CommonLit Secondary Classrooms Find Women’s History Month Resources for Your Classroom with These Lessons by Powerful Women Authors

Celebrate Women’s History Month with our favorite texts by women authors for middle and high schoolers.

Discover poetry lessons, biographical texts, and short stories by diverse women authors that will engage your students and increase reading comprehension. Find reading lessons by famous women authors like Zora Neale Hurston, Julia Alvarez, and Amy Tan that are the perfect Women’s History Month resources for your ELA curriculum.

Names/Nombres” by Julia Alvarez (6th Grade)

Alvarez's work focuses on her experiences as a Dominican in the United States. In addition to this essay, CommonLit has a reading guide for In the Time of the Butterflies and three more texts by Alvarez. In this biographical essay, Alvarez discusses the multiple names she has been given throughout the years.

Pair this text with the poem Peaches by Adrienne Su from our Paired Text tab. Ask students what people mean when they ask Julia Alvarez and the speaker of “Peaches,” “Where are you from?” How do students think this question makes the two women authors feel and why?  

Fish Cheeks” by Amy Tan (6th Grade)

Amy Tan explores family relationships and draws on her own experience as a Chinese American in her writing. “Fish Cheeks” is one of the most popular stories onCommLit! We also have a reading guide for Tan’s books Joy Luck Club. In this short story, the protagonist's Chinese American family has a white minister and his family over for dinner.

After reading this story, introduce your class to the video “American Foodies are Finally Embracing Real Chinese Food” in the Related Media Tab. Have students discuss how prejudice can impact our openness to different kinds of foods. Ask students to use examples from the text to inform their discussion.

A screenshot of the beginning of the story "Fish Cheeks" by Amy Tan.

We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks (8th Grade)

Brooks was the first African American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and the CommonLit library includes three of her poems. In this poem, the speaker describes seeing a group of men at a pool hall and discusses their nonchalant attitude towards life’s responsibilities.

Use Discussion Question 1 to start a conversation about the author’s point of view. Ask students, “In your opinion, how does the poet view the pool players? Does she blame them for their bleak fates ahead or have sympathy for them?”

Legacies” by Nikki Giovanni (8th Grade)

This is one of four texts on CommonLit by Nikki Giovani, an African American poet, activist, and educator. In this poem, a grandmother wants to teach her granddaughter a family recipe. This poem is perfect for Women’s History Month because of Giovanni's emphasis on the power of matriarchal relationships.

Pair this text with another of Giovanni’s poems, “Mothers.” Ask students to discuss how Giovanni explores the relationship between mother and daughter in “Mothers” and between the granddaughter and her grandmother in “Legacies?” What style does Giovanni use in the two poems to articulate these relationships?

A Litany for Survival” by Audre Lorde (9th Grade)

A feminist, writer, and activist, Audre Lorde depicts the relationship between sexism and racism throughout her works. In this famous poem, a speaker describes the lives of people who encounter barriers in the face of their dreams.

Have students watch the video of Lorde reading “Litany for Survival” in the Related Media Tab.” Does Lorde’s reading change the meaning of the poem? How so?

A screenshot of the Related Media Tab for the lesson associated with "A Litany for Survival" by Audre Lorde.

This is Not Who We Are” by Naomi Shihab Nye (10th Grade)

Nye is a poet, songwriter, and novelist. “This is Not Who We Are” is one of seven poems by Nye in the CommonLit library. In this personal essay, Nye reflects on her relationship with her Arab-American identity.

Much of Nye’s work revolves around community. Ask students Discussion Question 1, “In the text, the author discusses Arab-American musicians and poets whose work moves her. Why do you think she feels a sense of connection to these artists? Describe a community that makes you feel understood and supported.”

Spunk” by Zora Neale Hurston (11th Grade)

Zora Neale Hurston, a famous woman author, is known for her work during the Harlem Renaissance as both a writer and anthropologist. In this short story, one man pursues another man's wife in a small town in Florida. For more Women’s History Month resources by Hurston, we have two of her short stories and a unit on Their Eyes Were Watching God. Hurston is known for her use of dialect in her stories. Ask the class to find places where Hurston uses dialect and start a class discussion about how the use of dialect might change the reader's impression of different characters.

Her sweet Weight on my Heart a Night” by Emily Dickinson (11th Grade)

Emily Dickinson is widely regarded as one of the most important figures in American poetry, and CommonLit has 10 lessons built around her poems. In this poem, the speaker reflects on a dream that left her confused and uncertain about what is real.

Ask students to write a response to Assessment Question 5: “How does the dream most affect the speaker?” Prompt students to pay special attention to the structural choices and unique capitalization patterns of the poem as they write their responses.

Next Steps

Interested in more ways to engage your class with Women’s History Month? Join one of our upcoming webinars to discover a diverse range of lessons that feature famous women authors.  

For more Women’s History Month resources, dive into the thematic unit Women Who Made a Difference. This unit asks students the question “ How have the women we learned about in this unit influenced the world?” To answer this question, students are provided with reading lessons, and creative and research-based writing prompts.