Amanda Gorman’s Climbing Hills: An Inspiration to All
Amanda Gorman was initially thrust into the spotlight when she made her debut in 2021 as the youngest poet in history to speak at a presidential inauguration. She was only twenty-two years old. With her red headband and bright yellow blazer, people all across America leaned in to hear her poetic and articulate words. She inspired boys, girls, young and old with her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” spoken at President Biden’s swearing-in ceremony.
The media, for weeks afterward, educated Americans on Amanda Gorman. A cum laude Harvard University graduate, a New York Times writer, winner of countless awards, and a published author, this Californian native has accomplished so much in her twenty-three years. Hailed as the next Maya Angelou, Gorman is beautiful, poised, and intelligent. She is a wonderful woman to learn about during Women’s History Month in March.
The daughter of a sixth-grade English teacher, Amanda loved reading and had restricted access to television as a child. Amanda Gorman’s life story is inspirational and can teach young children the art of overcoming adversity. Now an accomplished and articulate public speaker of wonderfully-written words, she has dealt with an auditory processing disorder and a speech impediment since she was a child. She also struggled with the sound of the letter “R” until she was twenty years old. These challenges did not stop her from writing and reading her work aloud.
Amanda Gorman stated in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, “I’m really grateful for that experience because it informs my poetry. I think it made me all that much stronger of a writer when you have to teach yourself how to say words from scratch. When you are learning through poetry how to speak English, it lends to a great understanding of sound, pitch, of pronunciation, so I think of my speech impediment not as a weakness or a disability, but as one of my greatest strengths.”
Amanda Gorman, as a young woman, is relational to the students of today. So often, students are learning about figures from the past, but to see a young woman who is alive now and making achievements in the world of poetry, literature, and the arts can inspire them to make the world a better place through their passions.
Here are some excellent books to teach all about Amanda Gorman from elementary to middle school.
Book 1 – Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem
From an author’s perspective, students can appreciate and see Amanda as a writer through this beautiful picture book which details one of her eloquent poems.
In this stirring, much-anticipated picture book by presidential inaugural poet and activist Amanda Gorman, anything is possible when our voices join together. As a young girl leads a cast of characters on a musical journey, they learn that they have the power to make changes—big or small—in the world, in their communities, and in most importantly, in themselves.
With lyrical text and rhythmic illustrations that build to a dazzling crescendo by #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator Loren Long, Change Sings is a triumphant call to action for everyone to use their abilities to make a difference.
Book 2 – Amanda Gorman (Little People, Big Dreams)
From an early age, Little Amanda read everything she could get her hands on, from books to cereal boxes. Growing up with an auditory processing disorder and a speech impediment, Amanda had to work hard, but ultimately she took great strength from her experiences.
After hearing her teacher read aloud to the class, she knew that she wanted to become a poet, and nothing would stand in her way. At the age of 19, she became America’s first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate. And, after performing her inspiring poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ at the Presidential Inauguration in January 2021, she became an icon across the world.
Book 3 – Amanda Gorman (My Itty-Bitty Bio)
I recently discovered these Itty Bitty Bio books, which are perfect for pre-school to younger elementary grades.
The My Itty-Bitty Bio series are biographies for the earliest readers. This book examines the life of National Youth Poet Laureate and activist Amanda Gorman in a simple, age-appropriate way that will help young readers develop word recognition and reading skills. Includes a table of contents, author biography, timeline, glossary, index, and other informative backmatter.
Book 4 – Call Us What We Carry
I just purchased this book for my classroom! I am reading it right now in preparation for April’s Poetry Month. Utilizing her poems from this collection will be so exciting. My favorite part so far is how relational the poems are for young people. Many of the poems are about being a student during Covid. It captures the uneasiness, sadness, and fear of the times. Here is a quick excerpt from her poem “School’s Out.”
Swung blunt as an axe-blow:
All students were to leave
Campus as soon as possible
Formerly titled The Hill We Climb and Other Poems, the luminous poetry collection by #1 New York Times bestselling author and presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman captures a shipwrecked moment in time and transforms it into a lyric of hope and healing. In Call Us What We Carry, Gorman explores history, language, identity, and erasure through an imaginative and intimate collage. Harnessing the collective grief of a global pandemic, this beautifully designed volume features poems in many inventive styles and structures and shines a light on a moment of reckoning. Call Us What We Carry reveals that Gorman has become our messenger from the past, our voice for the future.
Book 5 – The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country
This book is of Gorman’s famous poem, The Hill We Climb, the poem that put her on the map.
On January 20, 2021, Amanda Gorman became the sixth and youngest poet to deliver a poetry reading at a presidential inauguration. Taking the stage after the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden, Gorman captivated the nation and brought hope to viewers around the globe with her call for unity and healing. Her poem “The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country” can now be cherished in this special gift edition, perfect for any reader looking for some inspiration. Including an enduring foreword by Oprah Winfrey, this remarkable keepsake celebrates the promise of America and affirms the power of poetry.
Activities to Complete with The Hill We Climb
Last year, after the presidential inauguration, I had my middle-school students watch Amanda Gorman deliver this poem. Afterward, we read it together and identified similes, metaphors, personification, imagery, and alliteration present in the poem. It is a treasure trove of figurative language!
We also discussed how “The Hill” is a metaphor. We made a list out of all the “hills” Amanda could possibly be referring to, from racism to Covid, from personal struggles to America’s core issues.
Next, I had students write a paragraph response about their own personal hill. The hill they will need to climb in their lives and how they could climb it. Some chose to write about Covid. Others wrote about academic struggles, family issues, or anxiety. It was an eye-opening activity for students and myself to see what makes them tick. In addition, I learned what bothers them and how they are trying to overcome this adversity in their lives. We discussed ways to overcome these challenges and talked about how Gorman overcame her own challenges. Students could even turn their responses into their own poems.
The next day, I had students illustrate a visual from The Hill We Climb. From “gold-limbed hill,” to “lake-rimmed cities,” to “light in this never-ending shade,” and “the belly of the beast,” students drew and colored. The main focus of their drawing is the image pictured while they read the poem. They wrote a response detailing why they chose that image and what it could mean.
To use this same activity, click below for a FREE PDF with Google Slides.
To incorporate music into a lesson on The Hill We Climb, we listened to the Miley Cyrus song, “The Climb,” and read the lyrics.
We discussed the meaning behind Cyrus’ song and compared it to Gorman’s poem. We discussed how we all have a hill we must climb. Furthermore, we discussed how Cyrus’ song helps point out that it’s not necessarily the destination, but the journey that counts.
We also have an awesome bulletin board for Women’s History Month available right now with original clip art you won’t find anywhere else. It is a print-and-go bulletin board, complete with inspirational quotes.
Amanda Gorman’s eloquent, gripping, and stimulating poetry is a gift to students. Her presence as a young female poet can inspire generations. Most importantly, students can see history made before their eyes. Furthermore, Amanda Gorman joins the amazing list of great poets of history, such as Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and Emily Dickinson. Amanda Gorman would make a wonderful woman for students to learn about during Women’s History Month in March.