They tried the activity with eighth grade students after reading Hughes' poem "Mother to Son". Students discussed the metaphor of the crystal stair and the predominantly negative outlook on life the mother speaker holds. Some students wrote poems with a more optimistic take on the future.
I would suggest playing Tupac's "Dear Mama" which complements Hughes' poem very well.
Dear Mama by Tupac
When I was young me and my mama had beef
Seventeen years old kicked out on the streets
Though back at the time, I never thought I'd see her face
Ain't a woman alive that could take my mama's place
Suspended from school; and scared to go home, I was a fool
with the big boys, breakin' all the rules
I shed tears with my baby sister
Over the years we was poorer than the other little kids
And even though we had different daddy's, the same drama
When things went wrong we'd blame mama
I reminisce on the stress I caused, it was hell
Huggin' on my mama from a jail cell
And who'd think in elementary?
Heeey! I see the penitentiary, one day
And runnin' from the police, that's right
Mama catch me, put a whoopin' to my backside
And even as a crack fiend, mama
You always was a black queen, mama
I finally understand
for a woman it ain't easy tryin' to raise a man
You always was committed
A poor single mother on welfare, tell me how ya did it
There's no way I can pay you back
But the plan is to show you that I understand
You are appreciated
Don't cha know we love ya? Sweet lady
Place no one above ya, sweet lady
You are appreciated
Don't cha know we love ya?
Mother to Son by Langston Hughes
Well, son, I'll tell you:Here's an example of an alternative text a student named Jason wrote in the article by McLaughlin and DeVoogd (Research #3):
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now—
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
Life hasn't always been easy,But when hard things come just calm down andtake them in stride.When things seem to get tough,Take a break and cool off,You'll find that things will get a lot easier and goodthings will come your way. (p. 60)