Big Idea: Learning about literal versus figurative language using Langston Hughes
Class Context: 11th grade academic
Have you used this tool in class?: Yes
[Note: Words in italics are what I'd actually say to students.]
Okay now we’re going to take a look at Langston Hughes’ poem called “Harlem.” Can someone read it for us?
Thank you! So the main question the speaker is asking here is “What happens to a dream deferred?” Can anyone tell me what deferred means? [Target answer: to put off, delay, postpone]
So throughout the poem we see that he doesn’t explicitly answer the question with a statement…he actually asks more questions that give you vivid images to represent what happens to a dream deferred. What we are going to do is take the image in each line and describe it in further detail to get a deeper sense of why he chose that image to represent a dream. This is called exploding the image. Fill out your chart as we go along too.
We’ll do the first one together, which is the line “Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” What are some of the sensory details that are associated with a raisin in the sun? Focus on the different sense! (sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste – strong adjectives) Write down what we’re describing in the “literal” column of your chart![Target answer: a raisin that dries up in the sun becomes black, very hard, wrinkled, inedible, really tiny and shriveled up, etc…]
And now we’re moving on to the figurative part – how does this image that we’ve detailed answer or reveal more about the initial question of “What happens to a dream deferred? Apply the image that we’ve exploded to the idea of a dream.
Split into groups and give them each an image from the poem to work with. (sore, rotten meat, syrupy sweet, heavy load)
Now you guys are going to do the same thing with each image that I give you.
Share what each group came up with.
So we’ve expanded the imagery… and the poem ends with an abrupt stanza asking “Or does it explode?” Now I want you guys to individually do the same thing we’ve been doing with this last line. This one is different from the others because it’s just a verb, but a powerful one. I want you guys to spend a few minutes answering that last question on your cornell sheet about the image that is in your mind from this last line. Why does he choose to end with this image and what does it signify in relation to the opening question and the rest of the images?
-Copies of Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem”
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