The purpose of my curriculum is two-fold. First, students will have the opportunity to examine Maya Angelou’s life and her methods of coping through the difficult times in her life. Maya Angelou has lived an incredible life. She has overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and is one of the leading African American women of our time. Her life story is inspirational. Everyone who learns about Angelou can take something from her experience and transfer it to their own lives. Many students feel overwhelmed by their personal lives and that feeling carries over and interferes with their education. Students will benefit from examining some of the coping strategies used by a strong individual such as Maya Angelou. Instead of letting life’s circumstances cripple her, she gained strength from all of the obstacles she faced. This curriculum will provide students insight into Maya Angelou’s life and her strategies for coping by analyzing her poetry. Angelou’s success in overcoming odds corresponds closely with our school goals for students’ character development.
Second, I hope to show students how to utilize poetry as a form of creative self-expression, as Maya Angelou does. The form of ‘poetry’ most of my students are familiar with is rap lyrics. I chose Maya Angelou’s writing because her incantatory style and boldness of address sometimes does resemble a rap lyric. Working off their prior knowledge about writing and poetry, coupled with the examples of Angelou’s writing, students will learn to analyze her poetry. After they have an understanding of poetry, students will be able to create their own form of written expression.
Angelou has written in a variety of formats, including poems, novels, essays, screenplays and children’s stories. Experimentation with different genres is important to developing your voice as an author. Students will explore Angelou’s character and background through her written prose. After they learn about her, we will examine poetry. We will explore how she used events in her life as the basis of her writing. Her feelings and beliefs are made evident through her writing.
Most of Maya Angelou’s writing is a means of using her strengths: writing, showing her perseverance and eloquence, to document her weaknesses. All of her autobiographical novels explain the difficulties that she experienced growing up. In each of the novels, Angelou covers different years and events of growing up. She does not sugar coat or glamorize her choices. She does not ask the reader to approve of her emotions, and yet her emotions have such strength the reader can’t help but empathize. Through the difficult times, Angelou always finds strength in the people in her life. She draws from their strength and grows into a self-assured strong woman.