This free poetry activity is a fun unscramble-the-poem lesson with Langston Hughes’s poem “Harlem” (Dream Deferred) that will get students thinking about the meaning of the lines and the organization of the poem. Don’t worry if students don’t arrange the lines in the same order as Langston Hughes’s poem! The process of deciding which order makes sense and trying out different sequences is more important than getting the “right” answer.
This free poetry activity includes a brief slideshow presentation ready for you to project on your whiteboard (or a computer or iPad at a work station) that will guide students through the activity.
Print one copy of the poem strips (page 7) for every two students or small groups. Cut the strips apart and store in an envelope or plastic bag until the lesson.
Notes for Use
Make the discussion meaningful. Most students are able to pair lines in couplets. Ask them to really think about which order those pairs should go in.
Here are some comments my students made as they worked on this activity:
“This has to be the first line because it’s the main idea. All the rest are examples.”
“I used the punctuation and capitalization as a clue.”
“This would be easier if it rhymed. Oh,…wait…are there rhyming words here?”
After I show students the copy of Hughes’s poem, we try to analyze why he ordered the lines as he did. Having recently studied argumentative writing, one student noticed that the structure was similar to an argumentative essay.
“He is working from less important to most important. The part about ‘maybe it just sags’ is like his counterargument. And then he finishes with a bang!”
RL.7.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama.
RL.7.5 Analyze how a drama’s or poem’s form or structure (e.g., soliloquy, sonnet) contributes to its meaning.
This fun free poetry activity is a sample from my Langston Hughes “Harlem” poetry analysis lesson. Use it along with the coordinating lessons for The Harlem Renaissance & Langston Hughes, Langston Hughes “Mother to Son,” and Langston Hughes “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.”
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