Analyzing Theme, Conflicts, and Word Choice in Thank you, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes.

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SWBAT identify and interpret themes, conflict, and analyze word choice and its impact on the reader by using a reading guide to give supporting evidence from the text.

Big Idea

Students analyze the possible issues that Langston Hughes wanted to explore and expose in his short story.


10 minutes

This story is about a boy caught stealing during a time when people in the neighborhood watched out for each other. I begin the lesson by asking my students to write the answers to the following questions W.9-10.1Have you ever been caught doing something wrong?  How did it make you feel?  If not how might you feel if you got caught?

After they are given about 5 minutes to write their thoughts on paper, I pick on a few students to share their responses with the class.  I ask this question to create relevancy to the story they will be reading and analyzing SL.9-10.1.

Building Knowledge

20 minutes

I first explain that the use of dialect is an integral part of the story.  I then write on the board a quote form the story, "Ain't you got nobody home to tell you to wash your face?"  and tell students that even though the skin color of the characters is present and well represented in the way they speak (vernacular), that it is not the story's point. I explain that Hughes draws the readers attention to the issue of poverty in the African American community as well as the use of parental "tough love" even though it is with a teen aged boy who is not related to the African American woman,  Mrs. Jones.

Introduction to Characters

Next I introduce the story by explaining that it features two characters; Roger and Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones. I tell them that they meet when Roger attempts to steal her purse as she is walking home late at night from work.

I want to set the stage and create student interest by explaining that while this boy Roger is trying to steal Mrs. Jones' purse he loses his balance, and Mrs. Jones, who is a large woman, first kicks him in the behind as he is sprawled on the sidewalk, and then hauls him up and shakes him. She has the boy pick up her purse, and begins to reprimand him. Then I say the story takes a turn which they will soon discover as required in standard ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2

Review of Conflict
I do a quick review of internal and external conflict and tell my students that while reading the story they will annotate for conflict.

Dicussion of Robery
Lastly, I use a pre-reading strategy which helps studetns think about and ultimatley engage in the events that will be occuing in the story. I ask the question: "How would you react if someone tried to rob you? and then tell them that they will compare their probable reactions with those of Mrs. Jones in Langston Hughes’ short story, Thank You. M’am.

Student Learning Activity

35 minutes

Students are now given a copy of the short story Thank You, M’am. After they read the first two paragraphs I ask them to stop and I model answering the first question on the READING RESPONSE GUIDE by facilitating a group discussion using Accountable Talk stems. I then write my answer to the question, "Do you approve of the way Mrs. Jones treats Roger?"  while projecting it on a screen using with my docucamera.

After students annotate the text for internal and external conflict I direct them to continue answering the text dependent questions on the Reading Response Guide as required in standard RL.9-10.1.  I give them the choice of working independently or with a partner to answer the questions. 

While they are reading and writing, I circulate among the class checking for understanding and facilitating engagement in the task.

Sponge Activity

For those students who complete the Reading Guide questions before the end of class, they are asked to write a letter from Roger, W.9-10.2 as a grown man, telling the effect the incident with Mrs. Jones had on his life.


10 minutes

Group Share

The best way to conclude a strong lesson is to bring the students' focus back to the purpose of the lesson. I often use a Ticket to Leave asking them ot write what they've learned but I also want my studetns to talk about heir learning as often as possible. This wrap up allows time for rich discussion. I ask students to think about why they think Langston Hughes wrote this short story? After giving them a few minutes of thinking time I facilitate a short group discussion to determine if the students understand the issues that Langston Hughes may have wanted to explore and expose in this story SL.9-10.1.