Teacher's resource for learning about an important African-American writer and poet
Lesson Plan Description
Select from stories, films and art inspired by Maya Angelou to use in the classroom.
Students consider the following discussion questions in class conversation or as separate writing assignments.
The following lesson plan was created by MY HERO Arts Education and Gallery director Victoria Murphy.
Maya Angelou was at the height of her career when she was invited to recite "On the Pulse of Morning" at the first inauguration of US President William J Clinton. But even as far back as her humble beginnings, Maya Angelou realized she had an important story to tell, one that would resonate with African Americans and women.
She was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1928. After a series of occupations including kitchen worker, sex worker, performer and journalist, she became a writer and a poet and joined the Harlem Writers Guild. In 1970, she published I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, an autobiography of her life up to the age of 17. This book received international acclaim and would ultimately become required reading at college campuses all over the world.
Her poem, "Still I Rise" is recited because it emphasizes determination and persistence in the face of adversity, two characteristics that best describe Maya Angelou herself. Because of her significant contribution to the field of literature-- 7 autobiographies, 3 books of essays, numerous poetry collections, plays and screenplays--in 1982 Ms Angelou was appointed the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina for life.
Maya Angelou worked alongside Martin Luther King, James Baldwin and Oprah Winfrey throughout her life to further the Civil Rights Movement. She died in 2014 and has left a legacy that inspires equal opportunity, participation in the arts and social activism.
1. After watching the award winning film "Still I Rise", what do you think are the most important hero traits that Ms. Angelou writes about in this poem that inspired this filmmaker?
2. When you look carefully at the portrait of Maya Angelou by Sergio Benenson, can you see what kind of a person this artist believes her to be? What are those traits?
3. As you read about her life, you learn that Maya Angelou came from humble beginnings and that she struggled as an adolescent and into her twenties. How many African-American young women have experienced the indignities, the disappointments and the prejudice that she lived through? Do you think anything has changed since then to improve the African-American woman's daily life? What are those changes and did Maya Angelou's writings including "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" contribute to these changes?
Learning about Maya Angelou's long career in the arts and listening to her beautiful and poignant poems and writings, we appreciate the life of a courageous, determined and inspired individual.
Our lives are so much richer for her depictions of what it was like to grow up as an African- American woman in the 20th century.
We can be inspired by her talent and her strength and above all, by her humanity. We are humbled by her accomplishments and her impact on the fields of literature and social justice.
Learn about a New Hero Every Day of the Year
Organizer created on 3/29/2019 3:56:13 PM by Xenia Shin
Last edited 4/30/2020 2:26:28 PM by Laura Nietzer