Langston Hughes: 20+ lesson plans that are easy and exciting

May 9, 2022

Are you a middle or high school ELA teacher teaching Langston Hughes or his works? Looking for teaching activities or lesson plans for Langston Hughes or his works?

Whether you’re teaching about the Harlem Renaissance, it’s National Poetry Month or Black History Month, or you are simply teaching texts by Langston Hughes, we’ve got Langston Hughes teaching resources for you.

This blog post is organized a little differently from previous ones that contain lesson plans – instead of pre-reading, while-reading, after-reading, and whole-unit bundles about Langston Hughes, you will find lesson plans and activities organized by text type or topic.

Lesson plans for Langston Hughes’ “Thank You Ma’am”

A short story by Langston Hughes, “Thank You Ma’am” was published in 1958. The story draws attention to poverty and the effects that it has on people’s lives and decisions.

1. Elements of literary analysis

This Langston Hughes lesson plan by Laura Randazzo uses the short story to teach students the elements of literary analysis. The lesson plan includes instructions, student deep-thinking questions (with an answer key), and an optional writing activity that shows students how to write a strong introductory paragraph to any literary analysis essay.

The student handouts are in both PDF and Google Drive formats.


2. Short story analysis

Another option for this short story is this analysis lesson by Stacey Llyod. The teacher’s page gives you ideas for pre-reading and after-reading activities, as well as class discussion ideas and student writing ideas.

The lesson could be used in a variety of ways including as a stand-alone substitute lesson, as part of a short story unit of work, or as extension work for fast finishers.

Included in the student handouts are

  • a pre-reading worksheet where students think about themes, make predictions, and learn key vocabulary
  • an after-reading worksheet where students use a graphic organizer to engage with the story in a creative way
  • a one-page multiple-choice question quiz with recall questions, as well as critical-thinking and inferential questions
  • a key-focus page where students focus on one literary element in the story and analyze it

3. Activities and handouts

The final lesson plan for “Thank You Ma’am” by Langston Hughes is this one by Juggling ELA. The download includes two PowerPoint Langston Hughes lesson plans, study guide questions (and answers), a characterization handout, and a conflicts and characterization handout.

The lesson plan materials are provided in PowerPoint and Word Doc format, so they are editable to suit your class.

Lessons for “Mother to Son”

First published in 1922 by The Crisis, a civil rights magazine, “Mother to Son” was later republished in Langston Hughes’ first book The Weary Blues in 1926. Describing the difficulty of being Black in a racist society, the poem also leaves readers with the hope that the difficulties can be overcome.

1. Ten poem bundle

One Langston Hughes poetry activity that uses this poem is part of this poetry bundle by Rigorous Resources. The bundle contains ten poems in a mini-unit of Hughes’ work. Including other well-known works such as “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” “I, Too,” “Theme for English B,” “Let America Be America Again,” and “Harlem,” the poems are divided into two homework packs of five poems each.

You also get a classroom packet for each set of poems, including discussion questions and quizzes related to the poems.

The editable 45-page curriculum also includes

  • quick writes
  • a literary devices glossary and quiz, including an answer key
  • an analytical writing assignment, including an example paper

2. Presentation and assignment

Another option for a lesson plan for Langston Hughes’ poem “Mother to Son”, is this one by Presto Plans.

The lesson plan includes a PowerPoint presentation that guides the entire lesson, with information about Langston Hughes, the full text of the poem, questions (and answers), historical context, and notes on literary features such as structure, theme, symbolism, extended metaphor, diction, and tone.

There is also a one-page question sheet assignment with a detailed answer key, as well as a creative assignment where students write their own poem imitating the structure of “Mother to Son” but using a different extended metaphor.

Pre-writing and good copy sheets are also included.


3. Socratic seminar and activities

Another activity for “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes is this Socratic seminar and activities by Reflective Thinker.

The teaching resource includes a 56-slide PowerPoint with preparation activities for a Socratic seminar.

The resource is divided into lessons/days, with students completing several poetry, writing, and vocabulary pre-seminar activities on days one and two to help them prepare for the seminar.

On the third day, students engage in the Socratic seminar, with all students participating as either the student-leader, inner circle participants, or outer circle participants.

In the days/lessons following, students engage in a debriefing and complete reflection activities, self-assessment activities, a writing assignment, and a recitation activity related to the poem.

The Langston Hughes teaching resource also includes

  • teacher preparation information for each of the days
  • agendas for all lessons
  • common core standards addressed by the activities
  • background information and writing activity on Socrates
  • background information and writing activity on Langston Hughes
  • goals and norms of a Socratic seminar
  • pre-seminar information
  • the poem “Mother to Son” and vocabulary activities
  • pre-seminar printables (independent thinking and critical thinking questions)
  • seminar printables (outer circle observation checklist, observation of leader checklist, inner circle self-assessment, and reflection printable)
  • poetry scramble with three tasks
  • quick writes with quotes related to the poem
  • 23 example Socratic seminar question stems as well as seminar sentence starters
  • seminar debriefing activity and questions
  • post-seminar recitation activity with rubric
  • seminar responsibilities (leader, timekeeper, inner circle, outer circle etc)
  • leader questions
  • two options for a printable teacher evaluation of the seminar
  • colloquial language activity
  • post-seminar writing assignment choices include creating metaphors, literary devices, and themes, student choice, short story based on a poem, creating a poem based on “Mother and Son”
  • author’s notes
  • six marking rubrics/checklists/self-assessment/peer-assessment
  • seating/participation assignment cards for the Socratic seminar

Lesson plans for Langston Huges as an author 

If you’re interested in lesson plans for Langston Hughes that deal with him as an author then you might like the activities below.

1. Author biography activities

First up is this worksheet by Laura Randazzo. The worksheet is a research organizer that helps students conduct their own research into Hughes’ background. Let the students do the work to find out more about Langston Hughes.

Ways you could use this tool after students fill in the worksheet include

  • students share and compare their answers in small groups and then choose the most interesting fact, meaningful quote, and person/professional obstacle. Then the small groups present their findings to the class.
  • use the worksheet as a homework assignment and then use it to launch small group and whole-class discussion in a separate lesson
  • make the worksheet part of a larger assignment about Langston Hughes by asking them to read a few of his works and then write an essay, create a presentation, or complete a one-pager assignment
  • use as an emergency substitute lesson

2. National poetry month author study

Another Langston Hughes lesson plan that focuses on Hughes as an author is this body biography activity by Danielle Knight. The activity is a collaborative research activity where students work together to create a poster of the author.

Using a planning sheet, students must research Hughes and provide information about him on the collaborative poster. There is also a link to a digital version of the poster. Once finished the posters can be used as classroom decoration or as part of a bulletin board display.

3. Langston Hughes Webquest

If your middle school students aren’t into drawing, then they might prefer this Webquest by iLoveToTeachKids. The activity asks open-ended questions that students answer from their own reading on a specified website.

Lesson plans for “I Too”

“I, Too” was published by Hughes in 1926 and details the racist experiences Black people were subject to. If you want to use “I, Too” in your classroom, you might find the following lesson plans for Langston Hughes helpful.

1. Paired reading with Walt Whitman

The first Langston Hughes activity for “I, Too” is this one by Tee is for Teacher. Using the theme of “The American Dream”, the activity is a paired reading with Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing”.

Included in the activity are

  • full text of “I Too” by Langston Hughes
  • full text of “I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman
  • annotation strategies
  • common core-aligned question for each poem
  • two writing prompts

2. Quick picture analysis

Another option for “I, Too” is this by Logos Instructional Solutions. The digital-ready, common core-aligned activity includes a side-by-side annotation organizer so that as students read the poem, they can make annotations and write teacher comments.

It also includes a quick picture strategy of processing and thinking about the poem, where students draw a quick picture of ideas they get while reading the poem. The strategy promotes recall by associating the poem with the pictures students generate.

Lesson plans for “Dreams”

If you want to teach Langston Hughes’ “Dreams”, the activities below might be what you’re looking for.

1. National poetry month collaborative poster

First up is this, another collaborative poster activity by Danielle Knight. The low-prep poster activity can be completed in one lesson and provides students with a brain break or technology break.

The activity includes

  • coloring instructions on each poster piece
  • a writing prompt response sheet
  • a one-page coloring sheet for each section of the poster
  • instructions on how to organize the activity
  • and a completed image of what the final poster could look like

2. “Dreams” lesson

Another Langston Hughes teaching activity is this FREE “Dreams” lesson by Ruth S.

The lesson provides a link to the Langston Hughes poem “Dreams” as well as activities to help students discuss its meaning. Students are encouraged to connect their own dreams and goals to the poem.

The Langston Hughes lesson plan for “Dreams” includes activities that motivate students to follow their own dreams, as well as websites about other people who were successful in following their own dreams.

Lessons about “A Dream Deferred”

If you are teaching “A Dream Deferred” by Lanston Hughes, the lessons below could be exactly what you need.

1. Poetry lesson

First up is this mini-lesson by Lessons from Room 214. In the mini-lesson, students practice their close reading skills using “A Dream Deferred”. You can use this mini-lesson as a standalone lesson, or pair it with “A Raisin in the Sun”.

Students read the poem, and the view several YouTube versions of the poem. After reading and viewing, students complete several common core-aligned questions.

2. Poetry analysis and close read

Another option for a lesson about “A Dream Deferred” is this one by Plans By Mrs B. The editable poetry analysis and close reading lesson can be used as a standalone lesson or as a substitute lesson.

Included in the teaching resource are

  • lesson plans with step-by-step instructions about how to use the materials
  • study guide with a preview
  • a KWL chart
  • brief author’s profile
  • reading and comprehension questions
  • term review
  • critical thinking quickwrite
  • an answer key

3. Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes Black History Month

Another great option to celebrate Black poets is this Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes lesson plan by Language Arts Excellence.

The lesson plans are differentiated at three levels, and investigate “Still I Rise” and “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou, as well as “A Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes.

In the lesson, students will analyze figurative language in the poems and respond to the messages they evoke. Students will work independently, in pairs, and as a full class.

Lesson plans for “Harlem”

The lessons below are for Langston Hughes’ “Harlem”, so if that’s on your curriculum, the teaching resources below might be just what you need.

1. Tupac Shakur and Langston Hughes comparison

The first Langston Hughes activity is this lesson by Bayering with Freshmen, which compares Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem” to Tupac Shakur’s “The Rose That Grew From Concrete”.

To complete the activity, students will work in groups and complete activities using a “station” folder that you will pace. The activities will take students step-by-step through a full poetry analysis and text comparison.

Students will work together to

  • define unfamiliar words using context clues
  • analyze tone
  • understand the author’s point of view
  • connect to the text
  • develop text themes
  • identify poetic devices
  • and make connections between the texts

In the download, you get lesson preparation directions, advice on structuring the lesson in a classroom, ready-to-print student work packets, directions for setting up the station folders, and information for absent students.


2. Activities for seven poems

Another option is when teaching Langston Hughes’ “Harlem” is this poetry bundle by O Some Great Stuff for English Teachers. The bundle includes the poems “Let America Be America Again,” “Mother to Son,” “Dreams,” “Harlem,” “I, Too,” “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” and “The Weary Blues”.

Available in both printable and digital format, the bundle has

  • a short biography of Langston Hughes
  • an annotation/highlighting activity for each poem to identify literary elements, including an answer key
  • analysis and synthesis questions for each poem
  • references to outside sources, critics, and other writers for some poems, as well as questions about their observations
  • a culminating activity where students compare and contrast poems and discuss Hughes’ message and motivation
  • a page of teacher tips
  • a list of video clips with links

3. Crash Course Literature video worksheet


If you love to use Crash Course Literature and want to cover a few of Hughes’ poems, you might want this worksheet (by me). The free YouTube video (which you can access here) and worksheet cover The Harlem Renaissance, biographical information about Langston Hughes, and two of his poems “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and “Harlem”.

These videos and worksheets are great to use to break up reading- or writing-heavy lessons, as standalone or bridging lessons between big units of work, as lessons before holidays, or as substitute lessons. You could also use this lesson to celebrate National Poetry Month or Black History Month.

Lessons about the Harlem Renaissance

Finally, if you want to teach about the Harlem Renaissance and include Langston Hughes among other artists, poets, writers, and musicians, the lessons below include many celebrated Black people who contributed to the Harlem Renaissance.

1. Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston

First up is this unit plan about the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston by GilTeach. The unit plan explores the historical roots of the movement, the artistic traditions that influenced the art, and the important issues and debates of the time.

It also explores issues of race, identity, and art while aiming for complexity and a rich experience of the works by Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston.

The unit bundle includes
  • a free-write prompt to start each class and encourage students to focus on the essential questions of the unit
  • handouts that encourage students to engage independently with the texts
  • suggestions for differentiation
  • QR codes and links for jazz, blues, and spirituals from the Harlem Renaissance by musicians such as Billie Holiday, Chick Webb, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, Jelly Roll Morton, Ethel Walters, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane
  • a variety of activities including individual work, group work, learning stations, interactive notebook activities, visual art, creative writing, and discussions
  • answer keys with quotes included
  • a variety of assessment options including reading responses, graded discussion, and comparative essay task
  • Langston Hughes’ texts covered include some of his non-fiction texts, such as the essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”
  • Langston Hughes’ poetry, including “Theme for English B,” “I, Too” (paired with Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing” as mentioned earlier in the post), “Let America Be America Again,” “A Dream Deferred,” (paired with photographs)
  • Zora Neale Hurston’s texts include the essay “How It Feels to be Colored Me,” and short stories “John Redding Goes to Sea” and “Sweat”
  • links to supplemental texts such as “The Great Migration and the Power of Single Decision,” a TED talk by Isabel Wilkerson, “The Whites Invade Harlem,” by Levi C. Hubert, “Harlem Gang Leader,” a photo essay by Gordon Park, “Sonnet to a Negro in Harlem,” a poem by Helene Johnson, and “We Wear the Mask,” a poem by Paul Dunbar, “If We Must Die” a poem by Claude McKay
  • supplemental teacher resources such as a teacher guide for teaching close reading skills to high school students, differentiated reading response journal prompts, and poetry activities

Notably, fifty percent of the proceeds from the resources are donated to The Conscious Kid, an organization dedicated to equity and promoting healthy racial identity development in youth.


2. Poetry question trail

If your students can’t stay in their seats and need to move, then this poetry trail by Write on with Miss G might be exactly what they need.

In the activity, students walk a “trail” around the room answering literary device questions from the poetry of Langston Hughes. At each station, students answer a multiple-choice question, which will send students to a different station.

If students answer each question correctly, they will travel to each station and complete the circuit. But if not, they’ll end up at a station they’ve already been to, which tells them they need to rethink an answer.

The Langston Hughes lesson plan includes

  • teaching suggestions
  • poetic terms & devices handout (with definitions)
  • the question trail (15 questions)
  • student half-sheet with an exit ticket (to track answers/reflect on understanding)
  • an answer key

Want more English Language Arts activities?

Check out these blog posts for more ELA activities, lesson plans, and teaching resources: