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Writing Poetry Using Poems by Langston Hughes Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #: AELP-WCP0208
Submitted by: Susan Pantoja
Email: Susanpanto13@msn.com
School/University/Affiliation: James Whitcomb Riley High School, South Bend, IN

March 16, 2002

Grade Level: 9


  • Language Arts/Writing
  • Language Arts/Literature

Duration: Two 55-minute sessions

Description: This lesson involves looking at two Langston Hughes poems, Dream Deferred and Theme for English B. Students read the poems and discuss the poetic devices used by the poet. Then students use the two poems as models for writing their own poetry.


  • To acquaint students with poetry by an African American poet from the Harlem Renaissance.
  • To familiarize students with different poetic forms.
  • To serve as a springboard for student written poetry.
  • Objectives:

  • After reading two poems by Langston Hughes, students will be able to write one poem with similes and one narrative poem.
  • Students will be able to define simile , deferred , and narrative .
  • Materials:

    • poems: Dream Deferred and Theme for English B by Langston Hughes (see Internet sites below)
    • paper
    • pens/pencils


  • simile – A comparison of two things using like or as.
  • deferred – To put something off until a later time.
  • narrative – An account of events; a story.
  • Procedure:
    Students will evaluate two poems by Langston Hughes, Dream Deferred and Theme for English B. In Dream Deferred, discuss what it means when something is deferred and how that may relate to not only African Americans historically, but to anyone who puts their dreams off until another time. Discuss how the poet uses simile in this poem to create sharp, visual images for the reader. Students are then asked to write their own poem using Dream Deferred as a model, creating their own similes. In Dream Deferred, students begin the poem: What happens to a dream deferred? Does it________ like a _______, filling in their own similes.

    [ Author’s Note: Dream Deferred can be used as an activity prior to reading the play, A Raisin in the Sun .]

    Next, discuss narrative poetry. Read Theme for English B, and discuss the point of view of the author. Discuss what it might be like to be in a situation that is different than what we might be used to experiencing. Discuss how each of us has a story inside of us, and we can tell that through the use of a narrative poem. Students are asked to write their own narrative poem using Theme for English B as a model. In Theme for English B, students follow the same wording as Langston Hughes wrote but fill in their own personal information and create their own narrative poem.

    [ Author’s Note: I had students meet in their editing groups and then turn in a rough draft. Afterwards, students met in their editing groups and constructed their final drafts. If computers are available, then students can word process their poems. I placed the final copies of the poems in students’ writing portfolios.] Assessment: Students’ poems can be assessed by using the following rubric:

    • The poem has an absence of grammatical and spelling errors.
    • The poem follows the format of the model poem.
    • The poem shows creative use of similes.
    • The poem was evaluated by at least three members of the editing group.
    • The final draft was turned in on time.

    Useful Internet Resources:
    * Langston Hughes – Dream Deferred
    http://www.nku.edu/~diesmanj/hughes.html#dreamdeferred * Langston Hughes – Theme for English B

    Special Comments: This is a writing lesson used by the ITWWP (Indiana Teachers of Writing Workshop Partnership), whose members participate in the National Writing Project.