Maya Angelou Lesson Plan

Teacher's resource for learning about an important African-American writer and poet

Maya Angelou Lesson Plan
Credit: Portrait of Maya Angelou by Sergio Berenson. Used with permission.

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.


Students watch "Still I Rise," a filmic interpretation of the poem by Maya Angelou. Best of Fest Winner in the 2018 MY HERO International Film Festival.

Still I Rise (3:46)

Gabriel Diamond, Patrick Barnes, Phil Collis
A visual and musical interpretation of American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou’s electrifying poem "Still I Rise."


Maya Angelou

By: Sergio Benenson

This portrait of Maya Angelou shows her humanity

Still I Rise

By: Tod Anderson

Visualization of Angelou's poem


Maya Angelou- The Caged Bird's Song

By: Brooke Lebidine

Maya Angelou

By: Susannah Abbey
Maya Angelou is a beloved female author and poet.

Great for ESL/EFF Students: The Following Story is Available in Text and Audio so Students can Listen and Read Along

Maya Angelou

By: Mayandra from San Diego
"How important is it for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!" (Maya Angelou)


The following lesson plan was created by MY HERO Arts Education and Gallery director Victoria Murphy. 


Maya Angelou by Victoria Murphy, Arts Education Director, MY HERO

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.



Discussion Questions


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