Whenever I start a new literary unit, I like to take a day to assemble the students in groups and ask them questions to prompt their thinking about themes in the work they're about to encounter. Doing this not only sets the stage for understanding the work, but it also allows kids to form opinions prior to the reading.
I use these thirteen questions prior to reading A Raisin in the Sun. The questions focus primarily on the American Dream and family dynamics. One question asks "What concerns would you have if you moved into a neighborhood where you were the racial minority." I also include a question about Hughes' poem and Hansberry's life.
These questions can be done individually, in groups, or in an online discussion forum. I prefer to use them in groups of 3-5. I follow up the questions with a whole-class discussion.
The questions can be as easy or difficult as you need them to be. As long as I preview the American Dream, I can use these with younger students. Less-eager learners have plenty of opinions on family dynamics and dreams. On the other hand, honors seniors do well, too, as they anticipate college and job availability. The questions can reach all levels of learners, though some may need the American Dream defined and explained prior to attempting these questions.