National Poetry Month—Maya Angelou

It’s the twenty-fifth year of National Poetry Month. We have been celebrating during the week with daily posts from NCTE Verse. Let the celebrations continue on the weekend!

Today, we will focus on Maya Angelou, an actor, poet, writer, and director. She was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri. Maya Angelou was raised by her grandmother in a small Arkansas town. Her grandmother ran a general store and Maya and her younger brother Bailey helped in the store. Maya Angelou authored several books chronicling her youth and adolescence, including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This post from the Library of Congress shares a nice remembrance.

In this article from English Journal, a class reads and discusses “Harlem Hopscotch.” The class uses the poem and a video reading of the poem for creative modeling, using the idea of a childhood experience as an extended metaphor for their own poems.

This lesson from ReadWriteThink involves students in using primary sources to better understand the historical background that influenced Maya Angelou’s poetry. They first examine photographs from the Library of Congress which illustrate some of the events that affected Angelou’s life and thus her writing. Then students research these events in order to create trading cards that they read and share while reading and discussing Angelou’s poetry.

Maya Angelou’s audience was appreciably widened when she read her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the request of President-elect Clinton for his first inauguration in 1993.

What is your favorite piece by Maya Angelou?

Curious about the NCTE and Library of Congress connection? Through a grant announced recently by NCTE Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick, NCTE is engaged in new ongoing work with the Library of Congress, and “will connect the ELA community with the Library of Congress to expand the use of primary sources in teaching.” Stay tuned for more throughout the year!
It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.

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