Saturday, December 12, 2015

RTI Focus: The Life of Langston Hughes


Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-wing bird 
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams 
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow. 

- Langston Hughes

I'm not great at memorizing poems, but the one poem I have memorized is Langston Hughes' poem, Dreams. I love that poem, and often say it to myself when a dream is challenged or inspired. 

Recently, when thinking about how to design a multi-genre unit for my small RTI reading/writing group, I decided to focus on the life of Langston Hughes. I knew that students would enjoy reading about his life and also be inspired by his tenacity, talent, voice, and vision.

I wanted students to pay attention to the details so we started to learn about Langston Hughes as a mystery person.

First students read a poem written about Langston's life by John Medina in the book, Love to Langston. The poem didn't include Hughes' name so students did a lot of guessing about who this person might be and what he or she may be like.

Later we read a short article about Hughes' childhood. Again his name was missing so students had to ask more questions and find more clues about who we were reading about. This "mystery person" idea created greater attention to detail and more questions. As readers, students were truly detectives.

After that students practiced a cloze reading activity with a Hughes passage. This time students learned Langston Hughes' identity as they read through the text and tried to choose the right words. This text answered many student questions and introduced students to new information and vocabulary too.

Finally, the students read a great Scholastic mini-play about Hughes' life. They enjoyed the play so much that a couple of students took a copy home to read with family members.

There's a lot more we could have done to learn about Langston Hughes and multiple genre, but these lessons created a good set for my lively, curious RTI group. I hosted many of the materials in this website if you want to take a look.