1. Bill Moyers,
A World of Ideas
(New York: Doubleday, 1989), pp. 156-57.
2. Richard N. Coe,
When the Grass Was Taller: Autobiography and the
Experience of Childhood
(New Haven: Yale University Press), 1984), pp. 1-9. All subsequent page references to this text are preceded by the letter “W”.
3. “W” pp. 284-87.
4. Patricia Meyer Spacks,
Imagining a Self
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976), pp. 307-09.
5. Joanne M. Braxton,
Black Women Writing Autobiography: A Tradition
Within a Tradition
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989), p. 3. All subsequent page references to this text are preceded by the letter “B.”
6. “B,” p. 31.
7. “B,” pp. 1, 10, 19-27.
8. “B,” pp. 146-48.
9. “B,” p. 13.
1 Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
After reading and discussing Maya’s “lessons in living,” the class will formulate its own rules for survival. Students will be asked to recall pieces of family wisdom—“mother wit” as Maya terms it. The pieces will be written out—presented as adages or proverbs and explained. An extension would be to have students recall and write about a time when they discovered the piece of wisdom to be true. Using the family wisdom as a base, we will work on devising our own pieces of wisdom—for maintaining relationships, for shoring up self-esteem, for making it in school. Family and student wisdom will be lettered on posters, displayed and referred to during the course of the school year.
Lesson Plan: “I Got a Horn, You Got a Horn”
Points to be covered in discussion have been presented in the text of the unit. A writing assignment to be done after the memoir has been read will involve the use of family photographs. Particular attention will have been paid to the photographs Southerland has chosen to include in her memoir.
Students will be asked to bring family photos to class—candid shots, rather than portraits. The photos will serve as the impetus for autobiographical writing. Students might attempt to relate what is going on in—and before and after—particular photos. Photos might also trigger random memories which might be written. I think this exercise will be especially valuable in trying to remember and recreate the sense of magic discussed in the unit; students might try to create their own lists of things which inspired awe, similar to constructions they’ll come across in the unit’s readings.
Lesson Plan: “The Slave Mother”
This poem will be read and discussed immediately after Harriet Jacobs’ “The New Tie to Life.” The poem will be presented in a “workshop” format I devised for an earlier unit.
I. Poem will be read aloud, first by student volunteers, then by teacher.
II. Questions/discussion: What mood is the speaker in? How can you tell? What picture do you see? Is this picture consistent with Jacobs’ picture of the slave mother?
III. “Loss” is one of the poem’s themes. Recall a time when you felt a sense of loss—a friendship, your way, a death. Recall as much as you can; you may eliminate or add details. Begin working on a poem about a personal loss.
Remember: Concentrate on rhythm rather than rhyme.
Skip a line between stanzas.
Note Harper’s use of metaphors; attempt some of your own.