Lesson plans and teaching ideas
A Guide to Harlem Renaissance Materials
The Library of Congress presents a variety of materials on Langston Hughes and other Harlem Renaissance artists.
Guide to Langston Hughes
Introductory essay, critical material, discussion questions, and more.
Harlem Renaissance Authors and the Impact on the 21st Century
As part of a study of the Harlem Renaissance, students will do research on a Harlem Renaissance author. Individually, students will use websites to gain information about the author and the author's impact in literature and society. Students will relate writings from the author to issues found in the 21st century. Students will then create a photostory of the author to be shared with the class.
Heroes of Harlem: Learning About the Harlem Renaissance
In this lesson from the New York Times, students learn about the artists of the Harlem Renaissance. Their research culminates in a Harlem Renaissance Fair celebrating the movement's cultural and artistic contributions to society.
Identifying the Social and Cultural Context of a Period — The New Negro and the Harlem Renaissance
Students watch three video segments to identify the social and cultural context of the period before and during the Harlem Renaissance. Students then write an essay summarizing the social and cultural changes in African American life and attitudes during the Harlem Renaissance. This lesson is designed for grades 6-8 and includes links to the downloadable videos and to all support materials.
Extensive biography with a few photographs and poems, related links.
Langston Hughes Mini-Unit
These lessons are designed for grades 5 and 6. They include biography, several classroom activities, and suggestions for assessment.
On this page, a summary and related links. Click on "Teacher's Guide" for classroom-specific resources.
The Blues and Langston Hughes
Students learn the structure of the blues stanza, both in music and in the blues-based poems of Langston Hughes. This set of lessons is divided into grades K–2, 3–5, 6–8, and 9–12. Younger students compose their own three-line blues poems. Older students listen for details of the Great Migration in recordings of rural and urban blues from Smithsonian Folkways. Lesson includes printable materials.
Building Reading Comprehension Through Think-Alouds
The teacher will model the think-aloud strategy for students using the poem "Dream Variation." Components of think-alouds will be introduced, as well as type of text interactions. Students will develop the ability to use think-alouds to aid in reading comprehension tasks. Designed for grades 6-8.
This lesson on metaphor uses Hughes' poem, "Mother to Son." It is designed for 6th grade.
Are You My Mother? An Opinion Writing Unit
This 5-lesson unit uses "Mother to Son" and a portrait to emphasize facts and opinions. Includes writing task. Designed for grade 2.
"Dream Deferred (Harlem)"
Scroll down to find the audio file of an introduction and actress Khandi Alexander reading the poem.
Hold Fast To Your Dreams: The Sound and Sense of Langston Hughes
Students investigate poetry form as they research the life of Langston Hughes. They perform the lyrics of his poetry, participate in a distance learning program from Cleveland Institute of Music, and produce computer-generated brochures and booklets. This lesson plan includes handouts and an extension activity. It is designed for 8th grade.
The American Dream Redefined — How the Harlem Renaissance Changed and Questioned the Idea of the American Dream
This unit uses the Hughes poems "My America," "Harlem," "Mother to Son," "I, Too" and other poems, as well as poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar, Effie Lee Newsome, Helen Johnson, Claude McKay, and other Harlem Renaissance writers. 17 pages; Adobe Reader required.
In this audio file Langston Hughes reads some introductory comments and the poem.
Lesson Plan on "I, Too"
Understanding that language and power are not always related by rhetoric and persuasion, but can also be related by the simple dignified assertion of truth, is an important lesson. This poem can also be used to help students understand that even when we have little power in society we still have the agency of voicing the truth, and literature is an important space in which this can happen.
Introducing Metaphors Through Poetry
In this lesson students will read excerpts from the work of Langston Hughes ("Dreams"), Margaret Atwood ("You Begin"), and Naomi Shihab Nye ("Blood") in order to gain a deeper understanding of metaphors.
Pictures, some poems, extensive bibliography. Scroll all the way down for study questions.
Langston Hughes' Drafts of "Ballad of Booker T.": Exploring the Creative Process
Four typewritten, marked-up drafts and a final copy of Hughes' poem allow students to follow the creative process as the poet makes changes to his work over the course of three days. Page includes teaching suggestions and printable handouts. Adobe Reader required for access.
Modern American Poetry: Langston Hughes
Links to biography, background information, and critical essays.
"Mother to Son"
In this YouTube video (1:42), the poem is read first by an unnamed woman and then by Hughes himself.
The Music in Poetry
"The lessons in this issue introduce students to the rhythms of poetry. The focus in on two poetic forms that originated as forms of song: the ballad stanza, found throughout British and American literature, and the blues stanzas of Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes. The exercises take poetry off the page and put it into terms of movement, physical space, and, finally, music." This lesson is designed for grades 4-12 and includes access to a soundtrack. Access to this 16-page document requires Adobe Reader or compatible application.
"The Negro Speaks of Rivers"
This short downloadable video includes a reading of the poem. Scroll down for support materials.
The Mississippi River in Langston Hughes' "The Negro Speaks of Rivers"
What does the Mississippi River look like? Photo, link to the text of the poem, and additional information.
The Poet's Voice: Langston Hughes and You
Students learn the concept of voice, explore the voice of Langston Hughes, and develop their own voices in writing. Designed for grades 6-8.
"Theme for English B"
Text of the poem.
Using Poetry to Illustrate the Importance of Drafting
This lesson plan uses different drafts of "The Ballad of Booker T" to help students see the value of revision.
Walt Whitman to Langston Hughes: Poems for a Democracy
The majority of this unit focuses on Whitman. Scroll down to part 3 for a lesson comparing and contrasting Whitman's "I Hear America Singing" and Hughes's "Let America be America Again."
"The Weary Blues"
In this YouTube video (3:55), Langston Hughes reads his poem to jazz accompaniment, 1958.
Writing Poetry like Pros
This extensive set of lessons includes an activity using Hughes's "The Negro Speaks of Rivers."
"Thank You, M'am"
Click here: these lesson plans are on a separate page.
Love to Langston by Tony Medina
This teacher guide for a children's book is rich with resources: summary, prereading and comprehension questions, vocabulary, suggestions for use in literature circles, reader response and writing topics, ESL and interdisciplinary strategies. Access requires Adobe Reader or compatible application.