K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education


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Related pages

  • Figurative language: Metaphor: This lesson is a part of a unit on poetry and figurative language. It is designed to teach students the characteristics of metaphor within the context of poetry.
  • Singing the "Song of Life": This lesson requires students to use their reading, comprehension, and analysis skills to analyze a poem and respond creatively to the selection.
  • A matter of identity: Writing an extended metaphor poem: Students apply their knowledge of literary devices by reading and analyzing the poem “Identity” by Julio Noboa Polanco. Students then create their own poem incorporating the literary devices studied and analyzed in the above mentioned poem. This lesson includes modifications for a Novice Low Limited English student.

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • read biographical information of noted North Carolina poet, Maya Angelou.
  • read and identify the poetic elements of the poem, “Still I Rise.”
  • identify Support and Elaboration in Angelou’s poem.
  • formulate a personal response to the author and poem.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

2.5 hours


Technology resources

Computer with internet access


  • This lesson could be incorporated as students study poetry, practice responsive writing, study North Carolina authors, American history or the human condition.
  • This lesson focuses on one of the five features of writing: support and elaboration.
  • Students should review basic poetry terms and apply that knowledge to reading and understand of poems.
  • It would be helpful for students to have had some practice in writing their own poetry or responding to pieces of literature.


Lesson #1

  1. Instructor will begin with a review of poetic elements and the five features of writing - specifically, support and elaboration.
  2. Students read the biography of noted North Carolina author and poet, Maya Angelou, focusing on the difficult circumstances of her childhood and early adulthood.
  3. Introduce the author’s poem, “Still I Rise,” by first asking students to read the poem to themselves. Ask students what they think the title means. Why would someone with such a difficult childhood be able to say “Still I Rise”?
  4. Define “word choice” and “support and elaboration” for the class. Talk about how word choice can be used to support a theme. Instructor reads the poem out loud to the class. Students listen for and highlight words in the poem that support the idea that the author has had a difficult childhood.
  5. Read the poem a second time, this time highlighting words that support the “Still I Rise” theme in a different color. Students make notes on their copy.
  6. Use a Venn diagram to contrast the words Dr. Angelou uses to support the theme of hopelessness to the words she uses to support the theme of rising above adversity.
  7. Instructor may, at this point, engage students in questions and comments as:
    • To whom is the poet writing?
    • What does the poet mean, “I’ll rise,” and what is the impact of the repetition of this phrase?
    • Why does the author ask questions of the reader?
    • What is a key word in each stanza?
    • What words does she use that reflect her personal style?
  8. As a concluding exercise, draw a sketch or symbol to the right of each stanza to reinforce the power and message of the poem.
  9. To wrap up this lesson, tell students that they will begin a writing exercise on this poem the next day, and to think about their personal response to the poem as it applies to their own lives.

Lesson #2

  1. Students should have all of their materials on hand from Lesson #1.
  2. Students will write an antonym poem in response to Angelou’s poem. The poem will be based on emotional opposites, negative and positive emotions, such as Losing/Winning (or Winning first, then losing), Failure/Success, Left out/ Chosen, Ugly/Beautiful. Choose one that shows how you sometimes feel. Generate words you can use for each. Then generate a line you can repeat throughout the poem to overcome the negative feelings. Your poem should include elaboration and support such as Angelou demonstrated in her poem.
  3. As students pre-write and plan their response, they should focus on the use of support and elaboration.


The students’ writing will be assessed by teacher review of their final drafts and in-class publishing.

Supplemental information


I asked an African-American colleague to read this poem out loud to my students. Not only did she appreciate this opportunity, but the emotion and power of her reading made “Still I Rise” come alive for my students.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Language

        • Grade 7
          • 7.L.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. 7.L.5.1 Interpret figures of speech (e.g., literary, biblical, and mythological allusions) in context. 7.L.5.2 Use the relationship between particular...
        • Reading: Literature

          • 7.RL.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.
          • 7.RL.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section...
          • 7.RL.5 Analyze how a drama’s or poem’s form or structure (e.g., soliloquy, sonnet) contributes to its meaning.
        • Grade 8
          • 8.RL.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.
          • 8.RL.3 Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.
          • 8.RL.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 8

  • Goal 2: The learner will use and evaluate information from a variety of sources.
    • Objective 2.01: Analyze and evaluate informational materials that are read, heard, and/or viewed by:
      • monitoring comprehension for understanding of what is read, heard and/or viewed.
      • recognizing the characteristics of informational materials.
      • summarizing information.
      • determining the importance of information.
      • making connections to related topics/information.
      • drawing inferences.
      • generating questions.
      • extending ideas.
  • Goal 4: The learner will continue to refine critical thinking skills and create criteria to evaluate print and non-print materials.
    • Objective 4.01: Analyze the purpose of the author or creator and the impact of that purpose by:
      • monitoring comprehension for understanding of what is read, heard, and/or viewed.
      • evaluating any bias, apparent or hidden messages, emotional factors, and/or propaganda techniques.
      • evaluating the underlying assumptions of the author/creator.
      • evaluate the effects of the author's craft on the reader/viewer/listener.
    • Objective 4.02: Analyze and develop (with limited assistance) and apply appropriate criteria to evaluate the quality of the communication by:
      • using knowledge of language structure and literary or media techniques.
      • drawing conclusions based on evidence, reasons, or relevant information.
      • considering the implications, consequences, or impact of those conclusions.
  • Goal 5: The learner will respond to various literary genres using interpretive and evaluative processes.
    • Objective 5.01: Increase fluency, comprehension, and insight through a meaningful and comprehensive literacy program by:
      • using effective reading strategies to match type of text.
      • reading self-selected literature and other materials of interest to the individual.
      • reading literature and other materials selected by the teacher.
      • assuming a leadership role in student-teacher reading conferences.
      • leading small group discussions.
      • taking an active role in whole class seminars.
      • analyzing the effects of elements such as plot, theme, charaterization, style, mood, and tone.
      • discussing the effects of such literary devices as figurative language, dialogue, flashback, allusion, irony, and symbolism.
      • analyzing and evaluating themes and central ideas in literature and other texts in relation to personal and societal issues.
      • extending understanding by creating products for different purposes, different audiences, and within various contexts.
      • analyzing and evaluating the relationships between and among characters, ideas, concepts, and/or experiences.
    • Objective 5.02: Study the characteristics of literary genres (fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry) through:
      • reading a variety of literature and other text (e.g., young adult novels, short stories, biographies, plays, free verse, narrative poems).
      • evaluating what impact genre-specific characteristics have on the meaning of the text.
      • evaluating how the author's choice and use of a genre shapes the meaning of the literary work.
      • evaluating what impact literary elements have on the meaning of the text.