We open class with a bit of literary historical trivia: on this day in 1609, Shakespeare's Sonnets were first published. I share the structure of a Shakespearean Sonnet with students, using Claude McKay's poem, "If We Must Die", pointing out the three-quatrain, one couplet structure; iambic pentameter rhythm; and rhyme scheme also indicative of Shakespeare's own style. We're using "If We Must Die" because students have recently read Claude McKay's "The Tropics of New York" (see Lesson: Concepts of "Home": Claude McKay's "The Tropics of New York"), and thematically, it connects with Walter Lee Younger's ultimate character development in "A Raisin in the Sun." As with all Daily Holidays, my objective is to build a sense of community, class identity, and trust in the classroom.
Today continues yesterday's in-class reading of "A Raisin in the Sun," Act I (See Lesson: "Reading Drama: A Whole-Class Reading of 'A Raisin in the Sun'"). Before we began reading, students were presented with a "Character Sheet" (page 2) for the play 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). 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). 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 (also RL.9-10.3).
By reading aloud and hearing the language of the play, students both continue to be challenged to participate in class and refine their ability to understand dialect and written drama.
Yesterday was about beginning to understand the structure and rhythms of Hansbery's play. Today, we focus more on incorporating stage directions and delivering lines in a way that is appropriate to the script and audience (SL.9-10.4). In order to understand the conflicts within the Younger family (RL.9-10.2), we draw connections between the students own lives and the text.
With two minutes remaining, I stop our reading and/or discussion (typically, this will be at the end of 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.