Family Conflict: Understanding Theme in "A Raisin in the Sun"

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Objective

SWBAT empathize with the central idea of family conflict in "A Raisin in the Sun" by defending and justifying the use of inheritance money in a collaborative discussion.

Big Idea

As conflict is unavoidable in drama, so it is inevitable in families--today students examine conflict as theme.

Unit Introduction: Reading Drama

The primary objective of this unit is to provide students with an opportunity to read twentieth-century American drama. The majority of students have been exposed to Shakespeare, and some have read Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" or Tennessee Williams'  "The Glass Menagerie," but for many, this will be their first exposure to non-Shakespearean drama. Throughout this lesson, the class will focus on the various approaches to reading drama: aloud, cooperatively, independently, and acting it out, as well as critically viewing a professional performance.  Some resources that I have used in the past are linked below. 

Lorraine Hansberry from A&E's Biography.com

"A Raisin in the Sun" Audiobook

"One Book, One Chicago" Background Info (Much of my lesson ideas comes from the 2003 "One Book, One Chicago" program.)

Intro & Welcome: It's National Receptionists' Day!

3 minutes

We open class today with a welcome to "National Receptionists Day," and I provide a life tip for the students: as with custodians, be nice to the receptionists and secretaries.  As with all Daily Holidays, my objective is to build a sense of community, trust, and class identity in our classroom. 

The Driving Theme of Family Conflict: How Would You Spend An Inheritance?

45 minutes

Students are provided with a copy of the "A Raisin in the Sun" Collaborative Pre-Reading activity.

For this assignment, students are asked to find a group of three-to-four peers (ideally, we're working in groups of five). Students are allowed to select their own groups for two reasons:

1. In real life, we cannot choose our family, but for this assignment, working with self-selected groups can bring the shared experiences (like a family) to the assignment, and 

2. As students are responding diverse perspectives and justifying their own views and understanding in light of the evidence and reasoning presented (SL.9-10.1d), a groups of peers with shared experiences facilitates trust and open discussion.

In this activity, students determine the central thematic idea of family conflict (over money); as we read "A Raisin in the Sun" they will be analyzing its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details in the script (RL.9-10.2).

Students choose one of the options for how to spend a life insurance payout. I do stress that this money comes from the loss of a loved one, and students should consider that is money is being spent in that loved one's memory. 

As they discuss and argue for each option, students are asked to write their answers out, and turn them in when completed. If students completed this activity with time remaining, they are asked to begin looking at the start of "A Raisin in the Sun," especially Langston Hughes' poem, "Harlem" (alternately known as "Montage of a Dream Deferred") and the first two pages of stage directions, establishing the setting and associated mood of the play.

This assignment is evaluated on participation; as I circulate the classroom, I ensure students are participating in discussion, contributing to (and not sabotaging) the debate, and that clear notes are being taken on each contribution.

One note: The "Bonus Question" (What would your group agree to spend $100,000 on?) should be collaborative, and not one of the options presented in the assignment. 

Two-Minute Warning: Wrap-Up & Reminders

2 minutes

With two minutes remaining, students are asked to return their desks to rows, turn in the groups' written assignments, and reminded to complete the "If You Finish Early" reading mentioned above: they are asked to begin looking at the start of "A Raisin in the Sun," especially Langston Hughes' poem, "Harlem" (alternately known as "Montage of a Dream Deferred") and the first two pages of stage directions, establishing the setting and associated mood of the play. Additionally, students are provided with a copy of, and asked to read the biography of Lorraine Hansberry from the "One Book, One Chicago" programI also offer an opportunity to ask any questions students may have regarding their upcoming final exam.