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February 18

In 1931, Toni Morrison was born.

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In 1931, Toni Morrison was born.

Grades 3 – 12
Calendar Activity Type Author & Text

 

EVENT DESCRIPTION

 

 

Toni Morrison, Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry, was born in 1931 in Lorain, Ohio. Best known for her novels such as The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved, she has also published children's books based on Aesop's fables with her son Slade. Recurring motifs in her works for both young and adult readers include the reworking of myths, fables, and folk tales and the importance of personal and collective memory.

 

CLASSROOM ACTIVITY

 

 

Although most of Morrison's works are appropriate at the secondary level, students at any grade can be introduced to her style and language through her book Who's Got Game? Poppy or the Snake?, based on Aesop's fable "The Farmer and the Snake."

  • Remind students of (or retell) "The Farmer and the Snake." Ask students to consider how the moral of the story relates to who is portrayed as the victim and who is the portrayed as the aggressor.

  • Share with students Morrison's retelling of the fable. Ask students to pay attention to ways in which the retelling changes and expands on the original story (such as setting, character, dialogue, etc.). Use the ReadWriteThink interactive Story Map tool to facilitate this process.

  • After reading the retelling, discuss students' observations. Ask students to compare the moral of the new story-now a tale about memory and paying attention-to the old one. How have the authors altered the resolution of the conflict-the snake is now a pair of boots that Poppy uses to remind him of the lesson-to shape that new moral?

  • Consider sharing other such reworkings such as Christopher Myers' book Wings (which thoughtfully plays off the Icarus myth) before asking groups of students to adapt a myth, folk tale, or fable of their choosing to share with the class. Invite students to use the Story Map tool in their writing process.

 

WEBSITES

 

 
  • The Official Website of the Toni Morrison Society

    The society, an official member of the Coalition of American Author Societies that make up the American Literature Association, has as its goal to "initiate, sponsor, and encourage critical dialogue, scholarly publications, conferences and projects devoted to the study of the life and works of Toni Morrison."

     

  • The Nobel Prize in Literature 1993

    In 1993, the Nobel Foundation awarded its prize in Literature to Morrison, "who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality." The site contains a biography, the text and sound recording of her Nobel lecture, and excerpts from her prose.

     

  • Toni Morrison: A Mother, A Stranger, "A Mercy"

    In this special edition of the Book Tour program on National Public Radio, Toni Morrison reads from her 2008 novel, A Mercy. The page also includes an interview with Morrison.

     

RELATED RESOURCES

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Grades   K – 2  |  Lesson Plan  |  Unit

Comparing Fiction and Nonfiction with "Little Red Riding Hood Text" Sets

Students discuss and compare differing versions of "Little Red Riding Hood" and other tales about wolves in cumulative read-aloud sessions and text set explorations.

 

Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Unit

Discovering Memory: Li-Young Lee’s Poem “Mnemonic” and the Brain

Students learn about memory by doing a memory-writing exercise, studying the brain to understand how it affects memory, reading Li-Young Lee’s poem “Mnemonic,” and creating projects to demonstrate their understanding.

 

Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Unit

The Ten-Minute Play: Encouraging Original Response to Challenging Texts

Students use both analytical and creative skills to adapt passages from a novel with significant internal dialogue and conflict, such as Toni Morrison’s Beloved, into a ten-minute play.

 

Grades   11 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Narrative Structure and Perspectives in Toni Morrison's Beloved

Using Beloved as a model of a work with multiple narrative perspectives, students use a visualizing activity and close reading to consider ways in which subjective values shape contradictory representations.

 

Grades   3 – 6  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

American Folklore: A Jigsaw Character Study

Groups of students read and discuss American folklore stories, each group reading a different story. Using a jigsaw strategy, the groups compare character traits and main plot points of the stories. A diverse selection of American folk tales is used for this lesson, which is adaptable to any text set.