Pursuing Dreams: A Raisin in the Sun

Students explore the American experience through the story of an African-American family struggling to achieve their dreams.

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ELA

Unit 3

7th Grade

Unit Summary


A Raisin in the Sun is a meditation on the American Dream and the ways that race can be a nearly insurmountable barrier to achieving it. This award-winning play follows the story of the Youngers, a working-class African-American family living in a cramped kitchenette apartment on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s. Three generations share the apartment, which is barely large enough to fit the five people who live there let alone the dreams each one has for his or her future and the future of their family. 

This text is the third book that students will read this year and the first drama. Student will begin the unit with three nonfiction texts that provide schema around the Great Migration and the history of housing discrimination against African Americans. Contextualizing this play within its historical moment provides students with the knowledge necessary to unpack the specific and universal themes Hansberry explores. Additionally, students will watch several scenes from the 1961 film version and analyze the way that filmmakers draw viewers into a story through techniques specific to the media. Through this story of an African-American family in a segregated northern city in the 1950s, A Raisin in the Sun continues the year’s exploration of what it means to be an American; how race, gender, and class shape a person’s identity; and whether all people in this country have equal access to opportunity.  

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Texts and Materials


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Core Materials

Supporting Materials

Assessment


This assessment accompanies Unit 3 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep


Intellectual Prep

Unit Launch

To learn more about how to prepare a unit, internalize a lesson, and understand the different components of a Fishtank ELA lesson, visit our Preparing to Teach Fishtank ELA Teacher Tool.

Essential Questions

  • What happens to a dream deferred? 
  • What does the American Dream mean to different people?
  • What role does race, class, and gender play in a person’s ability to achieve their dreams?

Enduring Understandings

  • All people have aspirations and wish to make a better life for themselves and future for their family.
  • A person’s dreams and values are often shaped by their life experiences.
  • A person’s environment can have a powerful impact on their identity and also their opportunities in life. 
  • Money can bring with it great opportunity and also tremendous conflict. 

Vocabulary

Text-based

affluent aspiration atrocity defer eccentric exuberant futile hostility indifferent languish misgivings plaintive undaunted

Academic

actors' choices act camera movement camera angle central idea climax color/lighting connotation cuts dialect diegetic sound dialogue imagery literary device monologue non-diegetic sound pacing point of view/perspective relevant scene set simile stage directions sufficient theme

To see all the vocabulary for Unit 3, view our 7th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Supporting All Students

In order to ensure that all students are able to access the texts and tasks in this unit, it is incredibly important to intellectually prepare to teach the unit prior to launching the unit. Use the intellectual preparation protocol and the Unit Launch to determine which support students will need. To learn more, visit the Supporting all Students teacher tool.

Notes for Teachers

  • Teachers should have students read this play aloud in class, taking on different parts (this can be done whole group or in smaller groups to give more students the opportunity to read). This is a great way to build engagement and investment in this text, as well as have all students practice fluency. 
  • The volume of text students discuss every day is relatively short (usually 10 to 15 pages), which provides ample opportunity to read closely and pause when necessary to unpack complex sections of dialogue or stage directions, and discuss ideas raised by the text. 
  • There are several instances in the play where characters use offensive language—most notably, the n-word and "faggot." Prepare students for these passages and discuss as a class their reactions to these words, and what their use reveals about characters’ beliefs and emotions. 
  • A Raisin in the Sun briefly discusses abortion, which may be a sensitive topic for students and families. Additionally, lynching is mentioned in several texts. Consider letting parents know about this content before students read these sections of text in class. 
  • This unit discusses concepts like intergenerational wealth and the idea that homeownership is often considered integral to achieving the American Dream. Be mindful of your students’ own experiences and backgrounds. Remind students that not everyone wants to own a home, nor do they need to in order to achieve their dreams; explain that the point is that people—regardless of their background—should have equal access to the opportunity to purchase a home, and that historically that has not been the case. 

Fishtank ELA Connections

Lesson Map


Common Core Standards


Core Standards

L.7.1
L.7.1.a
L.7.1.c
RI.7.2
RI.7.3
RI.7.8
RL.7.1
RL.7.2
RL.7.3
RL.7.4
RL.7.6
RL.7.7
SL.7.1
SL.7.1.a
SL.7.1.c
SL.7.3
SL.7.4
W.7.1
W.7.1.a
W.7.1.b
W.7.1.c
W.7.1.d
W.7.1.e

Supporting Standards

L.7.1.b
L.7.2
L.7.2.b
L.7.3
L.7.3.a
L.7.5
L.7.5.c
L.7.6
RI.7.1
RI.7.4
RI.7.10
RL.7.5
RL.7.10
SL.7.1.b
SL.7.2
SL.7.6
W.7.4
W.7.5
W.7.6
W.7.7
W.7.9
W.7.9.a
W.7.9.b
W.7.10
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Unit 2

Fighting Injustice: Uprising & Flesh and Blood So Cheap

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Unit 4

Finding Home: The House on Mango Street

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