Introduction to A Raisin in the Sun: Viewing Introductory Video and Taking Notes

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SWBAT cite specific evidence from video introduction of A Raisin in the Sun and demonstrate understanding by writing evidence based notes. SWBAT read and analyze a poem Dream Deferred by annotating for imagery.

Big Idea

Students receive essential background understanding to prepare them for the reading of a play.

Unit Introduction

5 minutes

I'm looking forward to teaching this now classic play A Raisin in the Sun.  Many of my students are re-newly interested in this play because of the recent on Broadway Play version with Denzel Washington who acts the role of Walter Lee. The play is set on Chicago's South Side, and revolves around the divergent dreams and conflicts within three generations of the Younger family.  The way the South Side is described is not to different that the neighborhoods that some of my students live in who are from povery.  Because of this I don't think relevancy is going to be a big leap for many of them.

Standards that I will be focusing on during this unit include:

  • RL.9-10.2 Determining themes or central ideas of the play and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text. 
  • RL.9-10.3 Analyzing how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
  • RL.9-10.5 Analyzing how the author, Lorraine Hansberry's choices concerning how to structure the play, order its events within it creates effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.
  • W.9-10.10 Writing routinely over extended time frames for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

One of the summative assessments in this unit is giving the students a choice to design a creative character resume on which will demonstrate their understanding of a complex character.


15 minutes

I use the Introduction to A Raisin in the Sun power point presentation to guide discussion for this lesson.  I first explain that Lorraine Hansberry was inspired to write the play A Raisin in the Sun after reading Langston Hughes' poem A Dream Deferred and therefore used a simile from the poem for the title of her play. I ask the question what it means to have a dream deferred? After getting responses I add that "dream deferred" is a dream that is put off or unrealized. I give the example of a young girl who dreamt of being a social worker and ended up working as a hotel maid, her dream was deferred.

Next I pass out the poem A Dream Deferred and as a way of introducing the major theme of the poem,  I ask students to re-read it because we have read and analyzed the poem earlier in the year.  I then ask them to annotate the poem for imagery and why the author uses this imagery by writing which sense is being used after each line in the stanzas therefore demonstrating an understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings L.9-10.5. Next I facilitate a short discussion of the poems meaning and imagery by re-reading each line of the poem that's projected on a screen (slide #2).  

I then ask students to predict what the play might be about and share their answer with a partner (Think-Pair-Share) after which I pick a few students to report out.  I want them to first think about the poem, their answer, and then discuss it with a partner. 

Building Knowledge

20 minutes

Background Knowledge

Giving background information about this play's author before reading the play will hopefully make the reading of the play more meaningful.  I first give a brief history of the author’s life and why she may have written this play. I explain that one of the central conflicts of A Raisin in the Sun was loosely based on an event from the author, Lorraine Hansberry's own childhood. In 1938, her family bought a house in a white neighborhood, in violation of a neighborhood law prohibiting a black buyer from purchasing the house. She was a young girl when this conflict between her family and the community occurred and it deeply affected her.  I explain that twenty years later, she channeled her memories of the struggle into this play that turned out to be one of the greatest plays of the 20th century.

Next I pass out a learning packet that I created and using the power point presentation (slide #3) I review the pages in the learning packet for A Raisin in the Sun.  I created this scaffold, RL.9-10.10, because I want my students to have a clear understanding of what they'll be expected to learn and understand as well as what will determine a major part of their grade. The graphic organizers will assist students in identifying and analyzing the dramatic elements used in the play, i.e. conflict, symbols, etc..

Slide #4 is a graphic illustration of a plot diagram.  I briefly review the elements of plot by using the Cold Call technique.  Filling in the plot diagram as the events in the play unfold, RL.9-10.5, is an integral part of the learning packet.  I review the diagram in this lesson to inform my students of the importance of following the sequence of events as they unfold in the play.


Student Learning Activity

30 minutes

Students are shown slide #4 and using the Describing Wheel organizer in their learning packets are asked to take notes of the main points made by the various speakers while they watch and listen to the video introducing Lorraine Hansberry and the play A Raisin in the Sun RL.9-10.10. I've found that most students find using the Describing Wheel organizer helps them to seperate their notes in a manner that is easier to understand and adds a visual element to their note taking.

I will pause at various points to facilitate note taking and to check for understanding as they are listening to and watching the video introduction.  Students are then asked to write an objective summary of the information they learned from viewing the film of the author's life RL.9-10.2


Wrap Up

10 minutes

When the video is over I facilitates a discussion of the main points made in video introduction of A Raisin in the Sun.  I check for understanding by circulating among students checking their notes and independent written responses. 

Even though many of my students were familiar with this play,many did not have any background information about the play's author which I felt was a piece of foundational knowledge for the play's relevancy.  The video and discussion that followed provided this knowledge and understanding necessary for relevancy.