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The Warmth of Other Suns

Students continue to examine the Great Migration, the massive relocation that cause more than six million African-Americans to move out of the South between 1915 and 1970, in The Warmth of Other Suns.

This unit has been archived. To view our updated curriculum, visit our 8th Grade English course.

Unit Summary

Between 1915 and 1970 more than six million African-Americans moved out of the South to cities across the Northeast, Midwest, and West. This relocation—called the Great Migration—resulted in major demographic shifts across the United States. Many history teachers teach about migration to Ellis Island but few focus on this massive flight of six million blacks who left their homeland looking for a better life in the northern part of the United States.

In this unit, students explore the circumstances in which individuals in the Great Migration made decisions about picking up and moving to foreign cities in the North. As students read The Warmth of Other Suns, they consider the historical context of their previous unit Fences in order to better empathize with the complicated protagonist Troy Maxson and the decisions he made in his life as an emigrant from the South. Students will also examine the power of storytelling through different genres such as literary nonfiction (Warmth of Other Suns), drama (Fences), poetry (poems by Richard Wright and Langston Hughes), song (Bessie Smith’s “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”) and other visual media (mostly photography and painting).  In doing so, they compare the structure of each text and analyze how each medium conveys the idea of migration and its impact on an individual.  Importantly, teachers will notice that this unit references both literature and informational standards as the genre literary nonfiction is a type of prose that draws on literary techniques associated with fiction to report on real persons, places, and events in the world. The Warmth of Other Suns, therefore, requires both sets of standards to better access the text.

It is important to note for teachers that there is no test with multiple choice questions at the end of this unit. The assessment at the end of the unit is a two-day writing project as explained in lesson 8.

Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep


  1. Read and annotate the Unit Summary and Essential Questions.
  2. Read and annotate the text with Essential Questions in mind.
  3. Take unit assessment. Focus on how you expect students to structure the essay since one must address three different genres. Write the mastery response to the essay question.
  4. Lessons that align directly with test:
    • Lesson 1 (poetry)
    • Lesson 2 (literary nonfiction)
    • Lesson 3 (drama)

Essential Questions


  • How does society impact the individual? How does the individual impact society?
  • What purpose is served by literary nonfiction? How is this similar to and different from conveying ideas through novels, drama, poetry, and film?
  • How does an author’s choice of specific words create meaning and tone in the text?

Writing Focus Areas


Students will continue to work on dissecting the prompt by breaking it into parts in order to fully grasp what it is asking before starting their outlining and drafting pages. They will focus on fully answering the prompt with a clear thesis statement and then two or three reasons that support that thesis. They will also work on varying their transitions in order to enhance the flow of an entire compare-and-contrast essay. Importantly, students will work on providing accurate evidence to support their claims and analyzing the diction in that evidence so that they are connecting it back to the thesis of the essay.

Spiraling Literary Analysis Writing Focus Area

W.1a (overall)

  • Addressed the prompt
  • Made a structured and accurate claim
  • Provided one or two pieces of evidence for each reason (can be paraphrased or a direct quote)
  • Each part of the text built the argument and led to a conclusion without redundancies

W.1b, d (elaboration)

  • Supported their claim by giving at least three accurate reasons/examples and information to support their reasons, perhaps from a text, their knowledge, or their life, that were parallel and did not overlap
  • Discussed and explained the way that the evidence supported the claim in at least two sentences
  • Put reasons in an order that would be most convincing
  • Provided context for evidence/introduced quotations
  • Made choices about how to angle evidence to support main points

W.1c (transitions)

  • Consistently used transitions in order to introduce new body paragraphs, evidence, and explanation, and used transitions within explanation when appropriate
  • Used transitions to lead readers across parts of the text and to relate to earlier parts (despite this, as stated earlier, by doing so, etc.)



Literary Terms

allusion, literary nonfiction

Roots and Affixes



dole (p. 3), undue (p. 4), consign (p. 7), sentimentality (p.7, root: SENT-), resentment (p. 7), caste system (pp. 7, 8), sheer (p. 9), alien (p. 9 and Wright poem), configuration (p. 10), discontent (p. 11), migrant (p. 11 [also teach immigrant, emigrant, migration]), verifiable (p. 13), distortion (p. 14), phenomenon (p. 14), untenable (p. 14), eternal (p. 20), austere (p. 21), attribute (p. 21), unwittingly (p. 21), tendency (p. 21), consume (p. 26) demographics (p. 2, “Chicago’s Great Migration”)

Content Knowledge and Connections


  • The Great Migration
  • Jim Crow laws
  • Blues
  • Immigration/Emigration

Lesson Map


  • TWOOS pp. 5 – 6 — “One-Way Ticket”




Analyze a Richard Wright poem for theme and tone.

Explain why the author alludes to a specific line in a Richard Wright poem.


  • TWOOS pp. 6 – 11

  • Great Migration images



Make inferences based on photographs and graphics of the Great Migration.

Closely read a passage for central idea, motivation, author’s purpose (intent), and extended metaphor.


  • TWOOS pp. 11 – 15


Explain the prominent theme in the text.

Make thematic connections between The Warmth of Other Suns and Fences.


  • TWOOS — pp. 3-4; 19-23


Analyze the author’s deliberate juxtaposition and how it impacts the reader.


  • TWOOS pp. 8 – 15

  • “Chicago's Great Migration”



Reread an excerpt of an introduction to identify prominent themes to trace throughout the text.

Read an article about reverse migration and identify, using evidence from The Warmth of Other Sons, what would motivate people to participate in a reverse migration.



  • “Wilkerson video”

  • “Smith video”

  • “Wilson video”



Identify author's purpose from an interview.

Compare and contrast how the different structures of texts by August Wilson, Lorraine Hansberry, August Wilson, Isabel Wilkerson and Bessie Smith, contribute to their portrayals of the African American experience.


  • TWOOS pp. 22 – 27


Use direct evidence in a literary discussion about the meaning of specific quotes in Wilkerson’s introduction.

Compare the Great Migration to another piece of literature or an era in history.


2 days



Evaluate the advantages/disadvantages of each medium (poetry, drama, literary nonfiction in addressing the idea of migration and its impact on an individual’s life.

Complete and submit their end-of-unit assessment.

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.8.6 — Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.8.1 — Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RI.8.2 — Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RI.8.3 — Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).

  • RI.8.6 — Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints.

  • RI.8.7 — Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.8.2 — Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RL.8.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.

  • RL.8.5 — Compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style.

  • RL.8.6 — Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.8.1 — Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Writing Standards
  • W.8.2 — Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content