Common Core Poetry: My Favorite Harlem Renaissance Poet

I was just checking out the History Channel website and learned the following:

On this day in 1776, General George Washington arrives at Harlem Heights, on the northern end of Manhattan, and takes command of a group of retreating Continental troops…During the short but intense fighting that ensued, the Americans were able to force a small British retreat from their northern positions.

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In celebration of the Battle of Harlem Heights on September 16, 1776, I give you a lesson plan and some analysis of my favorite Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes.

George WashingtonBut First, Teach How to do a Poetry Analysis

1. Print out the poem. Most poems can be found online. If you have a book you’re allowed to write in, then write in it.
2. Annotate the poem using the following steps:

  1. identify the rhyme scheme
  2. identify the meter and any examples of straying from the meter
  3. if the poem is difficult, summarize each stanza
  4. circle important words, ambiguous words, and words you need to look up
  5. circle examples of figurative language
  6. write questions
  7. write down insights

3. Draw conclusions based on the information you gathered while annotating.

4. Write the poem analysis. The following steps are for how to write a paragraph analysis:

  • The topic sentence should state the poem’s theme (one that may not be so obvious).
  • The examples, facts, citations from the poem you’re analyzing should support your topic sentence.
  • Provide analysis explaining how your facts support your topic sentence.

5. Impress your friends and neighbors with a brilliant poem analysis.

Let’s take a look at Common Core Standards

  • RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • RL.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
  • RL.9-10.5 Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.
  • If you choose to turn the annotation into a poetry analysis paragraph, you’ll also cover a ton of writing standards.

Here’s a sample Harlem Renaissance Poetry analysis of “What Happens to a Dream Deferred” and “Dreams” by Langston Hughes: Sample Poetry Analysis

Or you could just check out my original Weebly page on the Poetry of Langston Hughes.

Two Langston Hughes poems commonly taught in high school include “What Happens to a Dream Deferred” and “Dreams.” These are great poems to be included in conjunction with Of Mice and Men, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and “The Necklace.”

Dream Deferred

Click on the image and project it on to a large screen to amaze your students and dazzle your colleagues.

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?


Click on the image and project it on to a large screen to dazzle your students and amaze your colleagues.


Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Last Updated on September 17, 2015 by Trenton Lorcher

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