Anna K. Bartow
Adolescence is a period in a person’s life when interest, thoughts, and preoccupation with the self is high. What better moment is there to cash in on students’ thoughts about themselves and their lives than when they are in high school? At this time they begin to see themselves as somewhat separate from their families, and they can reflect back on their “youth” as well as give serious thought to their future.
In the past I have had fascinating experiences with students’ thinking and writing when I asked them to write an odyssey of their life as a final project for a course on the
by Homer. Many students, who felt that other kinds of writing were boring, cumbersome, and difficult, could write pages of interesting composition about their own lives. Autobiography, in all its variations, is a natural extension of this process.
I am basing this unit of autobiography on the novels of Maya Angelou. Students who study this unit will be asked to read I Know Why The Caged
and one or more of her other novels as well as some of her poetry. The unit is designed for high school students who are reading on an intermediate-advanced level.
The first objective of the unit is to expose students to the concepts of autobiography, biography, and fiction as literary genres. The second objective is to enable students to read, study, and analyze Maya Angelou’s autobiographical writings in terms of what she intended to accomplish by her writings. The third objective is to encourage students to develop and enhance their literary competence by lessons which focus on figurative and symbolic language and on voice or points of view. Students will also learn to understand the use of flashbacks and other distorted time sequences.