Analyzing The Laundry Club: Woman's work during the Harlem Renaissance

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SWBAT demonstrate an analysis of how the author unfolds a series of ideas or events during the Harlem Renaissance era by citing evidence.

Big Idea

How did woman workers during the 1930's in Harlem cope with nearly unbearable conditions?


10 minutes

Quick Write

We've been studying the writers of the Harlem Renaissance era and the unique conditions that created a culture of creativity and cooperation. The vignette written by Vivian Morris, Laundry Workers' Choir, gives a different insight into the lives of woman and how they dealt with their adverse working conditions RI.9-10.3.  

I begin this lesson by asking students to imagine working with a group of people and your job was to fold and iron laundry all day in a hot and crowded room. I then ask them to make a list of words that come to mind describing this experience.

After the Quick Write activity which is a short open ended writing assisgnment, I facilitate a group share of the words that students listed and why they listed them.

Building Knowledge

20 minutes

I begin this section of the lesson by listing vocabulary words that students will need to know in order to fully understand the text.  I ask them to first write the words in their journals:

  • arduous
  • atone
  • copiously
  • languor
  • pathos
  • plaintive 

After they write the words in their journals I use the word in a sentence that gives them the definition by listening for context clues. For example, "My friend had a long and difficult day at work, and he's hoping tomorrow will not be as arduous."  I then ask them to discuss the word and it's possible definition with a partner and write the definitions in their journals.  I then call on a student to tell me what their partner thinks the word means.  I ask them this to emphasize the importance of listening to each other. As a class we finally come to an agreement on the definition which they write in their journals if different from the one they wrote.  


Next I explain that in the vignette that they will be reading the narrator stops by a laundry to take a friend to lunch, and she observes that the black woman who work there take their minds off of the arduous work by singing.  I tell them that the songs could be considered spirituals which is a deeply emotional, sometimes sad, song.  I explain spirituals were first sung by slaves as they worked in the cotton fields of the South.  I then tell them to listen to and watch this short video depicting slaves singing the spiritual "Wade in the Water."


Student Learning Activity

35 minutes

After viewing the video I ask the questions, "Why do you think spirituals evolved?" and "What needs did spirituals meet for slaves in the South?"  After a brief group discussion, I pass out the vignette, Laundry Workers Choir, and the Reading Guide Questions.  Students can work individually or in pairs citing evidence from the text RI.9-10.1 when writing in their journals the answers to the questions on their Reading Guide. I included the pages and paragraphs the evidence can be found for their answers because the objective is to analyze the authors unfolding of events versus spending time researching information. 

As they read the text and discuss the questions,  I circulate to checking for understanding by asking probing questions.  As students engage in the task I will focus on those students who still require guided practice.  

Wrap Up

10 minutes

Ticket to Leave

As a Wrap Up activity each student shares an answer to the last question asked on the Reading Guide, "Why do you think the woman don't get other jobs."  Answers will vary but I want to get an insight into the thinking of my students by asking this open ended question.