My Ántonia: Biography

Begin your unit on Willa Cather's My Ántonia with a stellar combination of interviews, essays, and discussion activities designed to develop context around the novel. After listening to the first track of the (attached) audio guide, readers present the three most important points that they have noted from the interviews. They then split into groups and read three essays about the author, and form presentations about the information. The writing activity prompts kids to listen to the last paragraph of Chapter One and write about a formative experience from their own childhood. For homework, they read the first few chapters from the book, including the introduction.

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CCSS: Adaptable
Instructional Ideas

  • Have readers complete preliminary research on Willa Cather or the historical context of the novel
  • Play the audio guide out loud as a class, or give kids headphones to listen independently in a computer lab
Classroom Considerations

  • Track One of the audio guide is long and might need to be paused periodically for discussion
  • The number and depth of activities in the lesson might require several class periods to finish
Pros

  • All necessary materials, including the complete audio guide and essays, are available in an attached zip file or through links on the unit's main page
  • Speakers on the audio guide include Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, author Garrison Keillor, General Colin Powell, biographer Sharon O'Brien, and Antonette Willa Skulpa Turner, who is the granddaughter of the girl after whom the character Ántonia Shimerda was modeled
Cons

  • None