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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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Take part in the African American Read-In!

Grades   K – 12  |  Calendar Activity  |  February 1

Take part in the African American Read-In!

Students come together with family and friends to take part in a read-in of books by African American authors and report their results.