What is Perspective?: Analysis of Persona in "Mother to Son"

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SWBAT identify the theme of perspective in common experience and explain how Langston Hughes uses it structurally to develop his message in "Mother to Son."

Big Idea

Understanding, having empathy for others, and creatively imagining their worlds is fascinating and important work.

Activate Prior Knowledge

20 minutes

Eliciting ideas on perspective.  To kick off this unit on perspective, I plan to have a student take notes on the board while the class entertains a new idea: what factors affect a person's perspective?  I expect the students to share the following answers: age, social class, experiences, education, culture. The student note taker will diagram these on the board using a concept map, and the rest of the class will take notes (RL.9-10.1).  The goal will be to begin to construct our class model for what is important in understanding point of view and perspective.  

Persona and perspective.  I will ask about how some poets choose to put on a certain persona or mask as they write and express ideas in poetry (RL.9-10.5).

I will ask:

1.) Why might you pick someone how is older to tell your story in a poem?  Someone who is younger?  

2.) What do you know about Langston Hughes?  The Harlem Renaisance?  I will also project the lesson image (link) and ask the students what they already know about the Harlem Renaissance or Langston Hughes.  If we had a Maine East Renaissance, what message would you want to tell the world about the great things going on at our school? 

3.) What poems or movies can you think of that might have a wiser, older person giving advice to a younger, inexperienced (maybe even spoiled!) younger person?











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Whole Class Read and Discussion of "Mother to Son"

15 minutes

Langston Hughes' poem, Mother to Son, features an extended metaphor (RL.9-10.4) a somewhat sassy tone in the advice given from a mother to her son.  I plan to ask questions of interpretation and analysis and to draw on my quieter students, since the poem is relatively accessible.   I have chosen a large-group discussion for this poem, though it might go well in small groups.  I might also want to have a student read it.  

I will read it and ask:

1.) What is the Mother's attitude toward her life?  Toward her son's perceived difficulties?  Why do you think Hughes chose this narrative persona (RL.9-10.5)?

2.) What details build into analogy that she has created for her life?  Why has her life not be a crystal staircase?  How do these words carry strong connotations and figurative effect? (RL.9-10.4)

3.) In what ways is the Mother being encouraging? (RL.9-10.3)  Why do you think that we don't get his reply, (RL.9-10.5) and how would it be different if we did?

4.) What would you say is the theme or message of the poem? (RL.9-10.2)

 And the turn... 

5.) If you were to write a poem to someone of a different age or experience, whom would you write to? 

Creative Writing Prompt: Poem of Perspective

10 minutes

Connecting prior knowledge to the poem: On the board, the class has already written the concept map for the idea of perspective.  I will remind the students that the use of an older narrator here really makes the poem memorable and interesting.  Now, I ask them to circle again the most important aspect of perspective to them. 

Individually, they will write a short T chart, in which I ask them to comment on one side of the T with descriptions of someone who belongs to a different category than they do personally and then on the other side of the T with descriptions of themselves.  For example, they could pre-write about someone of a different age group, social class, interests, etc.  

Partner share.  While they write, I plan to show the following example as a reference, and once they are done with their quick writing, they will share their ideas with a partner and then finish the poem for homework (W.9-10.10).



Lives alone

Sleeps on concrete

Has his blankets and just a few possessions

May be happier than me

What happens when it gets cold out?


I live in my warm home

With lots of homework and worries

And a family that loves me

When it's cold, I snuggle up


Assignment: like "Mother to Son," they write from that alternate point of view--or to that alternate point of view.  I will ask the students, for homework, to write a poem either to this person or from this person to them.  This is a new assignment for me, but I feel that the students will do well.