Angelou: Exercises

ACTIVITIES:

Chapters 1-3

Before you read

1 Look at the picture on the front cover of the book. Maya Angelou

is American. How do you explain her clothes, her jewelry, and

her stick? Where do they come from? Why do you think she likes

these things?

2 Read the Introduction. Then find out more about: slavery in the

United States; the American Civil War (1861-65), the African-

American Civil Rights Movement (1955-68).

3 Look at the Word List at the back of the book. What are the words

in your language?

4 Match each word on the left with one on the right.

a anthem intolerance

b contempt term

c disgrace shame

d impudent song

e kinky developed

f mature divided

g prejudice disrespect

h segregated curly

i semester rude

5 Life for black children in the southern part of the U.S. in the 1930s

and 1940s was difficult. What kinds of problems do you think

children had?

While you read

6 Who is described by the following statements?

a “He was proud and sensitive.” ……………………

b “His attitude was meant to show his

authority and power.”………………………………….. ……………………

c “an independent Black man” ……………………

d “the greatest person in my world” ……………………

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After you read

7 Discuss these questions with another student.

a Why do you think young Maya doesn’t believe that white people

are real?

b Do you think that Stamps was a good place to grow up at that

time? Why (not)?

8 Decide whether these sentences are true or false.

a The church that Maya goes to is for black people only,

b The children have to leave home because their parents split

up.

c The train is segregated for the whole journey south,

d Black men in Stamps don’t earn much money,

e At the time, Maya’s favorite writer is Shakespeare,

f Momma punishes Maya by not giving her chocolate,

g The used-to-be sheriff disapproves of the Ku Klux Klan.

h Maya doesn’t think that she is good-looking,

i Maya has a strong belief in God.

j There is nofresh meat on sale near Momma’s house.

Chapters 4 -5

Before you read

9 Maya talks about some people that she calls “poor white trash.”

In the Southern states at this time, each town had some very poor

whites. Why do you think this was?

While you read

10 Write one word in each sentence.

a Momma believes in …………………… and politeness.

b One of the poor white children starts to …………………..

Momma.

c Momma believes that it is dangerous for blacks to

…………………… to white people.

d The judge didn’t expect a woman who owned a store in Stamps

to b e …………………….

e Before Maya receives Christmas presents from her mother and

.father, she thinks they are…………………….

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f Maya later learns that her father has been a …………………… at a

hotel.

g Maya is …………………..by her mother’s beauty.

h The school in St. Louis is much…………………… than the one in

Stamps.

i Maya gets her first name from her…………………… Bailey.

After you read

11 Put these events in the order in which they happen,

a Maya and Bailey’s father comes to Stamps.

b The children meet Grandmother Baxter,

c A man assaults a white woman in Stamps,

d Some poor white children insult Momma,

e The children meet their mother,

f Maya and Bailey receive gifts from their parents,

g The children go to school in St. Louis,

h The children travel to St. Louis,

i Maya and Bailey tear the insides out of a doll,

j Momma appears in court.

12 Work in pairs. Role play this imaginary conversation.

Student A: You are Momma. When the poor white children came

to your house and insulted you, you did nothing

except sing and say goodbye to them. Tell Maya why

you did this.

Student B: You are Maya. You are very angry with the white girls,

and also because of the way Momma behaved. Tell

her what you think.

Chapters 6-7

Before you read

13 Discuss what you think will happen in these chapters,

a Chapter 6: “Mr. Freeman”

How will Mr. Freeman change Maya’s life?

b Chapter 7: “Return to Stamps”

Why will Maya go back to live with her grandmother again?

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While you read

14 Who is speaking? Who are they speaking to?

a “OK, say your prayers and go to bed.”

…………………………….to …………………………….

b “Now, I didn’t hurt you. Don’t get scared.”

…………………………….to …………………………….

c “Was that the first time the accused touched you?”

…………………………….to ………….:……………….

d “Old, mean, dirty thing, you. Dirty old thing.”

…………………………….to …………………………….

e “Some say he was kicked to death.”

…………………………….t o …………………………….

f “Well, maybe it’s better this way.”

…………………………….to …………………………….

g “Now, Junior, be careful you don’t tell a not true.”

…………………………….t o …………………………….

h “We made ice cream out of the snow.”

…………………………….t o …………………………….

After you read

15 Read the two paragraphs on page 31, following “One evening …”

Why do you think Maya goes over and sits on Mr. Freeman’s lap?

What does she say that indicates her confusion?

16 Who do you think kills Mr. Freeman? Why? Do you think it is right

that he is killed?

Chapters 8 -9

Before you read

17 In Chapter 8, Maya meets a black woman, Mrs. Flowers, and a

white woman, Mrs. Cullinan. Which of these sentences do you

think describes each woman?

a … she drank alcohol out of unmarked bottles,

b She was one of the few real ladies I have ever known,

c I would have to watch her carefully to capture her loneliness

and pain.

d ,lt would be safe to say she made me proud to be Negro.

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e She encouraged me to listen carefully to country people’s

sayings.

f The next day, she called me by the wrong name,

g The way her voice said the words was nearly singing.

While you read

18 Match the names on the right with the sentences on the left.

a She tells Maya to change her dress. Mrs. Cullinan

b She lends Maya a book of poems.. Kay Francis

c She teaches Maya about different Miss Glory

kinds of dishes. Maya

d She calls Maya by the wrong name. Miss Williams

e She decides to write a poem. Momma

f She appears in a movie. Mrs. Flowers

g She looks like Bailey. Louise

h She embarrasses her class.

After you read

19 Are these sentences true or false?

a Mrs. Flowers is the richest woman in Stamps,

b Momma changes her grammar when she speaks to Mrs.

Flowers.

c Momma can sew better than most other women,

d Maya doesn’t like A Tale of Two Cities,

e Maya thinks black girls should learn how to set tables,

f Black people in Stamps particularly dislike being called by the

wrong name,

g The Store stays open later on Saturdays,

h In the movie theater, blacks and whites are separated,

i At the picnic fish fry, Maya feels she is neither a child nor a

woman.

j In school, the children graduate after the seventh grade.

20 Discuss these questions with another student.

a Miss Glory tells Maya, “Sticks and stones may break your

bones, but words will never hurt you.” Do you agree or

disagree? Explain your ideas,

b Maya says, “After being a woman for three years, I became a

girl.” What do you think she means?

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c Do you think that using a person’s name correctly is important?

Why (not)?

Chapters 10-11

Before you read

21 After she graduates, Maya moves to San Francisco. She is there

in December 1941 when the United States enters World War II.

People in San Francisco are more nervous than people in other

major U.S. cities at this time. Why is this? Also, one national group

disappears from the city. Which group, and why? What do you

think?

While you read

22 Underline the wrong word in each sentence and write the right

word.

a In Stamps, graduation is seen as irrelevant…………………………..

b Donleavy hopes the black graduates will

do well in science. ……………………

c Donleavy hopes to be qualified as a

politician. ……………………

d Henry begins to sing the anthem to make

the class feel ashamed. ……………………

e Uncle Willie says that white people are

tired of blacks. ……………………

f Momma pays for all of the children’s

railroad fare to California with groceries. ……………………

g Mother invites Maya and Bailey to a meal

in the kitchen……………………………………………… ……………………

h When the war starts, Maya worries about

being shot………………………………………………….. ……………………

After you read

23 When Mr. Donleavy speaks to the class, he describes how the

white school will have various improvements. He then talks

about the different kinds of jobs that he expects white and black

graduates to have. In what ways has life for blacks in the South

changed since then? How did these changes happen?

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I

24 Work in pairs. Role play this imaginary conversation.

Student A: You are Maya. You have listened to Mr. Donleavy’s

remarks at your graduation. You are angry.

Student B: You are Mr. Donleavy. You are in a hurry and you

don’t really want to talk to this impudent black girl.

Chapters 12-13

Before you read

25 Maya is going to go to school in San Francisco. How do you

think the school will be different from her school in Stamps? In

what ways do you think the black students will be different from

Southern black students?

While you read

26 Find the endings of these sentences. Write the numbers 1-5.

a Although he is uneducated, …

b Maya and her black friends speak …

c In the Mexican bar Maya sees …

d As she drives down the mountainside, …

e After living on the streets for a month, …

1) different languages at school and at home.

2) Daddy Clidell has been successful.

3) Maya feels excited and in control.

4) Maya becomes more tolerant.

5) a different side of her father.

After you read

27 Which of these sentences describe sides of Maya’s character?

a She can be violent sometimes.

b She can be arrogant sometimes,

c She can make people laugh easily,

d She has difficulty in obeying rules,

e She is very clumsy with small objects,

f She is sometimes very cruel to people,

g She doesn’t need other people’s affection,

h She is disappointed that she isn’t more intelligent.

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28 In these chapters, Maya continues her education in San Francisco,

visits Mexico, then returns to California and lives on the streets for

a month. Discuss how her attitudes to people and society might

change as a result of these experiences.

Chapters 14-15

Before you read

29 Which of these do you think will happen?

a Bailey will leave home.

b Bailey will be killed in the war.

c Maya will get a job.

d Maya will have a baby,

e Mother will get married.

While you read

30 Which of these people is talking?

Mother Maya Bailey the conductor the receptionist

a “She won’t miss me, and I won’t miss her.” ……………………

b “He’s out for the day.” ……………………

c “Move into the car, please move on in the

car.” ……………………

d “Life is going to give you what you put in it.” ……………………

e “Hey, would you like to have sex with me?”

After you read

31 Work in pairs. Role play this imaginary conversation.

Student A: You are Maya. You have a young baby, no husband,

no job, but you have a high school diploma. Talk

to your mother about your ideas and hopes for the

future.

Student B: You are Vivian Baxter Jackson, Maya’s mother. Talk to

her about her future life. Try to give her some ideas.

Writing

32 The Store is Maya’s favorite place as a young child. Describe your

favorite place during your childhood. Why was it important to

you?

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33 Imagine you are Maya. Write a letter from St. Louis to Momma in

Stamps (Chapter 5). Tell her about your mother, her friends, and

life in your new home.

34 When the children return to Stamps (Chapter 7), Bailey describes

St. Louis to the local people. Write a description of a city in your

country for people in a small village who have never been there.

35 On page 45, Maya describes the different skills that black and

white girls are taught as they grow up, and calls these “irrelevant.”

Do you think girls should be taught skills at home that boys are

not taught? Why (not)? Write your ideas.

36 In Chapter 10, Maya mentions the runner Jesse Owens, the boxer

Joe Louis, and the author James Weldon Johnson. Find out more

about one of these men and write about his life.

37 In her childhood, Maya is strongly influenced by Mrs. Flowers,

the woman in Stamps who gives her books, and Miss Kirwin, the

only teacher she can still remember. Describe two people who

were important in your life as you grew up. How did they influence

you?

38 Write a newspaper report about Maya’s successful fight to become

the first black person to work on the San Francisco streetcars.

39 Compare Maya’s life in Stamps, St. Louis, and San Francisco.

Which place do you think was best for a black girl to live? Why?

40 In the years since the end of World War II, life for blacks in the

American South has changed in many ways. Find out about the

Civil Rights Movement and the end of segregation. Write a report.

41 Imagine that, as an adult, Maya writes a letter to a younger relative.

In it she describes some of the experiences in her life and what

she has learned from them. Write the letter.

Answers for the Activities in this book are available from the Penguin Readers website.

A free Activity Worksheet is also available from the website. Activity Worksheets are

part of the Penguin Teacher Support Programme, which also includes Progress Tests

and Graded Reader Guidelines. For more information, please visit:

www.penguinreaders.com.

WORD LIST

ain’t (v) a spoken short form of am not, is not, are not, has not, or have not

anthem (n) a song that is very important to a group of people

apron (n) a piece of clothing that you wear to protect your clothes

when you cook

Chores (n pi) jobs that you have to do regularly, especially in a house

or on a farm

con (v) to trick someone, usually to get their money; a con man is a

person who does this

conductor (n) someone who is in charge of a train or bus, and sells or

checks tickets

contempt (n) a feeling that someone or something doesn’t deserve any

respect

cripple (n/v) someone who cannot walk well

disgrace (n) something that makes people feel ashamed or embarrassed;

if you are in disgrace, people don’t respect you because of something

that you have done

doll (n) a child’s toy that looks like a small person

errand (n) a short trip to take a message or buy something

giggle (n/v) to laugh quietly because you think something is very

funny, or because you are nervous

handstand (n) a movement in which you place your hands on the

floor and kick your legs up into the air, so you are upside down

hostility (n) angry, unfriendly feelings or behavior

ignorance (n) lack of knowledge about something

impudent (adj) rude and disrespectful

kinky (adj) with very tight curls

lesbian (n) a woman who is sexually attracted to other women

lot (n) an area of land, especially used for building or parking on

mate (n) someone who you share experiences with; your classmates, for

example, are the people in the same class as you in school

mature (adj) behaving like an adult; fully developed

pee (v) an informal word for letting the liquid waste flow out of your

body, usually into the toilet

pineapple (n) a large brown tropical fruit with pointed leaves at the top

and yellow flesh

prejudice (n) an unfair feeling of dislike against someone who is, for

example, of a different race, sex, or religion

prostitute (n) someone who has sex with people to earn money

rape (n/v) the crime of forcing someone to have sex

segregate (v) to separate groups of people because they are of different

races or sexes, for example

semester (n) one of the two periods into which a school or college

year is divided

Stutter (v) to speak with difficulty, repeating the first sound of a word

valentine (n) a name for someone you love on Valentine’s Day (February

14th); a card given on that day

Stadtbibliothek Berlin – Mitte N11 < 06497950456

T o d a y ^ a y a Angelou is one of the w orld ’s most respected

w rite rs and poets. In the 1930s and 1940s she was a p o o r Black

girl growing up in the segregated American South. She suffered

prejudice and cruelty from people she trus ted as well as at the

hands of an unjust society. Above all, Maya learned about the

power of love and hope. This is Maya’s true story.

Angelou, M. (1969). I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. [http://www.academia.edu/8078608/I_Know_Why_the_Caged_Bird_Sings_-_Full_Text_PDF]. Retrieved from

9781405882651