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This lesson explores the influence Langston Hughes and his poetry had on history


Language Arts  


11, 12  

Title – Langston Hughes
By – Ashley Brence
Primary Subject – Language Arts
Grade Level – 11-12

PA Academic Standards

      1.3.11.A Read and understand works of literature


      1.3.11.F Read and respond to nonfiction and fiction including poetry and drama.


      1.5.11.A Write with a sharp, distinct focus.


      1.5.11.B Write using well-developed content appropriate for the topic.


      1.6.11.A Listen to others.


    1.6.11.B Listen to selections of literature (fiction and/or non-fiction)

Goal of this lesson:

    For students to understand that literature affects history and vise versa.


  • Markers
  • Marker Board
  • Overhead
  • Transparencies
  • Pencil/Pens
  • Paper
  • Langston Hughes’s I, Too – poem
  • Langston Hughes’s American Heartbreak – poem
  • Smokey Robinson’s Black American – poem
  • Journals/Notebooks

Clerical/Administrative Tasks

  • Make copies of Langston Hughes’s I, Too
  • Make transparency of I, Too
  • Make copies of Hughes’s American Heartbreak
  • Make transparency of American Heartbreak
  • Make transparency of Martin Luther King, Jr. with excerpt from I Had a Dream
  • Make copies of the King transparency
  • Make transparency of Malcolm X with excerpt from Ballot or the Bullet
  • Make copies of the Malcolm X transparency
  • Make copies of Smokey Robinson’s Black American
  • Print out picture of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X shaking hands.
  • Compile list of groupings of students for activity
  • Grade the class’s journals and hand them back at end of period
  • Take roll

Instructional Objectives:

      1. TSWBAT (The student will be able to) define theme


      2. TSWBAT identify thematic elements of

I, Too, American Heartbreak,


Black American



      3. TSWBAT discuss/analyze

I, Too

      by identifying elements of the poem that emphasize the theme.


      4. TSWBAT brainstorm about their knowledge about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.


      5. TSWBAT identify the effect Langston Hughes’s

I, Too

      had on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.


      6. TSWBAT independently analyze in groups

American Heartbreak

      by identifying elements of the poem that emphasize the theme


      7. TSWBAT independently identify in groups the effects Langston Hughes’s

American Heartbreak

      had on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X


      8. TSWBAT explain the parallels between

I, Too


American Heartbreak

      , and Smokey Robinson’s

Black American. Introduction:

      Anticipatory set:

        Good morning, class. Today we will continue our unit on the Harlem Renaissance by discussing the poems written by the most influential figure of this movement, Langston Hughes. We have a lot to do today, so let’s get started. (30 seconds, if not less)


        Hand out copies of

I, Too

      while explaining that this is one of Langston Hughes’s famous works. Turn on overhead and then read poem aloud. (1-2 minutes)

Developmental Activities:

      Teaching to objective,


      Presentation of new material, and


      Modeling are all shown through my key questions.

(Note. The teaching to an objective component is covered by all the questions because they meet all the before mentioned objectives. Presentation of new material occurs in all the questions because I build on the content the students already know through the questions and my elaboration of their answers introduces the new material. The questioning component also fulfills the modeling portion because I illustrate to them what theme is, how to support the theme by picking lines that relate to the theme, and illustrate to them how Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were influenced by the poem I, Too .)

      1. After reading poem aloud ask students,

What the poem is about?

      They can offer a variety of answers such as unity between races, oppression of blacks, and the longing for blacks to be seen as Americans. I will write all their responses on the marker board.
      2. We have a literary term we use to refer to what a piece of literature is about. Any ideas as to what that term is? Hopefully the students will say theme, but answers may vary.
      3. Then ask the students,

What are some lines in the poem that specifically reinforce the theme?

      4. Theme often reflects social, economic, and historical events of an era or time period. From the possible themes you have given, can any one tell me when they think this poem was written? What era? Or What decade? Their responses will vary from anywhere from 1920s-1960s or even before or after that time period.
      5. This poem was written in 1932 to be precise. Does any one know what literary movement was taking place during this time period? I’ll give you a hint; it’s the unit we are discussing now. Again variety of responses, but I’m hoping they will say the Harlem Renaissance.
      6. What is the Harlem Renaissance? Variety of responses. I will elaborate on their responses and say that it was a period where blacks expressed their talents they developed within American Society. The idea of two-ness was a common theme. The idea of two-ness is that African Americans are both African and American. Two separate identities that join together to make up one individual.
      7. With this in mind, does this poem remind you of any thing else? Maybe another movement that occurred in history? Hopefully, they say the civil rights movement, but if not I will have to clarify a little more bringing in possible themes that

I, Too

      8. I will place the transparency of Martin Luther King on the overhead and ask the students if they know who it is. I will then place the transparency of Malcolm X on the overhead and ask if they know who this man is. Brainstorming activity. I will hand out copies of both transparencies to all the students so that they can have the excerpts from the speeches that both men have given. The excerpts will give students who know nothing about either man, an idea of the men’s beliefs. We will read the excerpt from Martin Luther King’s speech first and then the students will brainstorm what they know about him. We will then read the excerpt from Malcolm X’s speech and then the students will brainstorm what they know about him. I will write both names on the board and write down characteristics they say. I will then ask the students what the similarities between the men are and what the differences are.
      9. I will then ask the students what themes of

I, Too

      seem to have influenced these men? Explain to the students that both men were influenced by the poem, but in different ways. Martin Luther King agreed with everything the poem said, however, Malcolm X thought that blacks should be seen as Americans from birth and should not have to beg to be accepted. Illustrate, through picture of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, that even though both men had very different views on how to tackle the issue of black oppression, they were still united.

(Note items 1-9 are all key questions including the brainstorming activity. For the presentation, I will shorten the brainstorming activity to fulfill the time limit. Therefore during the presentation activities 1-9 should take 15 minutes, when in actuality the activities would take 30 minutes.)


Note: The checking for understanding component of the Hunter Model is satisfied throughout the entire modeling process because I cannot move on to another question, unless the class understands the concept of the question I.



      I will have the students break up into groups that I have picked before the lesson was introduced. I will tell each student what group they belong to and allow them time to get into their assigned groups. (3-5 minutes)
      10. Guided practice. Give each student in every group a copy of

American Heartbreak

      . I will put the transparency up on the overhead and read aloud the poem. I will then tell the students that they need to do exactly what we did for

I, Too.

    Each group needs to discuss the possible themes of the poem, identify lines that support the theme, and brainstorm about possible ways the themes might have effected Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. I will walk around and observe the progress of the group, offering positive feedback and answers to questions they might have.(10 minutes)

If Time Permits: the students can start on their homework, which is outlined in the assessment/evaluation portion of the lesson plan


      While returning their graded journals to them I will tell students to return to their seats.(3-5 minutes)
      Independent practice.

        Explain to the students that inside their journals are a copy of Smokey Robinson’s

Black American

        . Their job is to read the poem, identify possible themes of the poem, identify lines that relate to the theme, and describe how the poems

I, Too


American Heartbreak

        have influenced Smokey Robinson. (1 minutes)

      Tell the students that their assignment is due tomorrow. Ask the students if they have any questions about their assignment, or anything we have talked about in class today. Tell them to have a nice day and that I will see them tomorrow. (3 minutes)

Accommodations/Adaptations for
Students with Special Needs:

      1. I have designed transparencies not only to introduce the material to the students, but also so the special needs student will be about to visualize who/what I am talking about.
      2. During the brainstorming activity I write the names of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X on the marker board and write down the characteristics each student gives so the special needs student can focus on the activity.
      3. Made transparency of

I, Too

      and underline aspects of poem that are important as I go along so the student can focus in on what I am talking about.
      4. I handed out all copies of the transparencies to every student because the special needs student needs this material in front of her so she can focus on it. I hand the items out to everyone, so that no one suspects she has a disability.

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