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 tit. 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. Student will begin the unit with three nonfiction texts that provide schema around the Great Migration and the history of housing discrimination against African Americans. Contextualizing this play within its historical moment provides students with the knowledge necessary to unpack the specific and universal themes Hansberry explores. Additionally, students will watch several scenes from the 1961 film version and analyze the way that filmmakers draw viewers into a story through techniques specific to the media. Through this 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.  

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials

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, and gender 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. 

Vocabulary

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Text-based

affluent arbitrary aspiration assimilationist atrocity bitter defer eccentric exploitation futile incredulous mutilate nonplussed plaintive

Academic

actors' choices acts alliteration camera angle camera movement color/lighting connotation cuts denotation dialogue dialect diegetic sound imagery metaphor monologue non-diegetic sound pacing relevant rhyme schemes scenes set setting simile stanza stage directions sufficient tone

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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, as well as have all students practice fluency. 
  • The volume of text students discuss every day is relatively short (usually 10 to 15 pages), which provides ample opportunity to read closely and pause when necessary to unpack complex sections of dialogue or stage directions, and discuss ideas raised by the text. 
  • There are several instances in the play where characters use offensive language—most notably, the n-word and “faggot.” Prepare students for these passages and discuss as a class their reactions to these words, and what their use reveals about characters’ beliefs and emotions. 
  • A Raisin in the Sun briefly discusses abortion, which may be a sensitive topic for students and families. Additionally, lynching is mentioned in several texts. Consider letting parents know about this content before students read these sections of text in class. 
  • This unit discusses concepts like intergenerational wealth and the idea that homeownership is often considered integral to achieving the American Dream. Be mindful of your students’ own experiences and backgrounds.  Remind students that not everyone wants to own a home, nor do they need to in order to achieve their dreams; explain that the point is that people—regardless of their background— should have equal access to the opportunity to purchase a home, and that historically that has not been the case. 

Lesson Map

1

  • “A Better Life” — “Introduction,” “Roots of the American Dream," and “The Modern American Dream”

    RI.7.3

Define the American Dream and explain how and why it has changed over time.

2

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

    RI.7.2

    RI.7.3

Determine the causes and impacts of the Great Migration and explain how the author develops his central ideas.

3

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

    RI.7.8

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

4

  • “Harlem”

    RL.7.2

    RL.7.4

Explain the meaning and impact of word choice and literary devices in Langston Hughes’s “Harlem,” and how they work together to develop theme.

5

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

    RL.7.3

Identify features of setting and explain how setting shapes 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 differences in perspective.

7

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 46 – 60 — begin at “BENEATHA comes in” and end at “The bell rings”

    RL.7.6

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

8

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 60 – 75 — start at BENEATHA “Oh, my god…”

    RL.7.6

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

9

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 68 – 75

  • A Raisin in the Sun — 43:09–54:55

    RL.7.7

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

10

Writing

  • “Say my name”

    RL.7.4

    W.7.9

Closely read a poem and support inferences and conclusions with strong evidence.

11

Writing

  • “Say my name”

    W.8.1

    W.8.1.a

    W.8.1.b

    W.8.1.d

    W.8.1.e

Analyze the meaning and impact of specific words and phrases used in the poem, “Say my name” in a short written response.

12

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 76 – 86 — end at “Beneatha and George exit”

    RL.7.6

Identify characters’ points of view in A Raisin in the Sun and explain what their words and actions reveal about them.

13

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 86 – 95 — begin after “Beneatha and George exit”

    RL.7.3

Explain how the physical and historical setting of A Raisin in the Sun impacts characters. 

14

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 96 – 110

    RL.7.6

Identify and contrast different characters’ perspectives in A Raisin in the Sun, and explain how they change.

15

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 110 – 124 — end at "(the bell rings)"

    RL.7.4

Explain the impact of specific word choice on mood and meaning in A Raisin in the Sun, and how word choice reveals a character’s perspective.

16

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 110 – 124

  • A Raisin in the Sun — 1:21:55-1:33:02

    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 on mood and meaning.

17

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 124 – 130

    RL.7.4

Explain the impact of word choice on mood and tone in A Raisin in the Sun.

18

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 131 – 140 — end 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 differences and changes in perspective.

19

  • A Raisin in the Sun pp. 140 – 151

    RL.7.6

Identify and contrast different characters’ perspectives in A Raisin in the Sun, and explain how they change. 

20

Discussion

  • A Raisin in the Sun

    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 a Socratic Seminar by coming to class prepared with appropriate evidence to support their ideas.

21

Writing

    W.7.1

    W.7.1.b

    L.7.1.a

Explain the expectations of the writing task and begin to gather evidence from supplemental texts.

22

Writing

    W.7.1

    W.7.1.a

    L.7.1.c

Construct a strong thesis statement and compose effective body paragraphs.

23

Writing

    W.7.1

    W.7.1.c

    W.7.1.d

    W.7.1.e

    L.7.1.c

Draft an introduction and conclusion and revise essay for clarity, mechanics, and organization.

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2 days

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.7.1.a — Explain the function of phrases and clauses in general and their function in specific sentences.

  • L.7.1.c — Place phrases and clauses within a sentence, recognizing and correcting misplaced and dangling modifiers.

Reading Standards for Informational 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.7.3 — Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events, or how individuals influence ideas or events).

  • 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.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.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.

Writing Standards
  • W.8.1 — Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

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

  • W.8.1.a — Introduce claim(s), acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

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

  • W.8.1.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.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.c — Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), reasons, and evidence.

  • W.8.1.d — Establish and maintain a formal style.

  • W.7.1.d — Establish and maintain a formal style.

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

  • W.8.1.e — Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.

  • W.7.9 — Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Spiral Standards

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L.7.1

L.7.2

L.7.3

L.7.6

RI.7.1

RI.7.10

RI.7.2

RL.7.1

RL.7.10

RL.7.2

RL.7.3

RL.7.5

RL.7.6

RL.8.3

SL.7.1

SL.7.2

SL.7.3

W.7.1

W.7.1.a

W.7.1.b

W.7.10

W.7.4

W.7.5

W.7.6

W.7.7

W.7.9

W.7.9.a

W.8.10

W.8.5

W.8.9