Pursuing Dreams: A Raisin in the Sun

Students explore the American experience through the story of an African-American family struggling to achieve their dreams.

Unit Summary

A Raisin in the Sun is a meditation on the American Dream and the ways that race can be a nearly insurmountable barrier to achieving that dream. This award-winning play follows the story of the Youngers, a working-class African-American family living in a cramped kitchenette apartment on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s. Three generations share the apartment, which is barely large enough to fit the five people who live there let alone the dreams each one has for his or her future and the future of their family.

This text is the third book that students will read this year and the first drama. Through the story of an African-American family in a segregated Northern city in the 1950s, A Raisin in the Sun continues the year’s exploration of what it means to be an American; how race, gender, and class shape a person’s identity; and whether all people in this country have equal access to opportunity.

In this unit, students will continue to practice their literary analysis skills and work on a group research project. In the first writing task, students will continue their study of the American Dream, specifically within the context of A Raisin in the Sun. Using strong evidence from the text, students will develop strong thesis statements that clearly answer a two-part question around the “what” and “why” of a specific character’s beliefs. In the second writing task, students will work with a group to research and then present their findings via a PowerPoint presentation on a specific issue related to housing discrimination. Students have conducted research previously in Unit 1, and this project will reinforce their ability to organize information effectively, support their topic with relevant details, and use specific vocabulary and definitions to strengthen the clarity of their writing and demonstrate deep understanding of the subject matter. This project also has several areas of focus that differ from the previous project: Students will assess the credibility of online sources, learn to provide appropriate citations, learn or improve their skills working with digital presentation software, navigate a group-work dynamic, and practice appropriate presentation skills.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials

See Text Selection Rationale

Assessment

This assessment accompanies Unit 3 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • What happens to a dream deferred?
  • What does the American Dream mean to different people?
  • What role does race, class, time period, and setting play in a person’s ability to achieve their dreams?

Reading Enduring Understandings

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  • All people have aspirations and wish to make a better life for themselves and future for their family.
  • A person’s dreams and values are often shaped by their life experiences.
  • A person’s environment can have a powerful impact on their identity and also their opportunities in life.
  • Money can bring with it great opportunity and also tremendous conflict.

Content Knowledge and Connections

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  • Great Migration 
  • Chicago’s South Side
  • Kitchenette apartments
  • Life insurance
  • Restrictive covenants
  • Redlining
  • Lynching
  • Jim Crow
  • White supremacy

Notes for Teachers

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  • Teachers should have students read this play aloud in class, taking on different parts (this can be done whole group or in smaller groups to give more students the opportunity to read.) This is a great way to build engagement and investment in this text.
  • Students should regularly return to the question of whether the American Dream is equally accessible to all people, and what barriers get in the way of people achieving it.
  • Suggested additional resources for this unit:
    • Movie: A Raisin in the Sun: This film version is very close to the original text of the play. Showing short clips from this film regularly can help build and maintain student engagement. Also, because this play was primarily written to be watched rather than read, it changes students’ experience of the text to see it performed. (Plus it’s just a great movie.)
    • Website: Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart by PBS.org (biography of Lorraine Hansberry)
    • Video: A Raisin in the Sun: an Introduction by Westport Country Playhouse (background on Raisin in the Sun and description of a more recent production of the play)
  • Each lesson plan lists the homework for that evening; the vast majority of the time the assignment is for students to read and take notes on the pages of focus for the following day’s class. Additionally, there is a thinking task or question provided for each evening’s reading.  Students should come to class prepared with a literal understanding of the reading in preparation for closely re-reading shorter sections of text during that class period. For homework accountability, it is recommended that teachers check students’ reading notes each day, to ensure that they read and understood the gist of the chapter. Additionally, teachers may wish to assign a short written response to the homework thinking task to bring to class the following day. Another option is to give a quick homework check quiz at the beginning of each class (3-6 questions assessing literal understanding).

Lesson Map

1

  • “A Better Life” — Part 1 and Part 2

    RI.7.1

Explain and draw conclusions about the American Dream and support analysis with evidence from the text.

2

  • “The Great Migration” — Introduction and "The First Wave of the Great Migration"

    RI.7.2

Determine central ideas in an article about the Great Migration and explain how the author develops those ideas. 

3

  • “The Scarlet E, Part II: 40 Acres” — 1:15-13:19 and 16:53-18:11

    RI.7.8

Explain the claims made in a radio story and assess whether the evidence used to support those claims is relevant and sufficient. 

4

  • “Harlem” — also printed at the beginning of A Raisin in the Sun

    RL.7.2

    RL.7.4

Explain the meaning and impact of specific words and literary devices in Langston Hughes’s “Harlem,” and how they work together to develop the poem’s message. 

5

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 24 – 35 — end reading at “women with small minds”

    RL.7.3

Explain how setting and character interactions shape and reveal aspects of characters in A Raisin in the Sun.

6

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 35 – 46

    RL.7.6

Identify characters’ points of view in A Raisin in the Sun and explain how the playwright develops these differences in perspective.

7

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 46 – 53 — start reading at "Beneatha comes in brushing her hair"

    RL.7.6

Identify characters’ points of view in A Raisin in the Sun and explain how the playwright develops these differences in perspective.

8

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 54 – 66 — end reading at “Mama: Missionaries my aunt Jenny!”

    RL.7.4

Use context clues to determine the meaning of unknown words, the connotations of words, and how specific words develop the mood of a scene in A Raisin in the Sun.

9

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 66 – 75 — begin reading at “Beneatha: Oh Mama!”

    RL.7.6

Identify characters’ different points of view in A Raisin in the Sun.

10

  • A Raisin in the Sun — 43:09-54:55

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 68 – 75

    RL.7.7

Compare and contrast the film version of A Raisin in the Sun with the original text by identifying techniques used by the filmmakers and their impact. 

11

Literary Analysis Writing

  • A Raisin in the Sun — Act 1

    W.7.1

    W.7.1.a

    W.7.1.b

Write a strong thesis statement and begin to gather evidence to support that thesis.

12

Literary Analysis Writing

  • A Raisin in the Sun — Act 1

    W.7.1

    W.7.1.e

Write a strong concluding paragraph that supports the argument developed in an essay.

13

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 76 – 86 — End reading at “(Beneatha and George Exit)”

    RL.7.6

Identify characters’ points of view in A Raisin in the Sun and explain what they reveal about characters.

14

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 86 – 95 — Start reading at “WALTER: (to Ruth) Who is Prometheus?”

    RL.7.3

Explain how setting impacts characters in A Raisin in the Sun.

15

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 96 – 109

    RL.7.6

Identify characters’ points of view in A Raisin in the Sun and explain how the playwright develops these differences in perspective.

16

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 110 – 119 — End reading at “You just can’t force people to change their hearts, son.”

    RL.7.4

Determine the meaning of unfamiliar words and explain the impact of specific word choice on meaning in A Raisin in the Sun.

17

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 110 – 119

  • A Raisin in the Sun — 1:21:55-1:25:42 and 1:27:48-1:33:02

    RL.7.7

Compare and contrast the film version of A Raisin in the Sun with the original text by identifying techniques used by the filmmakers and their impact. 

18

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 119 – 130 — begin reading at “Mama and Travis Enter”

    RL.8.4

    RL.7.4

Determine the meaning of unfamiliar words and explain the impact of specific word choice on meaning and tone in A Raisin in the Sun.

19

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 131 – 140 — End reading at “…and hold on to what you got”

    RL.7.6

Identify characters’ points of view in A Raisin in the Sun and explain how the playwright develops these differences in perspective.

20

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 141 – 151

    RL.7.2

Determine central themes in A Raisin in the Sun and trace their development over the course of the text.

21

Socratic Seminar

  • A Raisin in the Sun

  • Socratic Seminar Guide

    RL.7.1

    SL.7.1.a

Clearly articulate original ideas and support them with appropriate evidence from A Raisin in the Sun

Actively engage in Socratic Seminar by coming to class prepared with appropriate evidence to support ideas. 

22

Informative Writing

    W.7.2

    W.7.2.a

    W.7.2.b

    W.7.6

    W.7.7

    W.7.8

Differentiate between credible and non-credible sources when beginning research.

23

Informative Writing

    W.7.2

    W.7.2.d

    SL.7.5

Create a PowerPoint presentation and appropriately cite sources.

24

Informative Writing

    W.7.2

    SL.7.4

Present PowerPoint presentations using appropriate volume, eye contact, emphasis, and pronunciation.

25

2 days

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.7.4 — Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 7 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

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.

  • RI.7.8 — Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims.

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.8.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.

  • RL.7.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama.

  • RL.7.6 — Analyze how an author develops and contrasts the points of view of different characters or narrators in a text.

  • RL.7.7 — Compare and contrast a written story, drama, or poem to its audio, filmed, staged, or multimedia version, analyzing the effects of techniques unique to each medium (e.g., lighting, sound, color, or camera focus and angles in a film).

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.7.1 — Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

  • SL.7.1.a — Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.

  • 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.

  • SL.7.5 — Include multimedia components and visual displays in presentations to clarify claims and findings and emphasize salient points.

Writing Standards
  • W.7.1 — Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

  • W.7.1.a — Introduce claim(s), acknowledge alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

  • W.7.1.b — Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.

  • W.7.1.e — Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.

  • 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

  • W.7.2.a — Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information, using strategies such as definition, classification, comparison/contrast, and cause/effect; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

  • W.7.2.b — Develop the topic with relevant facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.

  • W.7.2.d — Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.

  • W.7.6 — Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and link to and cite sources as well as to interact and collaborate with others, including linking to and citing sources.

  • W.7.7 — Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions for further research and investigation.

  • W.7.8 — Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.