KowalskiCI548lesson#3 - literacyliteracyliteracy

Name: Matt Kowalski
Age/Grade Level: 10/11
Subject Area(s)Language Arts
Unit Title: Literature and African American Identity: The Harlem Renaissance
Lesson Title: Claude McKay: Strength in Language
Estimated Time: 75 Minutes
Purpose/Rationale for lesson: The purpose of this lesson is to introduce the students to
another writer that was influential during the time of the Harlem Renaissance. I want the
students to gain as many perspectives on African American identity as possible from this
time period.
Curriculum Framing Questions:
Essential Question: How does literature shape and reflect cultural identity?
Unit Question that applies to this lesson: How do the themes of literary works
contribute to identity and ancestry?
Lesson or Content Question(s): How do the poems, "If We Must Die" and
"America" by McKay address the authors sense of racial pride and fortitude?
Goal: I want students to relate these two poems by Claude McKay to the issues and
events of the early 20th Century
Learning Objective(s): Students will listen to a reading of “The Tropics of New York”.
Students will read “America” and “If We Must Die” by Claude McKay. Students will
write answers to questions about “If We Must Die” in groups and share their answers
with the class. Students will give me examples of literary devices used in the poem
“America”. As a class we will analyze the poem “America”. Students will complete the
3 w’s closure activity
Curriculum Standard(s): EL.HS.LI.16 Analyze the way in which a work of literature is
related to the themes and issues of its historical period.
EL.HS.RE.22 Infer an author's unstated meaning and draw conclusions about an author's
stated meaning based on facts, events, images, patterns or symbols found in text.
Materials Needed: Copies of the poems, projector, computer with Internet connection,
Background knowledge or skills students need prior to lesson: The students will have
been introduced to the causes and effects of the Great Migration prior to this literature
unit. They will need to know of the struggles that African Americans faced while trying
to achieve equality in the United States. Students will also need a general knowledge of
Hook or Introduction: I will play a clip of someone reading Claude McKay’s “The
Tropics of New York” and there will be a copy of the poem at each student’s seat.
Procedures: I will read a short biography of Claude McKay courtesy of poets.org (5
minutes) I will write this source on the board so students can use this later for their
SOURCE: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/25
I will also show a picture of Claude McKay on the screen
Claude McKay
Claude McKay was born in Jamaica, West Indies, in 1889. He was
educated by his older brother, who possessed a library of English novels,
poetry, and scientific texts.
At the age of twenty, McKay published a book of verse called Songs of
Jamaica, recording his impressions of black life in Jamaica in dialect. In
1912, he travelled to the United States to attend Tuskegee Institute. He
remained there only a few months, leaving to study agriculture at Kansas
State University.
In 1917, he published two sonnets, "The Harlem Dancer" and
"Invocation," and would later use the same poetic form to record his
reactionary views on the injustices of black life in America. In addition to
social and political concerns, McKay wrote on a variety of subjects, from
his Jamaican homeland to romantic love, with a use of passionate
During the twenties, McKay developed an interest in Communism and
travelled to Russia and then to France where he met Edna St. Vincent
Millay and Lewis Sinclair. In 1934, McKay moved back to the United States
and lived in Harlem, New York. Losing faith in Communism, he turned his
attention to the teachings of various spiritual and political leaders in
Harlem, eventually converting to Catholicism.
McKay's viewpoints and poetic achievements in the earlier part of the
twentieth century set the tone for the Harlem Renaissance and gained the
deep respect of younger black poets of the time, including Langston
Hughes. He died in 1948.
--Next I will hand out copies of the poem “If We Must Die” by Claude McKay. I will
instruct the students to read this poem and then I will read the poem aloud. (10 minutes)
If We Must Die (1919)
If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! We must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
Source: http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5130/
Claude McKay, “If We Must Die,” in Harlem Shadows: The Poems of Claude
McKay (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1922).
--Next we will discuss the themes of resistance and self determination and fortitude in the
face of oppression that are present in this poem. I will ask the students to give me
examples of these themes in the poem. I will write their examples on the white board.
--I will group the students into table groups of three and ask them to respond to the
following questions that I will write on the board: (10 minutes)
1) Who are the “we” that the speaker refers to in this poem?
2) Who or what is the speaker referring to when he talks about “mad and hungry
3) Who is “the common foe”?
4) Who is “the murderous, cowardly pack”?
--Each group will choose a representative to share their responses to the questions above.
I will allow time for students to challenge the responses of their classmates in a respectful
manner. (5-10 minutes)
--I will remind the students of some of the events that took place during the time that this
poem was written. I will point out that many soldiers were returning from fighting in
World War I. I will remind the students of the race riots in Chicago and East St. Louis
that we previously learned about. Then I will read to them an excerpt from a book
entitled Harlem Renaissance by Nathan Irvin Huggins:
In later years, when Arna Botemps collected on a phonograph record an anthology
of Negro poets, McKay claimed that it was not just a Negro poem. He said,
following World War II, that he had never considered himself a Negro poet. He
claimed that he had considered “If We Must Die” a universal poem, for all men
who were “abused, outraged and murdered, whether they are minorities or
nations, black or brown or yellow or white, Catholic or Protestant or Pagan,
fighting against terror.” Yet, in the Messenger in 1919 and in Harlem Shadows in
1922 no one could doubt that the author was a black man and the “we” of the
poem black people too. (p.72)
Huggins, Nathan, Irvin. Harlem Renaissance. 1971. Oxford University Press. New York
I will ask students to write on their papers if their responses to the questions on the board
changed at all after I read the preceding excerpt. (10 minutes)
---Next I will ask students to return to their seats and I will pass out a copy of “America”
by Claude McKay courtesy of the Poetry Foundation website.
Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate,
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.
Source: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=173957
Claude McKay, "America" from Liberator (December 1921). Courtesy of the
Literary Representative for the Works of Claude McKay, Schombourg Center
for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and
Tildeen Foundations. Source: Liberator (The Library of America, 1921)
--I will once again have students read the poem individually first, then read it aloud for
the students. (5-10 minutes)
--Using Popsicle sticks, I will call on students to give me an example of or explain the
following from the text: personification, simile, metaphor, explanation of mood, imagery,
and symbolism. I will instruct the students to take notes. (5-10 minutes)
--Next I will ask students to help me dissect the meaning of this poem. We will go
through the poem line by line try and understand the meaning of the poem. I will ask the
students, what is the speaker’s opinion of America in this poem.? Does the speaker seem
to have conflicted feelings about America? Why could that be? Does the speaker talk
about talk about oppression in this poem? Where and how does the speaker respond to
oppressive treatment? I will write their ideas on the board and instruct the students to take
notes. (15-20 minutes)
Differentiation/Accommodation: The reading in today’s lesson is fairly minimal and we
will discuss the two poems in class extensively. I will provide visuals of the poems and
write notes of the class discussion on the board. The students will work in groups for part
of the period and I will allow students with learning disabilities to work in groups if they
want to work with others.
Attention to Literacy: We will listen to and watch a clip of “The Tropics of New York”.
I will provide visuals of the poems and write notes of the class discussion on the white
board. The students will read two poems and listen to me read both poems aloud.
Closure: At the end of class students will write down the 3 w’s of the lesson. The
students will hand these slips to me as they leave the classroom.
(5 minutes)
1) What did we learn today?
2) So What? (how was this lesson relevant, important, or interesting )
3) Now What? ( How does this fit into what we are learning about the Harlem
Renaissance? How does this affect the your thoughts about Harlem Renaissance
Adapted from a list of strategies from Ann Snipe of Grandview School District,
Grandview WA
Assessment and Evaluation of Student Learning: I will assess student learning by
participation in the class discussions. I will collect all the student writing from the lesson
and evaluate their understanding of the material based on their responses.