A RAISIN IN THE SUN Projects and Writing Tasks

A Raisin in the Sun Project FEATURED

These A Raisin in the Sun project ideas include options for creative writing, debate, formal research, visual arts, performance, and presentation.

A Raisin in the Sun Projects Overview:

    • Symbols in the Sun (presentation)
    • Hansberry’s Themes 
    • Historical Context (research report)
    • Primary Source Gallery
    • Characters and Points of View
    • Author’s Style: Word Choice
    • Setting the Stage (design contest)
    • An Unfamiliar Symbol
    • “It’s Life, Mama!” (personality test)
    • 1961 Film (viewing guide and critique)
    • The American Dream (debate)
    • Feminist Perspective (debate)
    • Comparing Literature (presentation)
    • One Scene for Stage or Screen (performance)
    • The Lost Scene (creative writing)
    • Forms of Racism
    • Cutting a Character (argument)
    • Original Artwork

Symbols in the Sun (presentation)

A Raisin in the Sun performance

Hansberry uses symbolism in developing her themes.  Choose ONE symbolic element in A Raisin in the Sun and compose a presentation that demonstrates how the symbol is used in developing one or more themes. Make sure to seek out associated words and synonyms.

    • Plants – Window, sun, raisin, light, Mama, yard, garden…
    • Light – Window, sun, plant, yard, garden…
    • The check – Big Walter, flesh, insurance, money, Willie Harris, ledger…
    • Beneatha’s hair – Natural style, unstraightened, heritage, mutilation, assimilation…
    • Food – Bread, eggs, Alaiyo, coffee, milk…
    • Fire – Flaming Spear, volcano, sun, light, Prometheus…
    • Rugs / furnishings – Doilies, cleaned, worn places, carpet, apartment…
    • Johnson – Newspaper, Ku Klux Klan, Booker T. Washington, Kitchen cleanser…

Tip: Use the Google Chrome “Find” feature and a searchable copy of A Raisin in the Sun.


Hansberry’s Themes (essay assignment)

Identify ONE of Lorraine Hansberry’s themes in A Raisin in the Sun and analyze how she develops the message. You will be graded on how well you identify an accurate theme statement, analyze the theme development using textual evidence, and use transition words and phrases to connect ideas.

THEME SUBJECTS:

  • Money
  • Greed / materialism
  • Family
  • Love
  • Faith
  • Heritage / culture
  • Hopes and dreams
  • Sexism
  • Identity / sense of self
  • Helping others
  • Children
  • Progress
  • Racism
  • Internalized racism
  • Assimilation
  • Dignity / pride
  • Respect
  • Marriage

Historical Context (research report)

To fully understand A Raisin in the Sun, the reader or viewer must understand the historical context – the events, issues, and realities of life in Chicago (and America) in 1959. Choose ONE topic of inquiry from the chart below. Form open-ended research questions and complete a formal research project.

A Raisin in the Sun Project table


Primary Source Gallery

Work in a cooperative group to explore ONE aspect of the context of A Raisin in the Sun.  You will focus on primary sources from the period.  Your goal is to select THREE primary sources to analyze. You will present your findings to the class.

Primary Source Idea


Characters and Points of View

Each of the characters in A Raisin in the Sun represents a different point of view on life and what matters most. Hansberry uses these differences to develop her plot and her themes. Write an informative essay explaining the characters’ points of view and how they develop the drama.

A Raisin in the Sun Characters


Author’s Style: Word Choice

Hansberry chooses her words to set the time and place, aid our imaginations, and create mood. Whether you are talking about 1950s southside slang or a subtle allusion to the death of Jesus, you are thinking about word choice.

Write an essay analyzing Hansberry’s style in terms of word choice.

    • Dialect (features of language specific to a particular location or culture)
    • Figurative language (idioms, simile, metaphor, hyperbole, analogy, etc.)
    • Imagery / sensory details (descriptions that aid imagining with the five senses)
    • Word connotations (the thoughts or feelings associated with specific words)
    • Tone (the speaker’s attitude toward a subject) Think attitude words. Words can be sassy, solemn, joyful, silly, stern, or respectful.
    • Mood (how the words create feelings for the audience) The stage directions also help the theatre company establish the intended mood.
    • Sentence styles (Sentences can be short and direct or long and flowing.)
    • Sound devices (rhythm, repetition, rhyme, alliteration, onomatopoeia, etc.)
    • Allusions and references (mentioning well-known ideas, texts, or examples) Allusions tend to be subtle.  For example, when Walter Lee says “That money is made of my father’s flesh,” it is an allusion to the Bible even though he does not say Bible, Jesus, body of Christ, or any direct reference (129).

Setting the Stage (design contest)

Imagine that your company enters a competition to design the set for a new production of  A Raisin in the Sun.  The challenge is to stay true to the play while adding new and interesting elements for an audience that may be familiar with the play.  You can make changes to the original stage directions if you stay true to the spirit of the play and justify your decisions.


An Unfamiliar Symbol

We have gained expertise in symbolism by analyzing Mama’s plant, the insurance check, Beneatha’s hair, and other elements in the play. Now we will put our skills to the test. Read an unfamiliar story in order to identify and analyze a symbol.


A Raisin in the Sun Project and Essay Handouts (PDF files)

A Raisin in the Sun Worksheet


“It’s Life, Mama!” (personality test and personal essay)

Lorraine Hansberry’s effective characterization enables the audience to quickly understand her characters’ values and points of view. Which character’s values most closely resemble your own? Are you a Ruth, a Mama, a Walter Lee, a Beneatha, a George, or an Asagai? After you take the quiz, complete an essay assignment explaining your personal views and values.

Project and Essay Menu A RAISIN IN THE SUN Personal essay

HANDOUT PDF


1961 Film (viewing guide and writing task)

Project and Essay Menu A RAISIN IN THE SUN viewing guide

HANDOUT PDF


The American Dream (debate)

The Youngers want to believe in the American Dream. Lena and Big Walter moved to Chicago seeking opportunity.  Walter Lee takes a leap of faith to prove that an African American chauffeur can move up in the world.  Finally, the family takes the risk of moving to Clybourne Park.

What is the value of this notion of the American Dream? Does the popularity of this concept have a positive effect on society? Is it possible that faith in the American Dream continually harms generations of Americans?


Feminist Perspective (debate)

Lorraine Hansberry was the first African American female author to have a play performed on Broadway. Her life and work broke ground in several ways. Of Hansberry author Imani Perry states, “She was a feminist before the feminist movement.”

When it comes to a feminist perspective, A Raisin the Sun delivers mixed messages. Does the play suggest that traditional sexist roles (with a man as head of the household) are best, or does it endorse Beneatha’s aims to defy those roles?


Comparing Literature (presentation)

The list below contains reading selections that connect to the themes and content of A Raisin in the Sun in a variety of ways. Choose one text to study and analyze.  Focus on making comparisons to the A Raisin in the Sun and prepare a presentation to share your ideas.

NOTE: You can accommodate diverse learners on this A Raisin in the Sun project by assigning texts based on difficulty (level 3 is the most challenging).

  • “Caged Bird” poem by Maya Angelou (level 2) How does the symbolism and the theme relate to elements in A Raisin in the Sun?
  • “I, too” poem by Langston Hughes (level 1) Make sure to compare the point of view of the poem’s speaker to that of Walter Lee Younger.
  • “Sympathy” poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar (level 2) How does the symbolism, mood, and theme relate to elements in A Raisin in the Sun?
  • “Let America Be America Again” poem by Langston Hughes (level 2) How do the speaker’s conceptions and criticisms of “The American Dream” compare to Hansberry’s?
  • “The Beauty of Black” poem by Margaret Burroughs (level 2) Compare the themes by paying special attention to Beneatha’s hair and what it represents in the play.
  • “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. (level 1) Hansberry and King develop similar themes.  How do the authors approach the same themes differently?
  • “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” poem by Langston Hughes (level 2) Compare this poem to the play by paying special attention to Walter Lee’s transformation into Flaming Spear.
  • “Song of the Son” poem by Jean Toomer (level 3) Mama and Walter Lee’s conversations on their family history will be important in this comparison.
  • “Mother to Son” poem by Langston Hughes (level 1) Compare this poem to the play by focusing on point of view, tone, and theme.
  • “Woman Work” poem by Maya Angelou (level 1) Use a feminist lens. Compare the points of view of the speaker, Mama, Beneatha, and the authors.
  • “The Atlanta Compromise” speech by Booker T. Washington (level 3) Obviously, you want to give special attention to the discussion of Washington found in A Raisin in the Sun.
  • “Back to Africa” speech by Marcus Garvey (level 2) Compare Garvey’s views on the advancement of African Americans to those presented in A Raisin in the Sun. How would Hansberry have responded to Garvey’s speech?
  • “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others” essay by W.E.B. Du Bois (level 3) Compare Du Bois’s views on the advancement of African Americans to those presented in A Raisin in the Sun. How would Hansberry have responded to this essay?
  • “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech by Malcolm X (level 3) How do Hansberry’s views on opposing American racism differ from those of Malcolm X?

NOTE: This could easily be an A Raisin in the Sun essay assignment.


One Scene for Stage or Screen (performance)

Table-reading a drama can be quite engaging, but we will take our talents to the next level by producing and staging one scene from A Raisin in the Sun. Staging a play is quite a production, so rather than performing the entire play, stage a single scene and strive for greatness. Direct the scene in a way that emphasizes key elements.


RELATED POST: A Raisin in the Sun Test

A Raisin in the Sun Test FEATURED


The Lost Scene (creative writing)

The class will orchestrate an elaborate hoax.  We will claim to have discovered a lost scene that Hansberry wrote but did not include in her final version of A Raisin in the Sun.  After everyone shares their scenes, we will vote for the best fraud.

You will be graded on how well your “lost scene” fits into the original play. It should match the existing elements (theme, word choice, characterization, etc.) and fit logically into the play’s structure.


Forms of Racism (explanatory writing)

Lorraine Hansberry reflected on her own experiences with discrimination in writing A Raisin in the Sun. The play’s realistic events demonstrate how racism comes in many forms.  Some are immediate and clear while others are subtle and insidious.

Write an informative essay explaining how racism takes varied forms.  Combine your own knowledge, anecdotes, examples from A Raisin in the Sun, and any additional research that you care to include.


Cutting a Character (argument)

Bad news! Your theater company has gone over budget in preparing a new production of A Raisin in the Sun.  To save money on actors, one minor character will need to be dropped from the play.  Write a proposal arguing which character can be eliminated.


Original Artwork

Create an original work of art inspired by A Raisin in the Sun. You might make a sketch, collage, animation, graphic design (playbill or poster), painting, or sculpture. Choose elements from the play (a theme, image, symbol, allusion, character, event, etc.) to explore in art.

You will be graded on your ideas, efforts, and explanations (not your artistic skills).  Make sure to offer comparisons, make connections, and use precise vocabulary / terms.

A Raisin in the Sun Project examples


Thanks for checking out A Raisin in the Sun Projects and Writing Tasks!

These assignment ideas are intended as final tasks at the high school level. The resource contains a student handout for each A Raisin in the Sun writing assignment and each A Raisin in the Sun project assignment. If you like what you see, consider using the complete unit which includes pre-reading activities, lesson plans, handouts, connected readings, and more.