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Teaching Guide

Teaching A Raisin in the Sun

Fresh and juicy drama.

GO TO STUDENT LEARNING GUIDE

Some students might find A Raisin in the Sun more dried-up than that box of Sunmaid they received last Halloween. (Snickers, people! Snickers!)

We're here to keep this play fresh and juicy. In this guide you will find

  • links to modern updates of the play featuring celebrities like Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Phylicia Rashad, and Denzel Washington.
  • lots of reading quizzes so that your students aren't asking "what's the motivation in this scene?"
  • strategies to connect literature and social studies…because sharing is caring.

With all these resources on your side, you can remind students that those Sunmaid raisins might be for eating, but this Raisin is for savoring.

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  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop’s teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Objective: Creating costumes for a play is a pretty involved process. Before designers can even get started, they have to know the characters inside out so that the costumes they design will not only suit them, but also help to express their unique traits. 

In this activity, your Students will explore the characters of A Raisin in the Sun, their circumstances, and the overall plot of the play by trying their hand at costume design.

Length of Lesson: 2 class periods—one for instruction, one for presentations—with 1-2 weeks in between for students to complete the assignment. If desired, students could use some class time working on their projects. (This could be helpful for students who may not have adequate resources at home.) Alternately, they can complete all of the work outside of class.

Materials Needed:

  • Sketching materials (to be loaned out to students who need them): pencils, colored pencils, paper
  • (For Step 5 - Optional Extension) Costume-making supplies: old clothes, fabric, needles, thread

Step 1: Introduce the assignment. Explain how theatrical costume designers have to do an intense examination of a play and its characters before deciding on proper costumes.

To drive this point home (and to give students a cool backstage look at the process) show this interview with Susan Hilferty, the Tony Award winning costume designer for the Broadway musical Wicked. Hilferty discusses costume design in general and her thought process as she was creating the costumes for this production.

Step 2: With the Hilferty interview in mind, have students choose one character from A Raisin in the Sun to work with. They can review the characters here. Once they've chosen one, they can begin their research for their costume designs. They can do this in three stages, which you can either assign one at a time, with one night to complete each step, or all at once, with three nights to complete them all. 

NOTE: If your students have good time management skills, go for the "all at once" approach. If you think they could use a little help on that front, by all means, break it down for them. Give one assignment each night for three nights, checking in with them at the beginning of class the next day to make sure they're on track. (A great place for the check, check-plus, check-minus system in terms of homework assessment.)

Here are the three research assignments: 

  1. Create a bulleted character analysis, listing your chosen character's five major traits. Each trait should be accompanied by at least three quotes from the play to support it.
  2. Analyze your character's arc within the play. List each scene in which your character appears and note the given circumstances for your character in that scene. Has the character just woken up? Just gotten back from work?
  3. Do a little historical research. Go online and find images of what people who were similar to your character might have worn in 1959. Find at least five images that represent something your character might wear. (The links listed in Shmoop's guide to History of Fashion in America may be helpful for this research.)

Step 3: Once the initial research phase is done (3 days after introducing the assignment), give students one week to complete their costume designs. Here are a few guidelines: 

  • Students should create a different design for each scene in which their character will need a costume change. 
  • Each costume should be accompanied by a paragraph, explaining how the design fits the character's personality traits and the given circumstances of the play. These paragraphs should also explain how each costume fits into the overall plot of the play. 
  • The designs themselves should be "final copies." They may be sketched and colored with colored pencils, assembled like paper dolls using magazine cutouts or actual fabric, or completed with design software of some sort. Whatever method a student chooses, the designs should look polished. 

Step 4: Presentation time! Divide the class into groups by character and give students 15-20 minutes to discuss their work. What factors did each of them consider in creating their costumes? What similarities do they notice between their designs? What differences do they see? Once the small group discussions are done, bring the class back together and have each group report out, identifying the character they were working with and summarizing their answers to these questions. 

Step 5: [Optional Extension] If time and resources are available, have your students actually create their costumes. This can be accomplished by a visit to the thrift store, digging in a closet, or even sewing costumes from scratch. Once costumes are complete, have a fashion show in the classroom. Give students a chance to show off their work and explain how the costumes are appropriate to the character and the play.

(California English Language Arts Standards Met: 9th & 10th grade Literary Response & Analysis: 3.3, 3.4, 3.11; Writing: 2.2. 11th and 12th grade Literary Response & Analysis: 3.2, 3.4; Writing: 2.2.)

Instructions for Your Students

If you've read or watched The Hunger Games, you know the difference a good costume can make. So now we're going to ask you to play Cinna for one of the characters from A Raisin in the Sun

True, your costume choices won't necessarily mean life or death for your character, but you should still put a lot of thought into your choices. That, after all, is the way of the costume designer, as you will soon find out. 

Step 1: In class, you'll learn a bit about the role of a costume designer by watching this this interview with Susan Hilferty, the Tony Award winning costume designer for the Broadway musical Wicked.

Step 2: Next, with the Hilferty interview (and Cinna, of course) in mind, choose a character from A Raisin in the Sun that you want to design costumes for. You can review the characters here, if necessary. 

Once you have someone in mind, it's time to do a little research. There are three separate pieces you'll need to complete for this phase: 

  1. Create a bulleted character analysis, listing your chosen character's five major traits. Each trait should be accompanied by at least three quotes from the play to support it.
  2. Analyze your character's arc within the play. List each scene in which your character appears and note the given circumstances for your character in that scene. Has the character just woken up? Just gotten back from work? What kind of clothes and accessories does s/he need for this scene?
  3. Do a little historical research. As you know, A Raisin in the Sun takes place in the late 1950s. Go online and find images of what people who were similar to your character might have worn in 1959. Find at least five images that represent something your character might wear. (The links listed in Shmoop's guide to History of Fashion in America may be helpful for this research.)

Your teacher will let you know when each piece is due. 

Step 3: Now that you have all of that brilliant research assembled, it's finally time for you to begin your designs.  Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

  1. You should create a different design for each scene in which you character will need a costume change. 
  2. Each costume should be accompanied by a paragraph, explaining how the design fits the character's personality traits and the given circumstances of the play. These paragraphs should also explain how each costume fits into the overall plot of the play. 
  3. The designs themselves should be "final copies." They can be sketched and colored with colored pencils, assembled like paper dolls using magazine cutouts or actual fabric, or completed with design software of some sort. But whatever method you choose, the designs should look polished. 

Here are a couple of examples you might find inspiring as you decide how to lay out your designs:

Step 4: Presentation time! You didn't think we'd have you go to all the trouble of creating costumes without giving you a chance to show them off, did you? 

Be ready to show your designs and explain why you made the choices you did. For this portion of the program, you'll be grouped with other students who chose the same character, which will give you all a chance to discuss the following questions.

  • What factors did you consider as you created your costumes? 
  • What similarities do you notice between your designs and the designs of others in your group? 
  • What differences do you see? 

Choose one person in your group to take notes on your discussion, because once the small groups are done talking, you'll get a chance to report out to the class, summarizing your answers to these questions. 

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Common Core Standards  

The following standards are covered in this course:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.5

WANT MORE HELP TEACHING A RAISIN IN THE SUN?

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Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Quizzes    Flashcards    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
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