The People Could Fly is an African-American folktale. This story, in which an old man, tired of the abuse he and the stolen people of Africa are suffering under the violent institution of slavery, reclaims their magic and power and helps his people find salvation. It is a story of the perseverance of the human spirit and the undying fight for freedom, even in the face of certain death. In this retelling, Virginia Hamilton gives the main two characters names, though neither they nor the enslaved people featured have names in any other version of the story. The lack of names is not due to a lack of importance. Rather, it is realistic to believe that as with many folktales which are passed down from one generation to the next, the names were forgotten. This The People Could Fly lesson plan is based on homeschooling my own daughter and introducing her to this lovely book.
The People Could Fly Lesson Plan
- folktake (n): a tale told orally and passed down from generation to generation
- tremble (v): to move or shake quickly from side to side
- overseer (n): a person who manages and directs workers
- seize (v): to grab; to take hold of
- outcry (n): to shout in protest
- plantation (n): a large farm where large amounts of crops are grown to be sold
- ancient (n): old; belonging to the long past
- scorn (n): extreme dislike and lack of respect
- holler (v): yell or cry out loudly and suddenly
- Enough copies of the picture book for the number of groups you have created.
- KWL Chart (What do I know? What to Know? What I have learned?)
- 2-minute Timer
- Divide the class into several small groups.
- Set the timer to 2-minutes.
- Have students flip through the book looking at the photos and the cover and discuss with each other what they think the story will be about.
- When the timer ends, have students fill out the K and W sections of their chart.
Literary Terms and Elements
- Symbolism – In art and literature, an object that stands for a concept or idea.
- Characterization – in art and literature, how someone (or something) is represented.
- Metaphor – an expression that is used to represent a similarity between two things without using “like” or “as”
- Allusion – an indirect reference to something
- Why do the enslaved people of Africa forget their magic?
- We are told that the captured people of Africa have to discard their wings.. What do the wings symbolize?
- Why do you believe Toby remembers their magic of his people?
- Why do you think Toby and Sarah wait so long before using their magic?
- Toby alludes to the fate of those he had to leave behind. What do you think happens to them?
- Why do the people who cannot fly share the tales of those who could?
- Why does the Master of the plantation deny the stories of the enslaved people flying away?
- Who is telling the story and what do we know about the narrator?
- What have you learned? Complete the “What I Learned” portion of the KWL chart.
Author Study of Virginia Hamilton
Create a mini-poster of the author of The People Could Fly, Virginia Hamilton.
- Website: http://www.VirginiaHamilton.com/
- Author Bio:
- My name is _____________________________________
- I was born in (this location) _____________________________
- I’m famous for __________________________________
- Learn more about me by reading (something I’ve written) _____________________________
- Learn more about me by reading (something others have written) _____________________________
- A movie of my life would be called ____________________________
- This movie would start in the year _________ and end in the year ____________
- Five words to describe me are ______, ______, ______, ______, ______
- I’ve been known to say ______________________________________________
- A lesson that I have taught you is _______________________________________
The Art of Leo and Diane Dillon
Leo and Diane Dillon completed the artwork for The People Could Fly, standalone picture book and the The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales anthology, as well as many other books. Here are a few:
- Take a look at the covers created by Leo and Diane Dillon. You can see more at this website: http://leo-and-diane-dillon.blogspot.com/
- What do you think each book is about? What story does the artwork tell? What questions do they raise and answer?
- Create a cover for the book of your life! What colors would you use? What symbols? What message are you trying to convey?