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Lesson Plan

Review Redux: Introducing Literary Criticism Through Reception Moments

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Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 60- to 90-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Wendy Preston

Martinsville, Virginia


International Literacy Association


Materials and Technology






  • A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (Vintage, 1994)

  • Computers with access to the Internet

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1. Before beginning this lesson, students should have read A Raisin in the Sun or the alternate text you have selected. The sessions in this lesson should fit into your schedule for discussing this book, but do not need to happen on consecutive days.

2. In advance of the lesson, spend at least one class period talking in general terms about A Raisin in the Sun, or the alternate text you have selected. Students should be familiar with the plot, the characters and their relationships, and the overall significance of the play before you introduce the critical history.

3. Make sure that students have permission to use the Internet, following your school policy. If you need to, reserve one 60- to 90-minute session in your school's computer lab. Bookmark the websites listed under Student Resources on the computers that students will be using and familiarize yourself with these sites so that you can help students if they have questions. You might also prepare a written list of the websites for your students, in case they want to access them after class.

4. Prepare definitions of the words culture, society, politics, and government for use in classroom discussion. You might find Dictionary.com to be a useful resource.

5. Obtain information about Lorraine Hansberry (or the alternate author your students will be studying). You should include information about her life, about A Raisin in the Sun (for example, that it won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1959), what other work she produced, and how she was viewed during her lifetime and afterward. Voices from the Gaps: Lorraine Hansberry is a website you might find useful.

You might want to prepare an informational handout for your students, or you can simply provide this information in lecture format and tell them to take notes.

6. Obtain and make copies of some reviews and some literary criticism of A Raisin in the Sun or the alternate text you are using. Include both contemporaneous and current examples. You will use these during Sessions 1 and 2. Students will read them in pairs, so you should decide how many different examples you would like to use and then make the appropriate number of copies based on how many groups of two there are in your class.

Good resources for this information include:
  • A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway: News and Reviews

  • Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh: Hansberry, Lorraine

  • Pages 175-177 in Contemporary Authors (Vol.109). (1983). Detroit, MI: Thomson Gale.

  • Page 182 in Contemporary Literary Criticism (Vol. 17). (1981). Detroit, MI: Thomson Gale.

  • Pages 165-157 in Current Biography Yearbook (1959). New York: H.W. Wilson Company.

  • Pages 1725-1729 in Gates, H.L., Jr., & McKay, N.Y. (Eds.). (1997). The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Familiarize yourself with the basic concept of literary criticism by accessing Literary Criticism: Different Ways of Looking at Texts.

You should be prepared to provide your students with a definition of literary criticism and the many different forms it can take. For example:

When a work of literature is published and often for a long time afterwards, there is the possibility that professional reviewers or critics will respond. Literary critics analyze the selection from many angles (for example, style, structure, and language) and on many different levels (for example, emotional, moral, and philosophical). Critics analyze the work to see if they feel it is an appropriate representation of the particular genre. Additionally, especially in biography and nonfiction, critics look for the writer's point of view, and the inclusion of previously unknown facts.

Like the author of the work, these critics are being influenced by the times in which they live. As a result, literary criticism reflects both the point of view of the critic as well as the social and political period during which it is written.

8. Make a transparency of the Collaborative Work Skills Rubric.

9. Divide the class into groups of four or five students. Make five or six copies of the Political/Governmental Factors Worksheet and the Social/Cultural Factors Worksheet for each group.

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