younger family. Does poverty and desire increase or decrease faith? How? For which members of the family?

V. Drama Team Assignments 10 minutes

Assign the groups of four to a scene in the play (there are six scenes). Rearrange if necessary.

Teams will be responsible for casting, acting out the most important six minutes of the scene, and light costume and prop design.

On the last day of the unit, students will perform their section of the scene.

VI. Silent Reading (Scene 2) 10 minutes to end

Lesson Plan 3

April 20, 2010

Day 3 – Race and Self-Identity

I. Settling In 5 minutes

Watch YouTube Clip:

“The Boondocks”:

Ask students to watch the clip from the animated TV series “The Boondocks.” Give short background about the characters: Huey has moved away to a wealthy suburb, leaving his best friend in a low-income neighborhood in Chicago. His best friend gets a new best friend who seems very in touch with his African roots and is unimpressed by Huey.

Watch it twice because it goes fast and may be hard to understand.

II. Short Story 20 minutes

Pass out paper copies of the short story “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker (adapt from here:

Ask students to read it silently.

III. Discussion 20 minutes

Pose the following questions to entire class in circle or semi-circle. If answers are reluctant, reform to pods of 4.

1. What things does Wangero do to distinguish her current identity from her pre-college identity? Why?

2. What are Maggie and Mama’s identities?

3. What is the difference in appreciation of the quilts between Maggie and Wangero?

4. Why does Wangero see the generations of her family in America as unimportant compared to in Africa?

5. Which characters in A Raisin in the Sun are like Wangero and Hakim? Which are like Mama and Maggie?

6. What effect does education have on self-identity?

7. Is it possible to be aware without being arrogant?

8. Does education or awareness of self-identity make a person happier in the long run?

IV. Drama Team Meeting/Practice 10 minutes

Lesson Plan 4

April 20, 2010

Day 4 – Abortion

I. Prep – Before Class

Create a Powerpoint with the following pictures. Begin cycling them as the students come in and sit down.

II. Settling in 15 minutes
Ask students if they remember what happened between Ruth and Mama in the last reading (Ruth revealed she is getting an abortion).

Ask students to watch the following video clip:

After that, cycle through the Powerpoints again. Explain that there is a great deal of media surrounding the issue of abortion, both pro-choice and pro-life in the United States.

Ask students to choose one graphic from each side of the argument that seems compelling, and why. What techniques does the designer/artist use to try to convince the consumer? What ideologies do they draw upon?

III. Small Group Discussion 15 minutes

Have students sit in groups of four. Let them discuss the graphics they chose.

Discuss the following questions:
1. Should Ruth get an abortion?
2. Are the conditions that she lives in the strongest factor that is influencing her decision?

V. Silent Reading

Assign Act II, Scene 1

Lesson Plan 5

April 20, 2010

Day 5 – Poverty

I. Settling In 15 minutes

Hand out to each student a copy of the poem “Advertisement for the Waldorf-Astoria” by Langston Hughes. Adapt from: (

Ask students to write up to five sentences about Hughes’ use of sarcasm in this poem, and what it emphasizes.

II. Small Group Discussion 15 minutes

Divide class into pods of three.

Assign each member in the pod 2 characters from the play, whichever two can be decided amongst them.

For each character, students must determine: How does poverty affect this character?

How does poverty affect Travis and how does he react to it? How does poverty affect Mama and how does she react to it? How does poverty affect Beneatha, Walter, and Ruth? How do they react? How does the family as a whole react?

What do they believe is the cause of their poverty? What do they believe is the solution?

III. Discuss project options for half of Unit Grade 10 minutes

1. A Factual Essay: Research the causes of African Americans poverty in the 1920s
2. A Character Profile: Draw a picture of a character in A Raisin in the Sun. Write an assumed character history that isn’t provided by the author. Write an assumed future.
3. Listen to the songs of a black musician/singer with lyrics from the Harlem Renaissance. Compare and contrast the themes one or two of their songs with the themes of A Raisin in the Sun. Suggestions: Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday

III. Silent Reading or Drama Team Practice 15 minutes to end of hour

Act 2 Scene ii

Lesson Plan 6

April 20, 2010

Day 6 – Race and Society

I. Settling In (10 minutes)

Announce today will be unusual. Half the class (selected partially at random but try to group friends together) today is not allowed to leave their seats for any reason. If anyone from that half gets up, everyone has to stay a minute after the bell. The other half may get up, and if no one from the other half gets up, they are allowed to go early 1 minute. There is a way to overturn this, however. The half that must stay seated, if they can get a 2/3 majority of the class to let them get up at any time in the class, they may all leave 30 seconds ahead of the bell and have bathroom, drinking fountain privileges, etc.

II. Work time (45 minutes)

The rest of the class is used for individual project time. If students want to use class materials, the bathroom or the drinking fountain, it’s up to them to get the rest of the class to give up their privileges in order to allow their classmates access.

Lesson Plan 7

April 20, 2010

Day 7 – Women and Men

I. Settling In (10-15 minutes)

Hand out a reading, the first chapter of the novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston, adapted from here:

Have all students read it silently at their desk.

II. Discussion (20 minutes)

Break into pods of three for discussion. Questions:

1. Would you characterize the woman in the reading as independent?
2. What about the other women?
3. How do Mama, Beneatha and Ruth view themselves differently as women? What do they feel they are responsible for?
4. Do any of these three women defy normal stereotypes for women? How?
5. How do Travis and Walter view the women in their family? What roles do they expect them to play?

III. Drama Team Practice/Work time or Project work time (15 minutes to end of hour)

Lesson Plan 8

April 20, 2010

I. Settling In: 20 minutes

Pass comic of Shakespeare’s Othello

Compare clips of different ways to stage “Othello”

II. Drama Team/Practice 35 minutes

Use the time to practice and think of ways to creatively stage the scene.

Lesson Plan 9

April 20, 2010

Day – 9 Review and Movie Comparison

I. Prep – Before Class

Find a copy of the ABC production of “A Raisin in the Sun” and the older 1961 production.

II. Settling In (35 minutes)

Watch the first 15 minutes of the modern ABC version.

Watched the same 15 minutes from the 1961 version.

III. Discussion (10 minutes)

1. Which version did you like better?
2. Was there an actor/actress you thought was exceptional? One that wasn’t?
3. Which settings/costumes were more realistic?
4. Was there a character you like more in one version or the other?
5. Was the written play better than movie?

IV. Drama Team Practice/Project Work time (10 minutes)