Analysis of Theme and Characters in Act 1 of A Raisin in the Sun

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SWBAT analyze characters in the play A Raisin in the Sun and how they advance the plot and theme by closely reading, analyzing, and then viewing Act 1.

Big Idea

Five adults + $10,000 = many ideas for how to live The American Dream.


10 minutes

The activator for this lesson is to ask students to think about what the American Dream means to them as this will be a theme we discuss throughout this unit (RL.9-10.2).  Since this theme is a focal point in this unit, I want my students to make a personal connection with this concept of the American Dream and to think about each question which gives a glimpse into how the main characters of Mama and Walter think.  

As students enter class, I pass out The American Dream question sheet and ask students to write a few sentences to a paragraph in order to determine their thoughts for each question. 

I then ask students to discuss their answers with a peer SL.9-10.1.  After a few minutes of peer sharing I select a few students to share their perspective with the whole class.

This is a traditional write-pair-share approach to opening the lesson and I think it works well here to use as a pre-assessment of student's knowledge about the theme, as well as to get them interested in the theme. 

Building Knowledge

20 minutes

Before we can begin reading, I want to make sure my students have a basic knowledge of dramatic terms (L.9-10.4). I focus on these terms: tragedy, comedy, character, plot, theme, dialogue, etc., because they are considered the essential elements of drama which I will review before beginning the reading of our dramatic play A Raisin in the Sun.  I use a power point presentation to review these dramatic elements.  Through the animation fade option in my power point, each element is presented individually so that we can discuss it before moving on to the next one. I instruct students to take notes in their journals and remind them that they will be referring to their notes during quizzes and group discussion.

There are essential "take-aways" that I want students to receive when reviewing the elements:

  • Slide #2 Theme: I want students to understand that the theme refers to the meaning of the play, the main idea or lessons to be learned. I tell them that the themes in this play are fairly obvious; but in other plays the theme can be quite subtle.
  • Slide #2 Plot: I explain that the plot is what happens in the play and that the plot refers to the action; the basic story line and that at times in this play the plot is very engaging and emotional.
  • Slide #2 Characters: In this play each character has a personality of its own and has a distinct set of principles and beliefs, some more than others.  I will also review dynamic and static characters. 
  • Slide #2 Dialogue: In addition to what they read on the power point  I explain that dialogue simply refers to the words written by the author or play wright and spoken by the characters and that the dialogue helps move the action of the play along.
  • Slide #3 Scenes and Acts: The structure of a play is important for them to understand and that Acts are like chapters in a book.

This will be a review for all my students or more accurately a re-teaching of the dramatic elements.

Student Learning Activity

35 minutes

I first  introduce the characters by having students watch the first (20 minutes) of Act 1 Scene 1 Slide #4.  I instruct them to be aware of each characters  personality and any distinct set of principles and beliefs that are presented in the beginning of the play. 

After 20 minutes of the video the main characters have been introduced.  To increase back ground knowledge and check for understanding, I then facilitate a short discussion SL.9-10.1 of the setting, characters, and tone in Act 1 RL.9-10.3.  Students write the events that have occurred on the plot diagram in their lesson packets.

Next I assign character roles to students and put name tents on their desks of the characters they will be reading.  Students also record in their learning packet the character they read with the date.  I have found that assigning roles with name tents increases students participation in the read aloud activity.  Comprehending a play also entails reading and listening to the dialogue between these complex characters.   I try to find a balance of reading a loud and students reading to themselves.

I facilitate the reading of Scene 1.  As students read, I pause at times to identify vocabulary words, figurative language, and character analysis using templates in learning packet.

Wrap Up

10 minutes

Group Share

Students share what they know about a character in the Younger family and how they want to "live the American Dream."  I facilitate the reporting out by using the Cold Call technique of randomly picking on students to share. They can repeat what another student said if necessary. The goal of this activity is student engagement in summarizing the plot and character analysis. It  is also used as a formative assessment for checking on students' understanding of what was read and nay adjustments I need to make to increase their understating and analysis of character development.