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English Language Arts

Sample On-Demand Task: Poetry

This task was administered in the 1999-2000 school year as part of the Rhode Island Skills Commission's Certificate of Initial Mastery pilot.


The Task

Before you Begin

You are going to read the poems Dreams and A Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes. Before you begin, we think it is important for you to know what scorers will look for when scoring your responses. IN evaluating your responses, scorers will look for evidence that you can

  • Draw from the text to compare and contrast the themes and ideas of two poems;
  • Effectively make and support warranted and responsible assertions about the texts; and
  • Interpret the effect of literary devices such as figurative language, allusion, diction, description and symbolism.


Directions

Read the attached poems Dreams and A Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes. Write a compare and contrast essay.
 
 

A Dream Deferred
-- Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raising in the sun?
Or fester like a sore -
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over - 
Like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sages
Like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Dreams
-- Langston Hughes

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

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

 

Sample Performance: Achieved the Standard

Two poems written by Langston Hughes are "Dreams" and "A Dream Deferred." Both poems have a central theme of Dreams, but they deal with different aspects of this issue. In "Dreams" the message that Hughes is trying to convey is that dreams are important to our lives, and we should not let go of them. Hughes' poem "A Dream Deferred" questions what happens to dreams once people do let them go. In this poem Hughes' possible theories on what becomes of dreams deferred are all negative. This reinforces his poem "Dreams" which says not to let go of dreams in the first place.

The poem "Dreams" is written in two stanzas. The first line in both stanzas is the same. This line "Hold fast to dreams" gives the reader a command, which makes it stand out, also the fact that it is repeated also gives it more importance. In the last two lines of each stanza the poem tells how life is not so good without dreams. The poem "A Dream Deferred" is written in three stanzas. The first stanza is longer, and it conveys a general idea, however the second and third stanzas are only two, and one line long, respectively. This places a special emphasis on this part of the poem.

Langston Hughes uses the language beautifully to convey his thoughts. His poems contain an array of figurative language, personification, and description. In dreams Hughes says that "Life is a broken-winged bird." This personification allows us to see that a person who lives a life without dreams is about as hopeless as a bird who, made for flight, cannot fly. He also calls life a "barren field", which expresses the emptiness in which one must live. In his poem "A dream deferred" Hughes uses a plethora of similies. He questions if dreams "fester like a sore", "stink like rotton meat", or "dry up in the sun". These similies offer us a visual picture that lets us know dreams that are deferred are not to pleasent.

The two poems "Dreams" and "A Dream Deferred" written by Langston Hughes share many similarities, while at the same time showing contrast. "Dreams" deals with the theory that life is 'broken' without dreams. "A Dream Deferred" questions where a dream goes once it is forgotten. Both poems give the impression that dreams should be held on to, because when they are deferred life holds no meaning.
 

Sample Performance: Achieved the Standard

The two poems "A Dream Deferred" and "Dreams" are excellent poems that explain the importance of dreams. Both poems have many similarities and many differences. They are both written by Langston Hughes and they both deal with the qualities of dreams. Although both poems deal with the same issues, they both send very different messages to the reader.

"A Dream Deferred" is a poem who's main message is not to put dreams aside. It explains that if a dream is to be put aside it can never be achieved. As the poem asks, "Does a dream deferred stink like rotten meat, or crust and sugar over." By this section of the poem, the author is impling that a dream put aside dry's up and sugars over. Thus, meaning that if a person has dreams that they think they will never achieve, do not put them aside or they will never come true. Basically, the overall message of this poem is to never put dreams aside.

The poem "Dreams" shows what happens if one does not hold onto their dreams. The poem says, "For if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird, that cannot fly." These lines show that a person needs dreams to live, and if they die a person has nothing to live for. This poem, like the other poem, encourages one to hold on to dreams, for if they die so does the person.

In comparing and contrasting the two poems, the theme must be taken into concideration. The theme of the poems are closely related, but different. In "A Dream Deferred" the theme is not to put dreams aside, where in "Dreams," the theme is hold onto one's dreams. As the reader can interpret, the two are different, but closely related. Both of these poems use description and symbolism, and both send a closely related message. An example of description from "A Dream Deferred" is "or festor like a sore." An example from "Dreams," is "Life is a  broken-winged bird." Both of these lines use description. The two poems also use symbolism. "A Dream Deferred" uses a dried up raisin to symbolize a broken dream and "Dreams," uses a field frozen with snow, to symbolize dreams that are not held on to.

With all of these similarities, the poems do have differences. "A Dream Deferred" uses similes and "Dreams" uses metaphors. Another difference is the rhyme scheme. The rhyme scheme for "A Dream Deferred" is ABCDCEFEGHI, whereas the rhyme scheme for "Dreams" is ABCB,DEFE.

In conclusion, both poems by Langston Hughes use symbolism, description, and figurative language. Both poems also deal with and send the same message on dreams. "A Dream Deferred," encourages one never to put dreams aside, where "Dreams" encourages one to hold on to dreams. The two poems differ in the use of similes and metaphors, and also in their rhyme scheme. Overall, the poems are wonderful examples of poems that can be compared and contrasted.

Rubric

Achieved the Standard with Honors
Achieved the Standard
Nearly Achieved the Standard
Below the Standard
Little Evidence of Achievement
  •  Makes perceptive and well-developed connections by drawing the texts together to compare and contrast themes and ideas of two poems in an effective manner
  • Makes and supports warranted and responsible assertions about the text in an exceptional manner
  • Supports assertions with elaborate and convincing evidence including appropriate quotations
  • Interprets the effect of literary devices such as figurative language, allusion, diction, description and symbolism in an exemplary manner
  • Demonstrates mastery of grammar, usage, mechanics and spelling
  • Makes well-developed connections by drawing the text together to compare and contrast theme and ideas of two poems
  • Effectively makes and supports warranted and responsible assertions about the text
  • Supports assertions with convincing evidence including quotations
  • Interprets the effect of literary devices such as figurative language, allusion, diction, description, and symbolism
  • Demostrates control of grammar, usage, mechanics and spelling
  • Some evidence of making developed connections by attempting to draw the text together to compare and contrast theme and ideas of two poems
  • Makes and supports some warranted and resopnsible assertions about the text
  • Supports assertions with evidence
  • Some interpretation of literary devices such as figurative language, allusion, diction, description, and symbolism
  • Demonstrates some control of grammar, usage, mechanics and spelling
  • Attempts to make connections but is unable to clearly draw the text together to compare and contrast themes and ideas of two poems
  • Attempts to support assertions
  • Limited interpretation of some literary devices
  • Some serious or numerous errors in conventions that interfere with meaning
  • No evidence of being able to draw text together to compare and contrast themes and ideas of two poems
  • No evidence of support related to warranted or responsible assertions about text
  • No evidence shown to support assertions
  • Ineffective use and interpretation of literary devices
  • Demonstrates no control of grammar, usage, mechanics and spelling