Still I Rise: Maya Angelou
Lesson Author: Carolyn Hopkins
School Affiliation: Bethel High School
Subject: Language Arts
  Language Arts/Literature
  Language Arts/Process Skills
Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12
Time Required: 90 minutes or two 50-minute periods

Teacher Comments: A lesson plan using the famous poem, "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou. I created this lesson plan to expose students to Maya Angelou’s powerful poem, "Still I Rise" as well as to enhance their understanding of the power of poetry. In addition, it informs students on how poetry has its own unique format, language, and poetic devices such as metaphors, similes, and personification and how these poetic conventions can add a tremendous punch to a poet’s message.

This lesson conforms to the learning concept of "Thematic Learning." The major theme (Thematic Learning) of this poem is the undeniable and unbreakable strength and spirit of the African American people, past and present; however, students will begin to formulate their own identification with the poem's message by seeing beyond the cultural relevance and finding a connection to their own teenage lives, in spite of race or culture.

Many students will respond by saying that in spite of peer pressure, trends, or negative situations that they have been confronted with, they, too, have found ways to rise above the adversities that often plague those to conform to the negative standards and trends set by other teenagers.


Goals: Students will better understand slavery, oppression, and resiliency.


The learner will:

  • annotate the poem, "Still I Rise," for the poet's tone and theme;

  • be able to identify similes, metaphors, allusions, and personification in the poem, "Still I Rise."



  • Maya Angelou's poem, "Still I Rise" (see below)

  • writing utensils

  • Annotation Chart. PDF file



Distribute a copy of the poem, "Still I Rise" to each student along with a copy of the annotation chart. Explain to students that poetry is best enjoyed and understood when read aloud. To give students a strong understanding of the poem's tone, it is best that the teacher read the poem first with lots of fervor and emotion. Then have a few students read the poem aloud to see if they can mirror the teacher's tone.

Put the following literary terms on the board: personification, metaphor, simile, tone, and allusion. Have students define these terms by looking them up in their literature textbooks. Explain to students that they will be using their annotation charts to look for these poetic devices throughout the poem. Discuss how these devices help the reader understand and enjoy the speaker's message better. They will begin to search for similes, metaphors, personification, allusions (made to slavery), and the speaker's tone and place them in the annotation boxes. After students have completed their charts, they are to summarize what the poem's message or theme appears to be. Students should explain how that determination was made by using their analysis to connect the poetic devices listed in the charts.

Provide students with another poem and have them use the same techniques of annotation to identify the poetic terms they defined for Angelou's poem. Students should also write a short summary discussing the poet's message or theme.
Special Comments: Students should be able to understand the speaker’s indomitable spirit to overcome America’s shame of slavery. The teacher can give a brief overview of the slavery institution and then discuss how African Americans overcame oppression in spite of bondage.
Useful Internet Resources:
  Still I Rise - by Maya Angelou
From the Academy of American Poets

Poetry Project - Analyzing, Understanding, and Writing Poetry
Includes definitions of various poetic devices.

Attachment: Poem
Still I Rise
    You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. The poem reproduced here is for nonprofit educational purposes only.
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©2003 Carolyn Hopkins
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