7th Grade English

Unit 4: A Raisin in the Sun

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Unit Summary

A Raisin in the Sun is the fourth unit of seventh grade after The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, When I was Puerto Rican and Death of a Salesman. The purpose of all four units is for students to explore a diverse array of American families grappling with the myth of the American Dream—that anyone can make it big and live wealthy in the United States. In A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry zooms in on one working-class black family in Southside Chicago in the 1950s in order to demonstrate how race poses a significant barrier to achieving the American Dream.

Hansberry’s play is so significant because of her honesty in depicting the racial dynamics of her time. The play is set during a crucial time period for race relations in America- after WWII and before the Civil Rights movement. American soldiers in World War II fought to support equality for all, an idea that shed light on the hypocrisy of the profoundly unequal opportunities for blacks in America. The play captures the Younger family's fulfillment and nonfulfillment of the American Dream, further explaining how black Americans made some advances while mostly still being oppressed. Hansberry's work is so progressive because Americans were only starting to address these inequalities when the play opened in 1959.  

A Raisin in the Sun represents a turning point in black art towards portraying ordinary and poor African-Americans. Historically, black intellectuals did not use literature, art or theatre to depict working class African Americans for fear they would reify harmful stereotypes. Both poet Langston Hughes and Lorraine Hansberry believed that by portraying ordinary African Americans through art they would actually challenge the stereotypes.

In this unit, students will sharpen their independent reading and annotating skills so they are fully prepared to perform the play in class. By examining how the playwright develops the tone and perspectives of multiple characters, students will gain insight in how to best act out the dialogue which will lead to deeper understanding of the themes. Through a plethora of articles, poems and video clips (such as "The Doll Test" and "Black is Beautiful"), students will build background knowledge on the impact of segregation and the black power movement of the 1950s and 60s.  Ultimately, students will emerge from this unit with a stronger sense of the time period in which Hansberry wrote as well as a clearer grasp on the literary devices employed to convey deep messages about race, gender, class and the American Dream.

Texts and Materials


  • Reading Standards for Literature
    • RL.7.1 — Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
    • RL.7.2 — Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.
    • RL.7.3 — Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot).
    • RL.7.5 — Analyze how a drama's or poem's form or structure (e.g., soliloquy, sonnet) contributes to its meaning.
    • RL.7.6 — Analyze how an author develops and contrasts the points of view of different characters or narrators in a text.
    • RL.7.9 — Compare and contrast a fictional portrayal of a time, place, or character and a historical account of the same period as a means of understanding how authors of fiction use or alter history.
  • Reading Standards for Informational Text
    • RI.7.1 — Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
    • RI.7.2 — Determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • Writing Standards
    • W.7.1 — Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
    • W.7.2 — Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content
  • Speaking and Listening Standards
    • SL.7.4 — Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
  1. Read and annotate A Raisin in the Sun. Make sure to annotate as if you were a student, marking areas with strong descriptions of character, setting and tension. Note any student misconceptions you anticipate.   
  2. Read closely and annotate the unit plan. Write down questions for your coach. 
  3. Read and annotate the unit test. Identify what question stems and vocabulary you need to weave into class to set students up for success.  
    • Write mastery response for Unit Test essay question.
  4. Read and annotate “Harlem” by Langston Hughes.  Answer the questions below:
    • There are all kinds of dreams. What kind of dreams do you think our speaker is thinking about?
    • What does it mean to defer a dream?
    • Our speaker offers several possible answers to his first question.
  5. Which of these answers do you think he believes in most?  
    • Text to Self: Describe a time when you had a dream (or someone close to you) that you could not pursue.  What happened? Do you still think about it?
  • How do race and class affect the notion of The American Dream?
  • What happens to a dream deferred?
  • Should blacks celebrate their differences from whites or assimilate into the dominant white culture? 
  • If Walter wasn’t a man, would he still feel so ashamed by his economic troubles? What are the expectations of being a black man? 
  • How does Beneatha challenge the expectations that both her race and gender place on her? 
  • What was the psychological impact of segregation on African American youth in the 1960s?
  • Assimilation
  • Black Is Beautiful
  • The Doll Test
  • The American Dream
  • Booker T. Washington
  • Prometheus
  • Langston Hughes

Previous Connections?

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago
  • Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Future Connections?

  • Poetry Unit: The Harlem Renaissance (7th grade)
  • Fences by August Wilson (8th grade)
  • The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (8th grade)
  • The Bluest Eye by Tony Morrison (9th grade)

Literary Terms?

Theme, setting, character, stage directions, perspective, symbolism, synthesis, tension, sarcasm, climax, tone

Prefixes, Suffixes, and Roots?

vi/vit/vig-, semi-, psych-


deferred (poem, Harlem), weariness(23) contradictions (23) disheveled (25) indictment (25) indifference (26) gleefully (28), exasperated (28, 41), sullen (29) gruffness (30), defiance (31) vigorously (33), doggedly (39) meddling (40), self-righteous (43), flit (47-48), tyrant (52), dreary (53) semi-consciousness (53), idle (54), intellectual (56) ignorant (57), forlorn (57), dejection (57) suppress (59) mutilate (63-64), profile (62) psychological (The Doll Test, lesson 6), eccentric (80) heritage (81) wearily (102), exuberance (112) facetiousness (120), indignantly (124) agony (128) profound (131)

Idioms and Cultural References?

Uncle Toms (81), Assimilationist Negroes (81), Prometheus (86), Booker T. Washington (103)

Students will continue to dissect the prompt by breaking it into parts in order to fully grasp the question before starting their outlines and draft pages. In their literary essays throughout the unit and on the test, students will emphasize the theme of The American Dream as they focus on writing clear thesis statements, identifying relevant examples from the text and organizing their ideas in logical progressions. In the final lesson of the unit, students will write essays comparing how Langston Hughes’ reflects the experiences of main characters from two different seventh grade texts in his poem “Let America Be America Again.”  This requires students to pull evidence and analyze three texts in one essay.  It is therefore essential that teachers work on the organization of writing in order for students to succeed on this final writing project.

Literary Analysis Writing Focus Areas?


  • Stated their claim and previewed reasons that accurately support the claim.

  • Got their readers to care by including a cool fact or jazzy question about topic

  • Introduction matches the organization of the body paragraphs.

  • Interested readers in their argument and helped them to understand the backstory through purposeful word choice


  • Grouped information and related ideas into paragraphs.
  • Put the parts of their writing in the order that most suited their purpose and helped their prove their reasons and claim

  • The order of the sections and the internal structure of each section made sense

  • Used topic sentences, transitions, formatting (where appropriate) to clarify the structure of the piece and to highlight their main points.


  • Gave at least three accurate reasons/examples and information to support their reasons, perhaps from a text, their knowledge, or their life to support their claim that were parallel and did not overlap

  • Discussed and explained the way that the evidence went with the claim in at least 2 sentences

  • Put reasons in an order that they thought would be most convincing

  • Provided context for evidence/introduced quotations
  • Made choices about how to angle evidence to support main points.


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