A Raisin in the Sun lesson plans

A Raisin in the Sun Lesson Plans

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Here are 7 A Raisin in the Sun lesson plans aligned to the Common Core.  I hope you will find them helpful.  I am trying to avoid too many specifics so that you may find them adaptable to your teaching.

For each lesson I am going to identify the standards for one specific grade, but keep in mind that the standards are recursive; you address the same concepts every year with increasing complexity. The same numerical standard probably applies to your grade.

Common Core standards for these A Raisin in the Sun lesson plans:

  • Reading Informational Texts 2: Key Ideas and Details (central idea development)
  • Reading Informational Texts 6: Craft and Structure (point of view) 
  • Reading Literature 1: Key Ideas and Details (cite evidence)
  • Reading Literature 2: Key Ideas and Details (theme development)
  • Reading Literature 4: Craft and Structure (word choice)
  • Reading Literature 6: Craft and Structure (point of view)
  • Reading Literature 9: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (compare texts)
  • Writing 3.D: Text Types and Purposes (word choice in narrative)

Pre-reading

A Raisin in the Sun lesson plan 1: “The American Dream”

A Raisin in the Sun lesson plans american dream

Common Core standards

Reading Informational Texts 2: Key Ideas and Details (central idea development) 9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

Reading Informational Texts 6: Craft and Structure (point of view) 9-10.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.

Into: Ask students what “The American Dream” means.  What are the connotations (feelings or associations) of this term?  Does it mean different things to different people? Has the meaning changed?  Does it mean something to you personally?

Through/Beyond:  Explore the different conceptions of “The American Dream” as a class.  You may want the entire class to read the same articles or you may want to “jigsaw” the exploration by assigning different students (or groups) different texts.

Students should present a summary and a brief explanation of the text’s point of view and rhetoric.

Writing: Write an objective summary of the text.  Analyze the author’s purpose, point of view, and how they develop the central idea(s).  

or

Add to your previous reflection about “The American Dream.” What are the different meanings of this term? Consider what it might mean to an impoverished, urban, underprivileged African American family in the 1950s.

A Raisin in the Sun lesson plan 2: The American Dream Continued

Common Core standards

Reading Literature 6: Craft and Structure (point of view) 9-10.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.

Into: Is “The American Dream” alive and well? Explain your point of view.

Through: Review point of view and rhetoric. Continue the exploration of “The American Dream” through video sources. Tell students that they will be picking two of the clips to compare in writing regarding the points of view and rhetoric, so they should take notes as they watch.

Writing: Choose two of the clips and explain the point of view of each.  Compare the points of views and rhetoric to explain key differences and similarities.

or

Write a brief editorial explaining your views on the state of the American Dream today.  Form a clear point of view and convincing rhetoric.

During reading

A Raisin in the Sun lesson plan 3: Setting the Stage with Word Choice

A Raisin in the Sun assignments set design

Common Core standards

Reading Literature 1: Key Ideas and Details (cite evidence) 9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Reading Literature 4: Craft and Structure (word choice) 9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

Into:  Explain how Hansberry selects every word and phrase with care.  Her word choices enable her to set the stage as she imagines. Review figurative language, word connotations (feelings / associations), mood, and tone as needed. How do her word choices (directions and lines) set the stage and characters?  

Through/Beyond:  You may want students to focus on the stage design, the play generally, or both.

  1. Sketch the set design based on the stage directions.  Include annotations that cite key evidence from the text that helps set the mood and/or sense of time and place.
  2. Create a table analyzing other word choices.  (Decide how many examples each student or group must provide.)  Share these examples to guide students:

Hansberry’s Word Choice

Citing Textual Evidence Analysis: Think about connotative meaning (feelings or associations), mood, tone, and sense of time and place.
“…the carpet has fought back by showing its weariness…” (23) The apartment and furnishings are described as weary, tired, undistinguished, worn, etc… The apartment is given human traits and fights to show how run-down it is. The mood created is of low energy and discouragement.
“Brother is a flip.” (49) Beneatha calls Walter a “flip,” which must be informal slang used at that time and place (Chicago in the 50’s).  The implication is that Beneatha is trendy since Mama doesn’t know the term. The tone is disrespectful in a playful way.

Students share their examples with the class.  What can we say generally about the the effect of word choice in establishing the setting and characters?

Printable PDF:  Analyzing Textual Evidence

Writing:  Describe Hansberry’s word choices in Act I, scene 1.  Think about meanings, sense of time and place, mood, and tone.

or

Choose a place that you know well and imagine that you are writing a play with this setting.  Use careful word choice and describe this setting and the mood. What types of words and phrases will the characters use in this setting?

A Raisin in the Sun lesson plan 4: “It’s life, Mama!”

10 engaging activities for teaching a raisin in the sun
Photo by Huntington Theatre Company

Common Core standards

Reading Literature 1: Key Ideas and Details (cite evidence) 9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Reading Literature 6: Craft and Structure (point of view) 8.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints.

Into: Open the discussion by talking about values.  Ask the students to share what they value. What about life is important to them?  Try to redirect material values (phones) into abstract values (social connection). Explain that they will be using evidence from the play so far in order to draw conclusions about the characters’ points of view and values.

Through/Beyond:  Each student or group is to analyze one character: Beneatha, Mama, Walter, Ruth, Joseph, or George. They must create a three-column chart to share with the class.  Make sure to include the character’s values in your analysis. Students could work in small groups to create a large chart to share.

Character Name__________________________________________________

Textual evidence

(quote and page number)

Explicit or making inferences? Point of View analysis

Values / motivations

  • Dignity
  • Familial love
  • Religion
  • Romantic love
  • Raising children
  • Helping others
  • Money
  • Respect
  • Sense of self
  • Heritage
  • Enlightenment (knowledge)
  • ect…

Students should share their analysis with the class.  Record the values and compare them to the values discussed at the beginning of the lesson.

Writing: Summarize the points of views exhibited by the characters.  Predict how these points of view will impact the plot. How will their points of view motivate them to act?

or

Can you identify with any of these characters and their points of view?  Explain why or why not.

or

The dating game: Think about the points of view of Beneatha, Joseph, and George. Should Beneatha choose Joseph, George, or none of the above. What would her family prefer?

A Raisin in the Sun lesson plan 5: “Booker T. and W.E.B”

A Raisin in the Sun and Booker T. Washington
Booker T. Washington

Common Core standards

Reading Literature 9: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (compare texts) 8.9 Analyze a case in which two or more texts provide conflicting information on the same topic and identify where the texts disagree on matters of fact or interpretation.

Note: Before engaging in this literary comparison, you may want to facilitate a more detailed comparison of the leadership of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois. Middle Tennessee University has a helpful, two-part lesson comparing excerpts from the two leaders.  The excerpts demonstrate Washington’s focus on broad, gradual, economic advancement and Dubois’ focus on developing a cadre of exemplary, philosophical leaders.

Into: During the Civil Rights era (and today), people had different ideas on how best to overcome prejudice and seek the American Dream.  What are different approaches that African Americans or other groups have used to advance in the face of prejudice? In your opinion, what are the best ways to advance in face of prejudice?

Through: The debate on how African Americans should advance is presented in Act II, scene 2 of the play and in a poem by Dudley Randall.  Tell students they they are going to compare how this debate is portrayed in the two works.

Give a brief explanation of the points of view of Booker T Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. Afterwards, share a reading of the poem  “Booker T. and W.E.B” by Dudley Randall.

Have students compare the poem and Act II, scene 2 of the play regarding the themes (the advancement of African Americans) and creative choices. (Students might complete a Venn diagram in collaborative groups). What are the key similarities and differences? Think about each author’s medium, purpose, style, and tone.

Writing: Write a summary of your group’s comparison of the two works.

Use this Booker T. Washington and W.E.B Dubois handout if you would like to have students compare the words of the leaders themselves

After reading

A Raisin in the Sun lesson plan 6: Symbols in A Raisin in the Sun

Teaching Symbolism with A Raisin in the Sun

Common Core standards

Reading Literature 2: Key Ideas and Details (theme development) 9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

Into: Review the literary element of theme (the message about life). Remind students that a message must be a complete sentence (Love is not a theme; love stinks is a theme). Ask students to brainstorm all of the messages from the play including the very important and the less important. Chart the responses.

Review literary symbols and ask students to list elements of the play that might be symbolic.

Through/Beyond: Students will select one symbol as a cooperative group.  

Certainly Possibly
  • Light
  • Plants
  • Food
  • The check
  • Beneatha’s hair
  • Mrs. Johnson
  • Mr. Lindner
  • Killing the rat
  • Joseph Asagai
  • George Murchison
  • The Green Hat club
  • Music (Nigerian, Jazz / blues, and hymns representing the characters).
  • Clybourne Park

They should work together to identify key citations in the text and analyze each regarding theme development.  To what theme does the symbol connect?  How is the symbol used? What is the effect?

Have the students share their findings with the class.  They should explain the related theme, how the symbol develops the theme, and some key citations.

Writing: Imagine that you are writing a play.  Give a brief summary of the events and theme and explain one symbol that you could include.  What would the symbol represent and why?

A Raisin in the Sun Unit PDF

A Raisin in the Sun lesson plan 7: Powerful Word Choice

Common Core standards

Reading Literature 4: Craft and Structure (word choice) 9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

Writing 3.D: Text Types and Purposes (word choice in narrative) 9-10.3D Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.

Into: Discuss how an important element of Hansberry’s craft is her word choice.  She uses words with powerful figures and connotations to set the tone and dialect and idioms to create a sense of time and place.  Briefly review some of the concepts students should be thinking about in this lesson:

Word choice concepts: 

  • Tone
  • Word connotations
  • Figurative language (metaphor, personification, hyperbole, etc.)
  • Sense of time and place (dialect, references, idioms)
  • Allusions

Through/beyond: Have each student (or group) identify exemplary word choice in A Raisin in the Sun.  Suggest that they look for longer lines or a complete dialogue so that they have more to analyze.  Their analysis should include the word choice concepts.

Have the students share their selected citation and their analysis.

Writing: Demonstrate your mastery of word choice by writing a short monologue.  Preface your monologue by explaining the speaker and the situation.  Make sure that your choice of situation and character enable you to create a clear sense of time and place and a powerful tone.

Studying word choice in a A Raisin in the Sun

Conclusion on A Raisin in the Sun Lesson Plans

Making sure that your A Raisin in the Sun lessons align to the Common Core standards is not difficult, but it does require some thought and organizing.  This play aligns naturally to studying point of view, symbolism, parallel plot, and word choice.

If you have have found any of these ideas helpful and would like more ideas, please consider using my complete A Raisin in the Sun unit and teacher guide.

Related post: A Raisin in the Sun Unit Plan

Related post: 10 Engaging A Raisin in the Sun Activities

Related post: Tips for Teaching A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

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