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Lesson Plan

Unlocking the Underlying Symbolism and Themes of a Dramatic Work

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Unlocking the Underlying Symbolism and Themes of a Dramatic Work

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

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia

Publisher

National Council of Teachers of English

 

Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will

  • explore the traits of a character in detail.

  • identify symbolism and themes in a play.

  • participate in active learning, taking the responsibility for making meaning of text.

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Session One

  1. Ask students to choose a character from the play whom they will focus on for this activity. Explain that they will choose one character from the play, explore that character, and then write a character-idea poem about an object associated with that character.

  2. Once students have chosen a character, introduce the Drama Map student interactive. While you may return to the interactive as you continue to read the play, for this session students will complete only the Character Map and the Conflict Map.

  3. Ask students to complete and print these two maps to gather their preliminary ideas about the character.

  4. Once students have all completed their maps, explain the character-item poem in more detail. Ask students to think of some item that could be associated with the characters they've chosen, based on what is known about him or her from the first scene. The item that students focus on can be a prop, explicitly named in the play, or it can be an unnamed item or an abstract idea. Any item is appropriate as long as it is something that the student relates to the chosen character.

  5. Introduce the following formula for the character-item poems:
    Line 1 State the item's name
    Line 2 Give a literal description of it
    Line 3 Give a figurative description of it
    Line 4 Give one adjective for it
    Line 5 Give another adjective for it
    Line 6 State what the thing does for the person
    Line 7 Give a final description (adjective then noun)
  6. (Optional) Share the sample poems "Mama's Flower" and "Dream." Sharing the poems may influence the choices that students make as they write their own poems. Decide whether to share the samples according to student need.

  7. Answer any questions that students have about the poems. Ask them to complete their poems for homework and to come to class ready to share what they've written.

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Session Two

  1. Invite students to share some of their poems.

  2. As students share, note the names of the items that they have written about on the board. When an item is repeated, add a tally mark beside the item name.

  3. After all the students who want to share their poems have done so, ask the remaining students to share the names of the items that they have written about so that you have a tally of all the items on the board.

  4. Ask students what they can conclude from the information on the board. It's likely that you'll see predictable patterns on the board (for instance, perhaps one-fourth of the class has written about Mama's Flower). Resist the temptation to point them out. Allow students to notice and comment. The questions below can be starters for the discussion, but encourage the conversation to roam where it will.

    • Why do you think more of us wrote about _____________? (Fill in the blank with the item that was most repeated)

    • How are these items related? Do any of them have things in common?

    • Are any of these items symbolic?

    • Do any of these items tell you anything about the themes that will unfold in the play?
  5. With basic ideas of the symbolism and themes from the first scene of the play outlined, ask students to pay particular attention to these ideas as they read the rest of the play.

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EXTENSIONS

  • Once students have read the full play, return to the character-item poems. Ask students how they would change their poems based on the events that happen in the remainder of the play.

  • Complete the remaining maps in the Drama Map student interactive after you've finished the play.

  • The 9-12 EDSITEment lesson plan A Raisin in the Sun: The Quest for the American Dream focuses on the guiding question, "How does the play A Raisin in the Sun mirror the social, educational, political, and economical climate of the 1950's and how does the play illustrate the impact this climate had on African Americans' quest for ‘The American Dream'?" The lesson provides excellent materials for continuing study of Hansberry's play.

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

As students discuss their poems and the play, listen for comments that indicate students are identifying symbols and themes in the play as well as discussions where students test out ideas about the play. The goal of this lesson plan is to encourage students to make their own meaning as they read a text. Nothing can squash their participation in that act more quickly than an assessment system that suggests that there are “right” and “wrong” answers. Feedback on this activity, then, will be most successful when it takes the form of providing provocative questions that urge students to think more deeply and scaffolding comments that enable students to try out their ideas.

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