Maya Angelou Activities:
Poet Study and Art Project
+ A Freebie!
We educators live for the “connections” students make when they are learning, don’t we? Well, recently I was volunteering in a fourth grade classroom where we were doing a pair of Maya Angelou activities — we were combining my Maya Angelou Collaboration Poster with Brain Waves Instruction’s Maya Angelou Doodle and Do Poet and Poem Study — and those connections were happening in a big way! For example, while we were reading Maya’s poem, “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me,” one student said:
Those lines (from Life Doesn’t Frighten Me) were on the piece of the poster that I had!”
I loved when I heard her say that, because while we had worked on the poster first, we hadn’t discussed it (or even yet revealed it to be Maya), so the connection made by the student was spontaneous and insightful.
This pair of Maya Angelou activities, and the connections that they engender, are a great example of the value of art integration in the classroom. The activities are perfect for teachers (no prep and super easy) and they are so fun for kids as they get to be creative, make art and most importantly make connections that will help them remember Maya Angelou and the work she did! Make sure you read to the end to get your Maya Angelou Freebie!
Maya Angelou Activities:
This resource from Brain Waves Instruction is jam packed with goodies! There are 30 pages where students learn about Maya Angelou and analyze the poem, “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me.” There are doodle articles, doodle notes and even a very cool interactive poetry analysis flip book!
Before I got to the class, the teacher had started working with the kids on this unit. She had them read about Maya and doodle their responses right into the passages!
When I arrived the teacher asked the kids to review what they had learned about Maya from their work the prior week. It was obvious from their answers that they had really retained the information where they were asked to “do” something to answer various questions. Having that connection between reading and then doing something – like a doodle drawing – really helped the kids remember the content.
(Sadly) There is no art teacher at the school I was working with, so this 4th grade teacher is a true rock star who looks for as many opportunities as possible to infuse her lessons with art and creativity! That’s where I come in…
Maya Angelou Activities:
The students are familiar with me — we had created my Abraham Lincoln collaboration poster earlier in the year and it came out wonderfully. And the kids had a great experience working on it.
Or, you can provide students with “shades” of the colors you want them to use and then instruct them to draw shapes, patterns and doodles in the spaces where the color is supposed to go. When you do that, you end up with something like this:
Every piece of the poster has instructions for that individual page so students know exactly where to place each color on their piece. There are a total of 30 pieces to the puzzle. We talk a lot about how important each student is and how they all need to do their best and give their best effort. When you do one of my collaboration portrait posters (you can do this with any of them) in this way (with patterns instead of solid colors) you provide an added layer of creativity and individuality to the project. It also makes it really easy to differentiate the poster.
You will be amazed to find that almost no matter what sort of designs your students think of, they will always result in an outstanding final poster. The most important thing is that they adhere to placing the correct (shades of) colors in the correct place. To create multiple shades of colors and lots of texture consider providing students with markers, crayons and colored pencils for a mixed media final poster. Markers are naturally darker then crayons so by providing the multiple media the poster will have a large range of lights and darks.
As students finished their piece of the poster (at different times of course), they then pulled out their doodle notes from their Maya Angelou Poet Study and started working on that activity.
While they were working on those Maya Angelou activities, I was assembling the individual poster pieces into the final poster. It takes me about 15-20 minutes to assemble one of my posters. Of course I’ve done them many times but after you have done one you will be a pro! I like to put the tape on the back of the pieces so that the tape doesn’t show on the front. Of course there are many ways to put my posters together–this is just the way I like the most. You could also attach the pieces right to a bulletin board or onto a large piece of butcher paper. Depending on your printer settings the final poster is about 35″ x 42″ when complete.
All teachers do this differently — but you can either put the poster together in front of your students (or have them help) and have them watch it as it comes together or you can assemble it and then reveal it all at once like we did this time. When I returned with the final poster we read Maya’s poem, “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” (included in the poet study unit) as a group. Students took turns reading the various stanzas and talking about what they noticed along the way. This was when the student I mentioned at the beginning of this post made the connection to what we were reading and what was on her poster piece. That was then the perfect segway into revealing the final poster. When I held up their collective work they ooooh’ed and ahhh’ed at the final poster. No matter how many of these I create with kids that part NEVER gets old! If you have created one of my posters you know exactly what I’m talking about!
Before I left, the students rushed up to the poster to examine it and find “their” piece – something they are ALWAYS proud of! This part of the project is as valuable as the rest — as it mimics that of viewing art in a museum or at an art show (something many students may not have experienced yet in life). As they stand around they experience the final art, examine it, critique it and enjoy it for what it is–art that they made collectively and proudly as a group!
Even if you aren’t quite ready to start using either of these Maya Angelou activities in your classroom, I’d like to leave you with something you can use right away. I have created this Maya Angelou activity freebie that you can get and download when you sign up for my e-mail list.
Thanks for reading and for making art with your students.