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Lesson Plan

Many Years Later: Responding to Gwendolyn Brooks' "We Real Cool"

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Many Years Later: Responding to Gwendolyn Brooks' "We Real Cool"

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



Students analyze the literary features of Gwendolyn Brooks' “We Real Cool” and then imagine themselves as one of the characters in the poem many years in the future. Students first read and discuss Brooks' poem, as well as an audio interview of Brooks in which she describes her inspiration for the poem. Students then write about what a character from the poem might be like today, fifty years after the poem was written. Partners share their responses and then brainstorm details on audience, purpose, and tone, before students write a first draft of the selected character's story. Students use a rubric and peer review as they complete polished versions of their work.

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Basic Character Analysis Questions: Using this online tool, students imagine they are a character from a text they have read and answer a series of reporter's questions from that character's perspective.

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Responding to literature creatively demands a high level of engagement and analysis from students. Christian Knoeller explains that such "imaginative responses" to literature seem to lead frequently to "close and, importantly focused rereading. Many students report repeatedly consulting the text as they compose imaginative responses so that their writing is detailed and faithful to the original" (43).

By asking students to adopt the persona of a character from the poem, this activity, like those Knoeller describes, "invites student readers to explore a work from perspectives situated in the text" (44). Additionally, Knoeller suggests that such assignments can encourage students to "contemplate and give voice to perspectives that are silenced by a text" (44).

Further Reading

Knoeller, Christian. "Imaginative Response: Teaching Literature through Creative Writing." English Journal 92.5 (May 2003): 42-48.


Gardner, Traci. "Write Like You Talk (Snapshots)." English Journal 96.4 (March 2007): 19-21.

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