Cadence and Characters: A Whole-Class Reading of Act I, scene 1

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SWBAT present a reading of "A Raisin in the Sun" in an appropriate style for student understanding of how the characters develop, interact, and advance the plot of the play, through a whole-class reading of the script.

Big Idea

Reading aloud reveals the rhythms and cadences of Lorraine Hansberry' style, the voices of her characters.

Intro & Welcome: It's Andre the Giant's Birthday

3 minutes

It's the birthday of wrestler and actor Andre the Giant, and since students are familiar with "The Princess Bride" (it was our fall play), I point out the connection to FezzikAs with all Daily Holidays, my objective is to build a sense of community, trust, and class identity in our classroom. 

Whole-Class Reading: Act I of "A Raisin in the Sun"

45 minutes

Before we begin reading, students are presented with a "Character Sheet" (page 2) for "A Raisin in the Sun" and asked to review the members of the Younger family. This serves as an anticipation guide, so students know who is who and how they will interact over the course of the play (RL.9-10.3). Students can then use this cast list as a review guide during their reading of the play. Once students have had a few moments to read these character descriptions, we look for volunteers to read these roles aloud in class. 

The roles in Act I are Ruth Younger, Travis Younger, Walter Lee Younger, Beneatha Younger, Lena "Mama" Younger, and Joseph Asagai. A volunteer "stage manager" is asked to read the stage direction, as well.

The reading volunteers (and we will rotate volunteers to provide as many students an opportunity to read as possible) present the script so that listeners can follow in a style appropriate to ensure their peers can understanding the rhythms and nuances of Lorraine Hansberry's writing (SL.9-10.4). By reading and hearing the script, students both continue to be challenged to participate in class and refine their ability to understand dialect and written drama. Those who listen and read along are asked to engage the text and take note of any questions they may have as they read, particularly looking at two themes that develop over the course of the Act (RL.9-10.2):

1. Specific details refining the connection between the description of the apartment and the overall mood of the play, connecting with our look at the theme of "home" (see Lesson: "Concepts of Home: Claude McKay's 'The Tropics of New York"). 

2. Specific details that portray how the conflicts between the family members play out in the interactions with other characters, and reasons for it (RL.9-10.3). 

Students may be called upon to react to specific lines or scenes, or share their notes and thoughts in discussion.

At one point--when the word "slubborn", a combination of "sloppy" and "stubborn", is used to describe Travis Younger--I take a moment to introduce the concept of portmanteau words. Students are asked to determine the meaning of "slubborn," and why it might be the word Hansberry chose, what impact it has on meaning and tone--in particular, how it may echo the language of an urban, African-American, family in the 1950s (RL.9-10.4). Students also identify portmanteaus they know, and I record these on the board, with a breakdown of their roots in order to visualize their etymology. By breaking down the origins of these words, students apply their knowledge of words to understand how language functions in different contexts and to comprehend more fully when reading and listening to the play (L.9-10.3).

Two-Minute Warning: Wrap-Up & Reminders

2 minutes

With two minutes remaining, I stop our reading and/or discussion (typically, this will be midway through Act I, Scene 1), and I ask students to pull their chairs from our "big" circle to their rows. Once students are in their regular seats, I also offer an opportunity to ask any questions students may have regarding their upcoming final exam.