by Langston Hughes
We've identified these texts as great options for text pairings based on similar themes, literary devices, topic, or writing style. Supplement your lesson with one or more of these options and challenge students to compare and contrast the texts. To assign a paired text, click on the text to go to its page and click the "Assign Text" button there.
- James Weldon Johnson
James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) was an American writer and civil rights activist, and served a vital role in the National Association for the advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In this poem, Johnson urges his heart to "be brave."Pair “Sonnet” with “Mother to Son” and ask students to compare their themes. Furthermore, how does each piece utilize different forms to develop their messages?
We Wear the Mask
- Paul Laurence Dunbar
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) was an influential African-American poet during the early twentieth century. He was the son of freed slaves and was a friend of Frederick Douglass. In “We Wear the Mask” (1896), Dunbar introduces the idea of hiding behind a metaphorical mask.Pair "We Wear the Mask" with "Mother to Son"and ask students how each poem uses metaphor to discuss resilience in the face of adversity. This pairing may also be used to discuss themes in African-American literature at the turn of the twentieth century.
Dance Mama Dance
- Daniel Beaty
In Daniel Beaty’s poem “Dance Mama Dance,” the speaker discusses his single mother and how he wishes she would dance.Pair “Mother to Son” with “Dance Mama Dance” and ask student to discuss the similar themes of the two poems. What do the two poems reveal about the experiences of mothers? How do the differing perspectives impact the reader’s understanding of mothers’ experiences?
Think Mothering Young Kids Is Hard? Get Ready For Even Tougher Times
- Tania Lombrozo for NPR
“Think Mothering Young Kids Is Hard? Get Ready For Even Tougher Times” discusses how different age-ranges of children can impact mothers’ feelings of stress and satisfaction.Pair “Mother to Son” with “Think Mothering Young Kids Is Hard? Get Ready For Even Tougher Times” to allow students to further explore the experiences of mothers. Ask students to compare the struggles depicted in the informational text with the poem. How do the different presentations of mothers’ experiences impact students?
The Harlem Renaissance
- Jessica McBirney
In the informational text “The Harlem Renaissance,” Jessica McBirney discusses how the movement developed and the effect it had on America.Pair “The Harlem Renaissance” with “Mother to Son” and explore the work of one of the Harlem Renaissance’s prominent poets. Ask students to discuss how the two texts explore life during the Harlem Renaissance. How does Langston Hughes’s poem discuss some of the challenges that African Americans faced during this time?
The Rose That Grew from Concrete
- Tupac Shakur
In Tupac Shakur’s “The Rose That Grew from Concrete,” the speaker describes a flower that grew in an unlikely place.Pair "The Rose That Grew from Concrete" with "Mother to Son" and ask students to compare the perspectives of the speakers in these two poems. How does the perspective of the speaker in “The Rose That Grew from Concrete” compare to the perspective of the mother in “Mother to Son”?
This Is Not a Small Voice
- Sonia Sanchez
In Sonia Sanchez’s poem “This Is Not a Small Voice,” the speaker asserts the strength and love of a collective set of people.Pair “Mother to Son” with “This Is Not a Small Voice” and ask students how both poems embody themes of strength. In what ways do the speakers’ tones within the two texts convey resilience? How does the structure of the two poems support this?
On How My Mother Sleeps
- Mikala Rempe
In Mikala Rempe’s poem “On How My Mother Sleeps,” a speaker describes a memory of her mother sleeping.Pair “Mother to Son” with “On How My Mother Sleeps” and ask students to discuss how mothers are portrayed in the two poems. How do the different perspectives of the speakers contribute to how mothers are portrayed in the two poems?
Thank You, M'am
- Langston Hughes
In Langston Hughes’ short story “Thank You, M’am,” a boy attempts to steal a woman’s purse so he can buy a pair of shoes.Pair “Mother to Son” with “Thank You, M’am” and ask students to compare the relationships in the two texts. How is the relationship between Roger and Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones similar to the relationship between the mother and her son in the poem? How are they different?
- Jessica McBirney
Jessica McBirney’s informational text “Duke Ellington” discusses the life and accomplishments of the popular musician.Pair “Mother to Son” with “Duke Ellington” to provide students with an example of the contributions of another popular artist during the Harlem Renaissance. Ask students to analyze the extended metaphor in Hughes poem. How might this metaphor be used to discuss Ellington’s life and music? In what ways was Ellington’s life “no crystal stair”?
- Louise Erdrich
In Louise Erdrich’s short story “The Leap,” a narrator describes the life and important experiences of their mother, a retired trapeze performer.Pair “Mother to Son” with “The Leap” to provide students with the perspective of a mother, rather than their child. What challenges does the narrator in “The Leap” depict their mother facing throughout her life? How does the mother in “Mother to Son” illustrate encountering her own obstacles? If the mother in “The Leap” were to offer advice to the narrator, what do you think she would say?
- Shelby Ostergaard
In the informational text “Jesse Owens,” Shelby Ostergaard discusses Jesse Owens’ win at the Summer Olympics in 1936, in front of Adolf Hitler.Pair “Mother to Son” with “Jesse Owens” and ask students to discuss the obstacles that African Americans have faced in America. How does the metaphor in Langston Hughes’ poem apply to Jesse Owens’ life and pursuit of an Olympic gold medal? How do Jesse Owens’ actions embody the advice that the speaker in “Mother to Son” is giving in the poem?
Lessons from failure: Why we try, try again
- Bethany Brookshire
In the informational text “Lessons from failure: Why we try, try again,” Bethany Brookshire discusses a study that explores how people react to failure and their mindset when they decide to try again.Pair “Mother to Son” with “Lessons from failure: Why we try, try again” and ask students to discuss how both texts explore how we approach challenges. What kind of challenges, and potential failures, is the speaker in the poem encountering? How do they focus on what’s within their control, as suggested in the informational text, rather than on what they can’t control?
The best way to deal with failure
- Selin Malkoc
In the informational text “The best way to deal with failure,” Selin Malkoc explores the effects of embracing the negative emotions associated with failure.Pair “Mother to Son” with “The best way to deal with failure” and ask students to discuss the extended metaphor Langston Hughes uses to explore struggling through life. Do students think the subject of the poem experienced failures or setbacks? According to the poem, how did the subject of the poem deal with these failures? Do students think you can succeed without acknowledging and learning from your mistakes? Why or why not?
Door to Freedom
- Jacalyn McNamara
In the memoir “Door to Freedom,” Jacalyn Pauer describes her husband Pal’s experiences after the war in Hungary and how he got his immigration papers for America.Pair “Mother to Son” with “Door to Freedom” to provide students with a poem about overcoming something difficult. Ask students to discuss how the metaphor used in “Mother to Son” can also be applied to Pal. What does the speaker in the poem say to do when things get difficult? Do students think Pal does this?