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Lesson Plan

Examining History with Maya Angelou's Poetry

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Examining History with Maya Angelou's Poetry

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Kathy Wickline

Kathy Wickline

Tolono, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



Well known for addressing social issues in the world through her poetry, Maya Angelou's moving poems serve to teach historical topics in this lesson. To understand the world that surrounded her, students practice their visual literacy skills as they first examine photographs from the Library of Congress. These primary sources illustrate some of the events that affected her life and thus her writing. Next students research these events in order to create trading cards using the ReadWriteThink Trading Card App or Trading Card Creator Student Interactive. While reading Angelou's poems, students share the trading cards to better understand the background for her writing.

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Trading Card Example
This resource provides students with an example of what they can create using the ReadWriteThink Trading Card Creator.

Trading Card Rubric
Use this rubric to assess students' projects, including their use of class time, the quality of the information they gather, and how well they cite sources, use complete sentences, and take notes.

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Finding methods to engage student interest and increase motivation is a constant challenge for all teachers. Cruickshank suggests that using an interdisciplinary approach, such as integrating history into the language arts curriculum, will encourage positive attitudes towards subject matter as well as boost student understanding. By combining poetry with World War II, Friese and Nixon discovered that their students were drawn ďinto deeper connections and emotions of a difficult time in history.Ē Similarly, in this lesson that includes researching civil rights events, students delve deeper into the topic of racism. It will provide the opportunity for students to see how circumstances in life shape the writing process.

Cruickshank, Douglas. "Kaleidoscopic Learning: An Overview of Integrated Studies." Edutopia. The George Lucas Foundation, 7 Oct. 2008. Web. 30 Aug. 2012.


Friese, Elizabeth E. G. and Jenna Nixon. "Poetry and World War II: Creating Community through Content-Area Writing." Voices from the Middle 16.3. (March 2009): 23-30.

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