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Lessons
Many Years Later: Responding to Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool”
Discipline
Reading
Grades
9, 10
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Professional Commentary

In this lesson, students analyze the poetic devices and literary features of Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool” and then imagine themselves as one of the characters in the poem many years in the future. Using online resources, students explore the poem’s rhythm and rhyme as well as how one reader has seen himself in Brooks’ poetry. After exploring the poem thoroughly, students write a fictional paper that demonstrates how the character’s days in the pool hall influenced who the character is today. The lesson includes opportunities for whole group, small group and partner interactions and for self-reflection. Teachers should read all of the examples closely to make sure they're appropriate for their particular class. (author/sec/ecb)


Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts
Grades 6–12
Reading: Literature
Grades 9-10
Key Ideas and Details
RL.9-10.3 
Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity
RL.9-10.10 
By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 9–10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of the grades 9–10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
Writing
Grades 9-10
Production and Distribution of Writing
W.9-10.5 
Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1–3 up to and including grades 9–10 on page 54.)
Range of Writing
W.9-10.10 
Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
Speaking & Listening
Grades 9-10
Comprehension and Collaboration
SL.9-10.1 
Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  1. Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.
  2. Work with peers to set rules for collegial discussions and decision-making (e.g., informal consensus, taking votes on key issues, presentation of alternate views), clear goals and deadlines, and individual roles as needed.
  3. Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.
  4. Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.
Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas
SL.9-10.4 
Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.
Ohio English Language Arts Standards (2001)
Acquisition of Vocabulary Standard
Benchmarks (8–10)
C.
Recognize the importance and function of figurative language.
Grade Level Indicators (Grade 9)
3.
Infer the literal and figurative meaning of words and phrases and discuss the function of figurative language, including metaphors, similes, idioms and puns.
Grade Level Indicators (Grade 10)
3.
Infer the literal and figurative meaning of words and phrases and discuss the function of figurative language, including metaphors, similes, idioms and puns.
Reading Applications: Literary Text Standard
Benchmarks (8–10)
A.
Analyze interactions between characters in literary text and how the interactions affect the plot.
F.
Identify and analyze how an author uses figurative language, sound devices and literary techniques to shape plot, set meaning and develop tone.
Grade Level Indicators (Grade 9)
1.
Identify and explain an author's use of direct and indirect characterization, and ways in which characters reveal traits about themselves, including dialect, dramatic monologues and soliloquies.
11.
Identify sound devices, including alliteration, assonance, consonance and onomatopoeia, used in literary texts.
Grade Level Indicators (Grade 10)
1.
Compare and contrast an author's use of direct and indirect characterization, and ways in which characters reveal traits about themselves, including dialect, dramatic monologues and soliloquies.
10.
Describe the effect of using sound devices in literary texts (e.g., to create rhythm, to appeal to the senses or to establish mood).
Writing Process Standard
Benchmarks (8–10)
A.
Formulate writing ideas and identify a topic appropriate to the purpose and audience.
B.
Determine the usefulness of organizers and apply appropriate pre-writing tasks.
E.
Apply tools to judge the quality of writing.
Grade Level Indicators (Grade 9)
1.
Generate writing ideas through discussions with others and from printed material, and keep a list of writing ideas.
4.
Determine a purpose and audience and plan strategies (e.g., adapting focus, content structure and point of view) to address purpose and audience.
9.
Use precise language, action verbs, sensory details, colorful modifiers and style as appropriate to audience and purpose and use techniques to convey a personal style and voice.
16.
Apply tools (e.g., rubric, checklist and feedback) to judge the quality of writing.
Grade Level Indicators (Grade 10)
1.
Generate writing ideas through discussions with others and from printed material, and keep a list of writing ideas.
4.
Determine a purpose and audience and plan strategies (e.g., adapting focus, content structure, and point of view) to address purpose and audience.
9.
Use language (including precise language, action verbs, sensory details and colorful modifiers) and style as appropriate to audience and purpose, and use techniques to convey a personal style and voice.
16.
Apply tools (e.g., rubric, checklist and feedback) to judge the quality of writing.
Writing Applications Standard
Benchmarks (8–10)
A.
Compose narratives that establish a specific setting, plot and a consistent point of view, and develop characters by using sensory details and concrete language.
Grade Level Indicators (Grade 9)
1.
Write narratives that: a. sustain reader interest by pacing action and developing an engaging plot (e.g., tension and suspense); b. use a range of strategies and literary devices including figurative language and specific narration; and, c. include an organized, well developed structure.
Grade Level Indicators (Grade 10)
1.
Write narratives that: a. sustain reader interest by pacing action and developing an engaging plot (e.g., tension and suspense); b. use a range of strategies and literary devices including figurative language and specific narration; and c. include an organized, well-developed structure.