I, Too Sing America by Langston Hughes Lesson Plan

Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

This lesson plan utilizes a video lesson analyzing Hughes' popular poem, as well as an activity involving writing a similar poem. An exit ticket and extension ideas are also included.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe the life of poet Langston Hughes.
  • Analyze Hughes' poem.
  • Connect the poem to other themes prevalent in the Harlem Renaissance.

Length

45-50 minutes.

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10

By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of the grades 11-CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.9

Demonstrate knowledge of eighteenth-, nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century foundational works of American literature, including how two or more texts from the same period treat similar themes or topics.

Key Vocabulary

  • Poetry
  • Harlem Renaissance
  • Racial Relations
  • Theme
  • Figurative Language

Materials

  • Handouts of Hughes' poem
  • Handouts of Whitman's poem I Hear America Singing
  • Notebook paper and writing utensils

Instructions

  • Before using this lesson, be sure students already have a basic understanding of the Harlem Renaissance and the artists prevalent in that era.
  • To begin, post this line on the board: I hear America singing.
  • Ask students to free write about what they think this line might mean. You can call on volunteers to share after a few minutes.
    • Discussion Question: Knowing that this is a line of poetry, do you think the poet is literally hearing singing? Why would he use that phrase? Does singing have a positive or a negative connotation?
  • Explain to students that this was a line from Walt Whitman's poem, where he celebrates American people and workers. Then state how the class will be looking at a response to that poem by Langston Hughes. If you have time, you can even read through the whole of Whitman's poem.
  • Begin watching the lesson I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes: Summary, Theme & Analysis
  • Stop the video at 1:38.
    • Discussion Question: What themes did Hughes write about? What events in his life influenced his writing? With this in mind, what can we expect to see from his poem?
  • Before returning to the video, hand out copies of the poem I, Too Sing America'. Read it as a class. Ask students to take a few minutes to annotate the poem, writing down what they think lines mean or marking instances showing the themes discussed in the first part of the video. Volunteers can share, or you can project a student sample of an annotated poem on the board.
  • Return to the video and watch until 3:16. Have students add to their annotations including information explained in the video.
    • Discussion Question: What details from the poem show the racial divide? What lines show Hughes' positive outlook on the future? What lines show strength and pride in being black?
  • Return to the video and watch it until the end.
    • Discussion Question: How are the themes of this poem connected or disconnected to the themes in Whitman's poem (which was celebrating the American people)?

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