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The Harlem Renaissance - A Virtual Study

Subject: English/Language Arts

Grade Level: 8-12

Materials: Supplemental reading materials about the "Harlem Renaissance"; copies of poems by Langston Hughes; artwork of 1920s Harlem; access to computers, projector, and audio; microphones; newspapers, magazines, etc.; and art supplies such as construction paper, poster boards, colored pencils, etc.

About: Students learn about the Harlem Renaissance and use this information throughout a unit on the poetry of Langston Hughes. The instructional ends with a final project (travel presentation, digital storyboard, or podcast). Pre-reading activities include reading historical documents, visiting websites, viewing old newspapers, studying artwork, and listening to music that was generated during the Harlem Renaissance.

At the end of the unit, students submit a final project that is a Virtual Travel Brochure of Harlem, New York during the 1920s & 1930s. Students choose from different formats or incorporate aspects of a few. Choices include a PowerPoint presentation, a podcast commercial using Apple's GarageBand software, or creating a digital storyboard. In any choice, the purpose is to create a travel brochure/commercial that outlines all the important aspects of the Harlem Renaissance. Students who are more technically advanced can infuse aspects of these choices into one final project.

This project is very well received due to the promotion of interactive technology. Students utilize many Internet options, such as our class website and resource sites provided for them, but also use popular and effective audio/visual programs like PowerPoint, GarageBand, etc. They learn about a critical time period and study music, art, and poetry that they otherwise may have not been introduced to. These topics are administered almost exclusively through the use of technology. They listen to online audio files of jazz and blues songs and poetry readings by Langston Hughes, take a virtual tour of 1920s Harlem, and watch a picture slide show with music. This study deepens understanding and raises interest in the important themes presented in Langston Hughes' poetry and the play "A Raisin in the Sun". Students perform research in the form of an on-line webquest from our class website. They are given the sites as hyperlinks to ensure that they are using credible and copyright-free resources. Their final project enhances the student use of art and technology.

If your students own computers, have them work on the presentations on their own and submit work via a website or e-mail. This promotes productive Internet use. I have also set up a blog site for students to go to and communicate throughout the process. In any case, if students are working from home, it allows more class time for the variety of instructional support resources available. If students wish to complete the project in teams, I ask them to submit a statement as to why they need to, and what additional aspects of the project they will do in order to go beyond what is asked of them. I encourage this because students always want to work in teams, and this allows me to team up ESL/ELL students with more advanced students without singling them out. This unit gets students very motivated and has many interdisciplinary connections (history, art, music, ELA). It provides differential instruction, and opportunities for ELL's to enhance vocabulary, and use technology as a support for writing and reading. I have consistently found the woks of Langston Hughes and Lorraine Hansberry to be engaging, and this project has taken interest to a whole new level. Providing the websites for research is an invaluable method of project based learning with technology. There is so much information available to students on the few sites you give them that you ensure originality, as well as ensure reinforcement of essential facts, ideas and concepts. Not to be left out is the fact that by providing the websites, you cut down on the hours (no exaggeration) that students will spend "googling" for information; not to mention limiting the variety of distractions and dangers they can encounter during these searches.


Students will learn about a vital time in American history and study the artistic expression that led to such social and political change.
Students will respond to literature of many genres, public documents, and visual and performing arts, and critique social expression.
Students will learn how to communicate with technology (podcast, e-mail, and blogs).
Students will learn how to validate search results on Internet search engines.
Students will create a technological "commercial" or travel brochure on the Harlem Renaissance.
Students will conference with teacher and present to group/class.
Students will work in pairs and small groups during classroom instruction to generate ideas, learn different takes on art, and complete a variety of handouts and organizers to illustrate learning.
Students will become adept with modern audio/visual software programs and learn a variety of cutting-edge ways to provide classroom presentations.

This is our class NY Learns website. It is used for a variety of ways: access to online grades, instructional units, homework, and useful sites. If you click on "Harlem Renaissance", it will take you to our project page. This provides students with the format and guidelines for the project, the websites they may use for their research, and instructions on how to use the required technology. There is also a Pocast & Blogs link that shows students how to utilize our class blogsite, what rules need to be followed, and how to create podcasts.
"Drop Me Off in Harlem" is a powerful and valuable resource. It provides an interactive map of Harlem during the Renaissance movement, allowing viewers to scroll over highlighted blocks to get information on important areas, buildings, and events. The site has information on important people associated with the movement, and categorizes them into actors, musicians, writers, etc. It also has a "Media Player" section where you can access videos, audio files, images, and historical texts.
This link offers viewers an in-depth look at the major persons, literature, art, and performances of the Harlem Renaissance. There are also links to visual arts and a 1920s timeline of events. These are used during classroom instruction as well.
This link to a PBS-sponsored webpage is a valuable resource to both research and instruction, centering on the history connection. It offers a description of an exhibit at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco called Rhapsodies in Black. The PBS Online NewsHour allows viewers to see questions and answers submitted by online viewers and forum panelists at the time of broadcast. The panelists are professors and professionals who are experts in the field. The questions and answers focus on the Harlem Renaissance being more then jazz, blues, and the Cotton Club, but as a profound literary and political movement.
This site allows teachers and students to download free recording software onto computers. Of course, the Apple computers come with GarageBand, so this program is to be used especially for Windows PC users.
The "Info Please" website offers a sound yet grass roots explanation of the Harlem Renaissance, from its inception to relevance in history. The site is very student friendly and is a good resource for information on future topics.
This site offers a quick course on the Harlem Renaissance and covers history, art, music, history, drama, and more. But more importantly, it can be easily viewed in Spanish and French.

Students read and comprehend at least four books on the same subject, by the same author, or in the same genre, Read and comprehend informational materials, and demonstrate familiarity with a variety of public documents.
Students produce a report of information and a response to literature.
Students participate in one-to-one conferences with the teacher and in group meetings, and prepare and deliver an individual presentation.
Students demonstrate an understanding of the rules of the English language in written and oral work, and analyze and subsequently revise work to improve its clarity and effectiveness.
Students respond to non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and drama using interpretive and critical processes.
Students critique functional documents with an eye to strategies common to effective functional documents.

Day 1: Harlem Renaissance - The Art of Social Expression
Students will view a variety of artistic expression during the Harlem Renaissance.
Students will critique and analyze music, visual art, literature, and performing arts generated in 1920s Harlem.
Students will produce a Gallery Walk Review Sheet that will discuss opinions, ask questions, and express connections to the work they were introduced to.
Students will complete a homework assignment that will ask them to illustrate social expression.
Laptop and projector displaying visual slide show of performing arts
Classroom CD radio that is playing jazz and blues
Photocopies (color preferred) of different art work displayed on a wall
Variety of literature (poems, letters, plays and novels) displayed on a desk arrangement
Students enter to find the classroom arranged as a gallery walk-through.
Students are instructed that they are entering Harlem, NY in the 1920s, and that throughout this unit they should try to imagine themselves living in this time period. This will help them with their final project.
Students are given a handout that is made of 4 boxes: Questions, Thoughts, Reactions, and Connections. They fill in these boxes with responses as they walk through each section of the gallery.
Students are divided into even groups and assigned a starting point in the gallery.
Students have 5 minutes (timed by teacher) at each section. They are reminded throughout that during this time, they are viewing AND responding.
At the conclusion on the gallery walk-through, we spend 5 minutes doing a "Think-Pair-Share". This allows all students to respond.
Students who wish will have time to perform a share-loud to the entire class.
Teacher holds a Q&A session and reflection.
Students are given the night's homework.
Students go to a website and read "Dreams" and "Harlem" by Langston Hughes. They answer guided reading questions in the form of "commentary response". These responses are to be posted on our classroom blog site. Students have the option of e-mailing responses to teacher or handing in their work on paper. Hard copies will be available for students without Internet access.
Students write a reflection piece in their writing journal.

Day 2: Harlem Renaissance - Background Information
Students will read non-fiction documents.
Students will take notes from a Microsoft PowerPoint lesson.
Students will break into small groups and share different documents.
Students will be asked to write a letter that explains what is happening in 1920s Harlem. This letter should follow the premise that they are living in 1920s Harlem and are writing to a friend who lives in the South, encouraging him/her to move up North.
Laptop with Internet access and projector
Printed 1920s newspaper articles, public documents, timelines
Review homework from lesson 1. Share responses aloud.
Students view the Drop Me Off in Harlem website through the classroom projector on SMARTboard. We walk through the virtual map top get a good feel of the area and points of interest.
Students take background notes on important people, events, and concepts through a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation.
Students break into groups and view a variety of printed documents. Roles are assigned to group members: researchers, writers, and presenter.
Groups complete a "Key Concepts" and "Big Ideas" worksheet that outlines the important dates and people, as well as the reasons behind the Harlem Movement.
Group presenters will discuss their answers and findings with the class.
Students respond online to a series of questions based on the facts and concepts of today, as well as a continued critique of art as social expression.
Quiz on facts, timeline, key people, concepts

Day 3: Langston Hughes - Portrait of the Movement
Students will gain an introduction and understanding of Langston Hughes, his life, and works.
Students will gain an understanding of the themes presented in Langston Hughes' poetry and link them to the Harlem Renaissance.
Students will gain an understanding of the use of imagery and complete a handout.
Students will read and listen to Langston Hughes recite his poetry.
Students will listen to student recitals online, then recite additional poetry of Hughes to the class.
Laptop, projector
Audio speakers
PC microphone
Imagery: graphic organizer
Students walk into the classroom with jazz and blues playing.
Students copy notes on the background, life, and accomplishments of Langston Hughes. The music will continue softly.
Students view Hughes' works on the SMARTboard and will be introduced to the literary device "imagery". Class will use "Dreams" and "Harlem" as a reference to imagery usage.
Students listen to audio broadcasts of Langston Hughes reciting his poetry, as well as audio interviews downloaded from the Smithsonian Global Sound website (http://smithsonianglobalsound.org/radio_globalsound.aspx). Highlight the similarities of his life to the notes taken.
Students listen to student recitals of Hughes' poetry from the website: http://ecuip.lib.uchicago.edu/diglib/language/poetry/langston_hughes/poems.html
Students complete the Imagery Graphic Organizer handout.
Think-Pair-Share the handout responses.
Read responses aloud to class.
Review and homework
Students write an original poem about that includes a 2-stanza, 8-line minimum; 3 facts about the Harlem Renaissance; and 3 examples of imagery.
Journal entry. Homework will allow teacher to gauge level of understanding and interest.

Day 4: Scavenger Hunt
Students will perform online research.
Students will test their knowledge of facts they learned as well as their ability to find new information using sites given on the class website.
Students will take an online quiz that will be e-mailed back to the teacher before the end of class.
Computer room or mobile lab
Handout of Scavenger Hunt questions
CD radio
Students enter computer lab to sounds of jazz and blues.
Students are to take their assigned computer stations or classroom seats (laptops will be on desks and ready).
Students log on to their e-mails. They are told that a test has been e-mailed to them. They have 20 minutes to complete it and reply back to the teacher with their answers.
Students are given a copy of the scavenger hunt question sheet as they finish their exam. Students who earn the highest scavenger hunt points before the bell will receive a copy of the jazz & blues CD we have listened to throughout the unit.
Ensure that all exams have been sent via e-mail.
Collect scavenger hunt responses.
Have "Blog Rules" sheet signed by parent and student.
Grade quizzes and scavenger hunt

Day 5: How To Podcast
Students will understand the meaning of podcasting and see its many uses in today's world.
Students will be introduced to the audio/visual software available to them on either a Windows or Macintosh computer for the purposes of their final project.
Students will see examples of digital storyboards aand online travel brochures, and view a travel commercial over the Internet.
Students will receive a copy of the final project rules, format, and rubric. This information is also available on our class website.
Selected students will be allowed to break into teams and begin generating project plans.
Laptop and projector
Handout of assignment and rubric
Graded quizzes
Students receive grades from yesterday's exam and prizes will be given out to the top-two finishers in the online scavenger hunt.
Students are instructed on podcast technology and take notes from the PowerPoint presentation.
Students and teacher review final project.
Students review and critique examples of previous projects based on rubric assessments.
Students begin working on the final project and can e-mail teacher for comments and suggestions prior to use date.
Students demonstrate understanding of the project based on how well they use the rubric to critique previous work.

Rosario Miano


33 Ferndale Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10304

Rosario Miano has been a New York City public school teacher for over six years. His previous five years were at Lafayette HS in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and he now teaches at I.S. 72, the Rocco Laurie School, located in Staten Island, NY. He has a B.A. degree in English from the State University of NY at Albany and a M.S. in Literacy from Touro College, and is New York State-Certified in English/ELA 7-12, Conflict Resolution & Negotiation, and QTEL (Quality Teaching of English Learners) from the NYCDOE Office of ELL. Before becoming a teacher, he worked in Information Technology. As a teacher, he feels his most important job is to keep students engaged and interested in the classroom by relying on practical issues, technology, humor, and real-life knowledge. Making the classroom a place where students connect to the real world and global community is vital to their educational enrichment.

Important documents for this lesson plan.

Langston Hughes Quiz.doc
Virtual Study Project.doc


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