by Claude McKay

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: America

Step 1

Have the students write down the first three words that come to mind when they hear the word “America.” Then discuss.

Step 2

Considering the circumstances that are taking place in the world at the moment, this conversation should be somewhat robust. Allow them to talk for 10 minutes or so.

Step 3

Read the sonnet “America” by Claude McKay. Talk about his conflicting feelings toward America and what he says in the poem to express those feelings. Then talk about if and/or how his feelings would relate to the America of today.

Step 4

Tell the students that they will be writing a poem, not necessarily a sonnet, that encapsulates the way they feel living in America right now.

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: Structure & Form (Sonnets)

Step 1

If your students are not familiar with the fundamental characteristics of a sonnet, go through the introductory lesson with them.

Step 2

Read the sonnet “America” by Claude McKay. Then discuss the author’s purpose and how he went about conveying his complex attitude toward the America he knows.

Step 3

Tell the students that they will be deconstructing a sonnet – stanza by stanza – by both summarizing and analyzing its content.

Step 4

Have the students partner up and work in the following document. Directions can be found at the top of the page.

Step 5

When the students are done, have them share their responses. If time permits, share the exemplar essay so they can see if their responses are similar in scope.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Structure (Sonnets)


  • Appreciation
  • Class
  • Community / Culture
  • History
  • Race / Ethnicity / Racism
  • Social Movements / Protest
  • Violence

Literary Tags

  • Diction
  • Figurative Language
  • Imagery
  • Structure (Sonnets)
  • Tone