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Women by Alice Walker

Teacher Guide by Kristy Littlehale

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our High School ELA Category.

Student Activities for Women Include:

“Women” by celebrated author Alice Walker takes a close look at the sacrifices African American women, especially of her mother’s generation, took in order to make sure that their children had better educations and futures than they did. In particular, Walker has said that she wrote this particular piece for her mother, who was a maid and the wife of an unsuccessful sharecropper. Nevertheless, her mother was determined that Alice and her siblings would receive an education so that they could have better opportunities available to them in life. The poem analyzes the themes of the strength of women in the face of adversity and danger, the sacrifices women make, and the hopes of mothers for their children. It also continues Walker’s tradition of focusing on the concept of “womanism”, where women of color are viewed as people to be celebrated, loved, admired, and emulated.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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Brief Synopsis of “Women”

The poem is a single stanza, and makes use of lines that are no more than four words long, with some lines as few as one. The narrator describes women of her “mama’s generation,” women who were fierce inside and out. They were women to be feared for their strength, as they did their chores and did their best to ensure that their children were educated. The narrator ends the poem with a tone of admiration that while these women were not always educated themselves, they knew it was important for the next generation to have access to school. The women of “mama’s generation” sacrificed for something they thought more important than themselves: their children’s educations.


Essential Questions for “Women”

  1. What are some sacrifices that mothers make for their children?
  2. How does an education open up more opportunities for people?
  3. What are some of the obstacles women of color faced in the South under Jim Crow?
  4. What does it mean to be a strong woman?

Women Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

“Women” TPCASTT Analysis


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Poetry is one of the most expressive forms of literature. It can evoke emotions, set a mood, tell a story, or create a deeply and universally understood feeling in its readers. This makes expounding its elements, and understanding its rich meaning, comparisons, and symbols, even more important.

The TP-CASTT method of poetry analysis is a great way to teach students to dissect a poem and understand its parts. It helps students to uncover the deeper meanings within poems while giving them the confidence to be self-educators. TPCASTT Poetry Analysis is an order of operations similar to PEMDAS for math. It asks students to list items in sequential order and answer questions based on their reading of the poem.


TPCASTT Example for “Women”

T

TITLE

The title makes the poem sound like it might be about women. Maybe women in general? Women who made a difference in life?
P

PARAPHRASE

The poem focuses on the narrator’s mother’s generation who were fierce and brave as they knocked down obstacles in order for their children to go to school. They probably wanted their children to have more opportunities than they did.
C

CONNOTATION

The narrator uses words that make the women sound like warriors: “...with fists as a well as hands / How they battered down doors”... “How they led armies / Headragged generals across mined fields / Booby-trapped ditches.”
A

ATTITUDE/TONE

The narrator’s tone is filled with admiration, determination, and awe of these women from the beginning of the poem. At the end, it softens as the women’s mission is made clear: to make sure their children are educated, even when they themselves were not.
S

SHIFT

The shift in the poem appears near the end when the narrator moves from warrior and military imagery to the reason why they are fighting: schools for their children.
T

TITLE

The title is about the women of the narrator’s mother’s generation, who made sacrifices and fought so that their children could go to school.
T

THEME

The theme of the poem is that mothers will find bravery in their mission to make a better life for their children, and that education is worth fighting for.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Perform a TPCASTT analysis of "Women". Remember that TPCASTT stands for Title, Paraphrase, Connotation, Attitude/Tone, Shift, Title, Theme.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Choose any combination of scenes, characters, items, and text to represent each letter of TPCASTT.
  3. Write a few sentences describing the importance or meaning of the images.
  4. Finalize images, edit, and proofread your work.
  5. Save and submit storyboard to assignment.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Literary Elements in “Women”


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When teaching poetry, it is often helpful to refresh or introduce students with technical words. “Alliteration”, “consonance”, “imagery”, “assonance”, and “synecdoche” are a few important terms.

After you have read the poem, ask your students to do a scavenger hunt using the Storyboard Creator. Give them the list again and have them create a storyboard that depicts and explains the use of each literary element in the poem. They will have an absolute blast and gain mastery of the words.


“Women” Literary Elements


DESCRIPTION EXAMPLE
Alliteration Repetition of consonant sounds at the beginnings of words in a sentence or line “Husky of voice- Stout of / Step”
Consonance The repetition of similar consonant sounds at the ends of words “...To discover books / Desks...”
Imagery The use of descriptive or figurative language to create vivid mental imagery that appeals to the senses “How they led / Armies / Headragged generals / Across mined / Fields / Booby-trapped / Ditches…”
Assonance The repetition of a vowel sound “How they knew what / We / Must know / Without knowing a page...”
Synecdoche The use of a part of something to represent the whole “With fists as well as / Hands...”


(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows five examples of literary elements in “Women”.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify use of literary elements in the text.
  3. Put the type of literary element in the title box.
  4. Give an example from the text in the description box.
  5. Illustrate the example using using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Themes in “Women” by Alice Walker


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Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes and symbols from the poem, and support their choices with details from the text.

As a classroom activity, students can track the rich thematic and symbolic writing Alice Walker uses in her poetry. In the example storyboard below, the creator has focused on the following themes in the poem.


The Strength of Women and their Sacrifices

The poem focuses on the women of the narrator’s mother’s generation who made sacrifices and broke down barriers, much like warriors, in order to make sure that their children had a chance to receive an education. The imagery Walker uses is very militant, including comparing women to “headragged generals” leading armies across “mined fields”.


A Mother’s Hope for her Children

The ultimate goal of these women warriors is to ensure that the children would receive an education. Education leads to more opportunities. In looking at Walker’s own biographical information, her mother was a maid and her father was a sharecropper. Both of her parents didn’t make much money, which didn’t allow them many opportunities; however, their parents refused to make their children work in the fields and drop out of school to help work. To them, they hoped for a better life for their children, spurred on by their chance at a good education.


(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in “Women”. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify the theme(s) from “Women” you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for examples that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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•   (English) Women   •   (Español) Mujer   •   (Français) Femmes   •   (Deutsch) Frau   •   (Italiana) Donne   •   (Nederlands) Vrouw   •   (Português) Mulheres   •   (עברית) נשים   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) نساء   •   (हिन्दी) महिलाओं   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Женщины   •   (Dansk) Kvinder   •   (Svenska) Kvinnor   •   (Suomi) Naiset   •   (Norsk) Kvinner   •   (Türkçe) Kadınlar   •   (Polski) Kobiety   •   (Româna) Femei   •   (Ceština) Ženy   •   (Slovenský) Ženy   •   (Magyar) Nők   •   (Hrvatski) Žene   •   (български) Дами   •   (Lietuvos) Moterys   •   (Slovenščina) Ženske   •   (Latvijas) Sievietes   •   (eesti) Naised