Black History Lesson Plan: Gwendolyn Brooks
Language Arts, Writing Process, Social Studies
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Students will learn about a woman poet in honor of Women’s History Month. They will write poems inspired by the style of Gwendolyn Brooks
Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Kansas in 1917, with what she has described as two handicaps: she was both female and African American. Yet, even as a child she was determined to succeed.
She began to write and send her poems to various publishers. At eleven, she was a published poet! Gwendolyn received almost no encouragement from her teachers and instructors, but she continued to write.
After the publication of her first book in 1945, Gwendolyn became a recognized writer. The American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Guggenheim Foundation gave her grants and fellowships.
In 1949 Gwendolyn wrote the book Annie Allen, which describes a young girl’s growing up and the many problems she faces. Annie Allen earned Brooks something no other African American woman had ever earned: the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; Columbia University in New York has presented this award each year since 1922. Only five women–none of them African American–had ever received the award. This was a remarkable achievement for Gwendolyn Brooks.
Gwendolyn Brooks wrote shape poetry. Introduce this type of poetry to students. Shape poetry is when your poem is written inside the shape of the object about which you are writing. The lines do not have to rhyme. Choose an object from nature. (Brooks wrote one poem about rain.) You might choose a snowflake, a raindrop, or even a plant or an animal. Draw an outline of that object, and fill in the outline with your thoughts.
Distribute the activity sheet to students and have them try writing their own shape poems.
- Shape Poetry activity sheet
- drawing materials