There are many wonderful adjectives used to describe Maya Angelou, intelligent, beautiful, powerful, creative, articulate, and courageous. But mere words cannot express all that she was and how much she’ll be missed.
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.
Excerpt: Legendary author Maya Angelou dies at age 86 By F. Karimi and A. Fantz, CNN
“A literary voice revered globally for her poetic command and her commitment to civil rights has fallen silent. Maya Angelou died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Wednesday, said her literary agent, Helen Brann.
The 86-year-old was a novelist, actress, professor, singer, dancer and activist. In 2010, President Barack Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor.One of Angelou’s most revered books was I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Writer Julian Mayfield is said to have described the autobiography as a work of art which eludes description… In 1958, Angelou become a part of the Harlem Writers Guild in New York and played a queen in “The Blacks,” an off-Broadway production by French dramatist Jean Genet.
Affectionately referred to as Dr. Angelou, the professor never went to college. She has more than 30 honorary degrees and taught American studies for years at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem.
I created myself, she has said. I have taught myself so much. Angelou spoke at least six languages and worked at as a newspaper editor in Egypt and Ghana… The famous poet got into writing after a childhood tragedy that stunned her into silence for years. From the silence, a louder voice was born.
Her list of friends is as impressive as her illustrious career. Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey referred to her as “sister friend.” She counted Martin Luther King Jr., with whom she worked during the civil rights movement, among her friends. King was assassinated on her birthday.
In an interview with CNN in January 2009, just days before President Obama was inaugurated for his first term, she gave her thoughts about the United States’ election of its first black president.
Seeing Obama about to take office made her feel proud, she said.
“I’m excited. I’m hopeful. I’m talking all the time to people, and sometimes I’ve really said it so many times I wonder if I’m coming off like a piece of tape recording, but I’m very proud to be an American.” Read more
Maya Angelou April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about Maya Angelou. Next, have students look at the picture(s) in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Debrief as a class and list these ideas on the board. The UIE brainstorming chart (sample) for brainstorming the meanings.
II. While Reading Tasks
- A literary voice revered globally for her poetic command has fallen silent.
- Ms. Angelou’s autobiography is a work of art which eludes description.
- She has more than 30 honorary degrees.
- Angelou grew up in the then-racially segregated town of Stamps, Arkansas.
- Before President Obama was inaugurated she gave her thoughts about the United States’ election of its first black president.
- “In 30 or 40 years, (the election) will not be considered so incredibly important.
- There will be other people in those next three or four decades who will run for the presidency.
- Angelou spoke in the way that she came to be famous for, each sentence a crescendo of emotion.
- I’m very proud to be an American.
- Her work on Broadway has been nominated for Tony Awards.
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following paragraphs taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
Angelou spent her early years studying ______ in San Francisco but dropped out at age 14, instead becoming the city’s first ___cable car conductor.
Angelou later returned to ___to finish her diploma and gave ___a few weeks after graduation.
While the 17-year-old single mother ___to support her son, she ___a ____for music and dance, and toured Europe in ___in the opera production “Porgy and Bess.” In 1957, she recorded her first album, “Miss Calypso.”
In___, Angelou become a part of the ___in New York and played a queen in “The Blacks,” an off-Broadway production by French dramatist Jean Genet.
Affectionately referred to as___, the professor never went to college. She has more than ___and taught American studies for years at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem.
“I created myself,” she has said. “I have taught myself so much.”
Angelou spoke at least ___and worked at as a newspaper editor in Egypt and Ghana. It was during that time that she wrote “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” published in___, the first in a series of ___books.
Harlem Writers Guild, high school, six languages, autobiographical, African-American female, 1969, dance and drama, 30 honorary degrees, 1958,
birth, Dr. Angelou, the mid-1950s, waited tables, passion, acquired,
Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
- A literary voice revered globally for her poetic command.
- Maya Angelou died on her home in North Carolina.
- President Barack Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom.
- Angelou spend her early years studying dance and drama.
- Angelou later returned to high school to finish her diploma.
- In 1958, Angelou become a part of the Harlem Writers Guild in New York .
- She has much than 30 honorary degrees.
- Angelou was born April 4, 1928.
- The famous poet got into writing after a childhood tragedy.
III. Post Reading Tasks
Reading Comprehension Check
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.
Maya Angelou made the following statements. Rephrase them into your words:
- “I want to write so well that a person is 30 or 40 pages in a book of mine … before she realizes she’s reading,” Angelou said.” Seeing Obama about to take office made her feel proud, she said.
- “I’m excited. I’m hopeful. I’m talking all the time to people, and sometimes I’ve really said it so many times I wonder if I’m coming off like a piece of tape recording, but I’m very proud to be an American.”
- In 30 or 40 years, (the election) will not be considered so incredibly important. … There will be other people in those next three or four decades who will run for the presidency — some women, some native American, some Spanish-speaking, some Asian. We’re about to grow up in this country.”
- “Our country needs us all right now to stand up and be counted. We need to try to be great citizens. We are necessary in this country, and we need to give something — that is to say, go to a local hospital, go to the children’s ward and offer an hour twice a month that you can give them reading children’s stories or poetry…go to an old folks’ home and read the newspaper to somebody. Go to your church or your synagogue or your mosque, and say, ‘I’d like to be of service. I have one hour twice a month.”
In groups choose one of the following topics to research and present to the class:
The Biography of Maya Angelou
The Presidential Medal of Freedom
Book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Poem, On the Pulse of Morning by Maya Angelou
Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down at least three new ideas they’ve learned about_____ from the reading. Ask them to write down two things they did not understand in the reading. Then have them write one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.
IV. Listening Activity
Video Clip: The Revelation That Changed Dr. Maya Angelou’s Life – Super Soul Sunday – Oprah Winfrey Network
While Listening Activities
Directions: Review the statements with students before the watching the video. As students listen to the video if a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- Oprah asked Maya Angelou, “Where do you go for comfort?”
- Maya Angelou responded with the word “Church.”
- Oprah asked Maya Angelou, “What is the name of your church?
- Maya Angelou responded, “ the Christian Church.”
- Maya first discovered the Unity Church in her 20s.
- Her friend invited her to a service.
- Founded in 1889, the Unity Church is a Christian movement that emphasizes affirmative prayer and education as a path to spirituality.
- Maya took an online course in Unity.
- Maya wanted to become a member.
- The line from the book Maya mentions is “God loves me”.