A Change Is Gonna Come

by Sam Cooke

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Change

Step 1

Start by watching the embedded video. When it’s done, ask your students to try to think of some other songs, either “classic” or contemporary, that fall under the same category or classification. If they’d like to view a few more contemporary examples, you may share the link to the other video. Then briefly discuss.

Step 2

Listen to “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke. When you’re done, briefly discuss the message of the poem and how the speaker goes about conveying the dire need for this change.

Step 3

Say, “Choose an issue that, in your opinion, is in need of change. This issue can be lighthearted or more serious in subject matter. Then come up with a list of reasons, ones that you’ve either experienced firsthand or observed from afar, why this change is needed.” Then give your students 5-10 minutes to brainstorm.

Step 4

Have your students write a protest poem/song in which they raise an issue and express how or why a change is needed.

Step 5

When the students are done, have them share their responses with one another.

The full presentation may be found HERE.

Analytical Lesson

Area of Focus: Various

Step 1

This lesson allows students to analyze various concepts and skills, so it is recommended that you have covered several of the “standalone” lessons before assigning this one. The prominent literary devices & techniques that this particular poem includes are diction, figurative language, structure, tone, and selection of detail.

Step 2

Simply tell your students the title of the song that they’ll be focusing on today, “A Change is Gonna Come.” Have them predict what the song may entail.

Step 3

Ask your students if they know who Sam Cooke is, the artist responsible for the song. Field any responses. Then play the following video to provide your students some context behind the artist/song and to play the song itself.

Step 4

Have your students open the following document and go over the instructions with them. In this assignment, your students are going to analyze the song from several different perspectives and determine how certain fundamental literary elements contribute to the song’s message and effectiveness. Then give your students time to work on the assignment.

Step 5

When your students are done, go through each of the six “skills” and see how your students responded. Not all students will have worked on the same set of skills (they were randomly assigned three), so it’s important that you discuss each one individually.

Step 6

If time permits, share the exemplar essay with your students.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Various


  • Class
  • Community / Culture
  • Criminal Justice
  • History
  • Police Brutality / Profiling
  • Race / Ethnicity / Racism
  • Social Movements / Protest

Literary Tags

  • Diction
  • Figurative Language
  • Selection of Detail
  • Structure
  • Tone