ALEX Learning Activity

Compare Langston Hughes' Poetry and Gatsby's American Dream

A Learning Activity is a strategy a teacher chooses to actively engage students in learning a concept or skill using a digital tool/resource.

  This learning activity provided by:  
Author: Tammy Cook
School:University of Montevallo
  General Activity Information  
Activity ID: 2368
Compare Langston Hughes' Poetry and Gatsby's American Dream
Digital Tool/Resource:
Google Docs
Web Address – URL:

This explore/explain activity can be used after studying The Great Gatsby to compare themes depicted in the novel with some of Langston Hughes’ Poetry. Students will discuss topics which have universal appeal but diversity in interpretation as well as some of the features of Modern Poetry.

Using the two handouts from Google Docs, students will complete the Langston Hughes Poetry Graphic Organizer after they read the poems. Students will engage in a group discussion.

The links will take you directly to the two Google Docs; teachers may make copies of the handouts or insert into their own Google Classroom for students to use directly.

This activity was created as a result of the ALEX Resource Development Summit.

  Associated Standards and Objectives  
Content Standard(s):
English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 11
6 ) Analyze a case in which grasping point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement). [RL.11-12.6]

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 11
8 ) Demonstrate knowledge of twentieth- and twenty-first-century foundational works of American literature, including how two or more texts from the same period treat similar themes or topics. [RL.11-12.9] (Alabama)

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 11
9 ) By the end of Grade 11, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the Grades 11-College and Career Readiness (CCR) text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range. [RL.11-12.10]

Social Studies
SS2010 (2010)
Grade: 11
United States History II: The Industrial Revolution to the Present
5 ) Evaluate the impact of social changes and the influence of key figures in the United States from World War I through the 1920s, including Prohibition, the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, the Scopes Trial, limits on immigration, Ku Klux Klan activities, the Red Scare, the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Migration, the Jazz Age, Susan B. Anthony, Margaret Sanger, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, W. C. Handy, and Zelda Fitzgerald. (Alabama) [A.1.a., A.1.b., A.1.d., A.1.f., A.1.i., A.1.j., A.1.k.]

•  Analyzing radio, cinema, and print media for their impact on the creation of mass culture
•  Analyzing works of major American artists and writers, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Langston Hughes, and H. L. Mencken, to characterize the era of the 1920s
•  Determining the relationship between technological innovations and the creation of increased leisure time

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SS.AAS.11.5- Identify key social changes that occurred after World War I.
SS.AAS.11.5a - Identify notable people of the 1920s including Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Andrew Wyeth, Frederick Remington, Langston Hughes, Louis Armstrong, Henry Ford, W.C. Handy, Zora Neale Hurston, and Al Capone.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Students will identify components of Modern Poetry, specifically the Harlem Renaissance and Langston Hughes.
  2. Students will read and analyze four poems by Langston Hughes through class discussion and small groups.
  3. Students will disseminate Langston Hughes’ poems by completing the Langston Hughes Graphic Organizer.
  4. Students will compare thematic language of Langston Hughes’ poems to Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby.
  Strategies, Preparations and Variations  

1. Prompt the students to discuss whether they think Fitzgerald’s version of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby is the only version of the dream.

2. Direct students to take notes during the Modern Poetry slide presentation, which will aid them in the group activity at the end of the lesson. Students who need extra help with notes will be provided with a “Notes Page” to complete as they follow along with the presentation.

3. Discuss the cultural movement of the Harlem Renaissance in the early 1900’s as the information from the Modern Poetry PowerPoint is presented. The teacher may also reference jazz music via YouTube and pull up the website “The Harlem Renaissance” as a way to help students explore the cultural connections.

4. Discuss cultural and literary influences on Langston Hughes; the teacher may want to project the Harlem Renaissance Website on the board for students to read.

5. Distribute the Langston Hughes poetry handout (features four of Hughes Poems) and ask for a volunteer to read “I, too, sing America” first.

6. After the poem has been read, the teacher will guide students in a discussion about its thematic qualities and how it compares to The Great Gatsby.

7. Break into small groups (pre-arranged by the teacher by assigning various numbers to the Poem Handout) to discuss the remaining poems and complete the graphic organizer.

Assessment Strategies:

  1. Students will identify components of Modern Poetry, specifically the Harlem Renaissance and Langston Hughes through note-taking and class discussion during the slide presentation.
  2. Students will analyze four poems by Langston Hughes through small groups as they complete the Langston Hughes Graphic Organizer.
  3. Students will compare thematic language of Langston Hughes’ poems to Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby as they engage in small group discussions, complete the graphic organizer, and present their findings to the class.

Advanced Preparation:

Teachers need to access all Google Docs and make the documents accessible to students through Google Classroom or make copies for students to use throughout the lesson. Make sure students who need planned supports have direct access to the "Notes Page" for the slide presentation. Ensure that the website opens, so students may access it during the class.

Variation Tips (optional):

This lesson can serve as stand-alone instruction without having previously studied Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby

Notes or Recommendations (optional):

These activities are designed to occur in one full class period.

  Keywords and Search Tags  
Keywords and Search Tags: Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes, Modern Poetry, The American Dream, The Great Gatsby