The Story of My Life
Left blind, deaf, and mute after an illness in infancy, Helen Keller overcame her disabilities with the help of Anne Sullivan, her inspired teacher. Her classic autobiography, first published in 1903, covers her first 22 years. This deeply moving memoir offers an unforgettable portrait of one of the 20th century's most remarkable women.
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Below is a picture of Alexander Graham, Bell to whom this book is dedicated. As you delve into Helen Keller's autobiography, keep an eye out for further explanation of Bell's significance in Keller's life. (This annotation contains an image)
As you begin reading, answer the highlighted question. What do you know about Helen Keller already?
Below is s list of common symptoms of Scarlet Fever. The disease most commonly affects children. Nowadays, it can be treated by antibiotics. However, these medications were not yet discovered at the time of Keller's infection as a child. (This annotation contains an image)
What surprising information is given about Anne Sullivan in this intro?
Below is a picture of a young Helen Keller. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the author of the intro's position regarding Helen Keller? Describe in two sentences.
Your purpose for reading: As you begin reading Keller's autobiography, look for evidence of her "nimble mind that, though shut off from the world in such fundamental ways, never stopped growing." What does Keller do to keep "growing"? In addition, what is Keller's message about overcoming adversity? How does she challenge people's perceptions of those with disabilities?
These details about Keller's parents reveal that the time period is the Civil War (or the War Between the States), which took place from 1861-1865. We learn that Keller's mother is related to General Lee (pictured below), who led the Confederate Army; the same side that Helen Keller's father fought on. (This annotation contains an image)
Read this excerpt from the Gettysburg Address. What does Lincoln believe the American people need to embody? (This annotation contains a video)
After reading the excerpt from "The Gettysburg Address" in the last annotation, which quality can you infer the American people need to embody according to Lincoln?
What is the lasting effect of Helen Keller's illness?
Below is a picture of the house where Helen Keller was born. (This annotation contains an image)
Read the definition of characterization in the picture below. Indirect characterization requires you to make inferences about the character's personality based on his or her physical description, dialogue, relationship with other characters, thoughts, or actions. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the highlighted text, which character trait best describes Helen Keller?
How does Keller develop her claim that her misbehavior could no longer be overlooked? Cite at least two pieces of textual evidence to support your answer from the highlighted text.
Watch the short video explaining the differences between tone and mood. As you read, consider what tone is conveyed through Keller's word choice and sentence structure. (This annotation contains a video)
Based on the highlighted text, what does Keller imply may be the cause of her outbursts at home?
In the highlighted text, Helen Keller uses an allusion, or a brief and indirect reference to a person, place, thing or idea of historical, cultural, literary or political significance. What does she allude to in order to convey her feelings of hope and redemption?
Rhetorical devices are techniques that an author or speaker uses to evoke a response in the audience. Examples of common rhetorical devices include: rhetorical questions, repetition of ideas, loaded words, and allusion.
Keller uses language reminiscent of that found in the Bible to describe the life-changing power of scripture. Which type of rhetorical device is primarily used here to convey a tone of hope and awe?
What time of year is this lesson occuring?
The reason that the highlighted text has quotation marks around it is because Keller is quoting the author Robert Louis Stevenson's collection of essays entitled "Virginibus Puerisque." The words help readers to understand that one must be cautious because nature hides a dangerous and powerful force behind a beautiful facade.
You have already read in Keller's own words about her first time connecting the word W-A-T-E-R to water; now, watch this scene from the 1962 film, "The Miracle Worker." (This annotation contains a video)
Reread Helen Keller's description from Chapter Four,“I knew that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul…” How is this scene from the text different from the film clip from The Miracle Worker?
The highlighted text describes the moment when Keller grasps what love is. How was this idea developed prior to this revelation in Chapter Six?
Below is a picture of a dogwood blossom. Notice the whimsical, light-hearted tone in which Keller describes the beauty of nature. If one only read her descriptions of the setting in which she studies, one would not know that she cannot see or hear. (This annotation contains an image)
Although the girl in the picture below is not Helen Keller, the girl is wearing a pinafore over her dress. The picture will help you to visualize what Keller is wearing. (This annotation contains an image)
Which academic subject does Helen Keller least enjoy learning?
Using the highlighted passage, identify Keller's central claim. How does she support this claim? Give an example from earlier in the chapter.
Below is a picture of a canary to help you visualize the type of bird Keller receives for Christmas. The second part of the highlighted text, "my cup of happiness overflowed" is reminiscent of Psalm 23:5, which says, "My cup runneth over." Both Helen and the psalmist's words mean, "I have more than enough." (This annotation contains an image)
Below is a map of Massachusetts. Locate the city of Boston where Keller visited in 1888. (This annotation contains an image)
Which word best characterizes the language used in the highlighted text?
Below is Winthrop Chandler's painting, "Battle of Bunker Hill." This battle was the first of the Revolutionary War. (This annotation contains an image)
Below is a picture of Helen Keller and Ann Sullivan while vacationing on Cape Code in 1888. (This annotation contains an image)
Which type of figurative language does Keller employ in the highlighted text to illustrate how she was tossed haphazardly about?
Authors often use four modes of discourse or rhetorical modes to help them achieve their purposes for writing. Use this link to determine the purpose of each of the four modes: expository, descriptive, narrative, and argumentative. (This annotation contains a link)
Below is a picture of persimmons. (This annotation contains an image)
What disaster is scarcely averted?
Below is a picture of a boy, from the same time period as Keller, holding a toboggan sled. (This annotation contains an image)
What does Keller begin to do in the spring of 1890?
Below is a map of Norway and Sweden. Why does Keller mention these countries? (This annotation contains an image)
Which central character trait of Helen's character can be inferred from the highlighted passage?
There are three common rhetorical appeals that writers use primarily to persuade. The first appeals to authority or Ethos. The second appeals to reason or Logos and bases the value of an assertion of facts and statistics. Finally, the third appeals to emotion or Pathos.
After reading about the three types of rhetorical appeals (Ethos, Logos, and Pathos) in the previous annotation, state whether or not any of the appeals are used in the highlighted text. Be sure to explain your thinking.
In ancient Roman mythology, Ceres is the goddess of grain crops, fertility, and motherhood. Below is a picture entitled "Ceres Enthroned" by Michele Pannonio. (This annotation contains an image)
What is Stevenson's position in the highlighted text?
Use the Define feature to define the word penumbra. Based on the definition and how it used in the sentence, which word below would be an antonym for penumbra?
Below is a picture of President Cleveland. (This annotation contains an image)
The highlighted text is an example of an allusion to
Think back to the annotation in which you learned about rhetorical modes. Which type of rhetorical mode is used in the highlighted text?
Watch the short video on point of view and cultural perspective. How does the genre of "The Story of My Life" influence the point of view? (This annotation contains a video)
From what point of view is this text written?
Below is a picture of the Hudson River to help you visualize the setting. (This annotation contains an image)
Below is a picture of Radcliffe College from 1905. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the connotation of the highlighted text, which image below best represents Keller's desire to go to college?
Below is a famous quote by Edmund Burke. How might Burke's words affect Keller? Would she agree or disagree with this statement? (This annotation contains an image)
Below is a picture of a braille writer from the 1900's-1930's. It is similar to a typewriter. (This annotation contains an image)
In Chapter Nineteen, Keller describes obstacles she encounters as she pursues an acceptance to Radcliffe. Is the evidence presented in this chapter relevant to her claim? Why or why not?
What year did Keller begin at Radcliffe?
While reading nonfiction, try to answer the following three questions: What response is the author trying to elicit from his or her readers? How does the author employ language to elicit that response? How well does the author succeed in achieving this response?
What is the overall tone of the highlighted passage?
John Milton (pictured in the painting below) was an English poet during the 1600's; he is best known for his epic poem "Paradise Lost." (This annotation contains an image)
Which rhetorical appeal does Keller use in the highlighted text?
Which book is the first to impact Helen Keller because she is able to understand it?
Louisa May Alcott's story, "Little Women" was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. Watch the trailer for the film version of this classic. As you watch, consider why this story may have resonated with Keller. (This annotation contains a video)
Based on what you know about Helen Keller and your knowledge of Little Women from the film clip in the previous annotation, why might this story resonate with Keller?
This book tells the story of the Jewish queen of Persia who exposed a plot to destroy her people. As a result, she was able to save her people from death. Rembrandt's painting from 1660 depicted below is entitled, "Ahasuerus, Haman and Esther." (This annotation contains an image)
Which characters in the Bible is Keller gravitating towards?
Read the quote by Mark Twain, the famous American author, below. Do you think that Keller would agree or disagree with Twain's statement? What details in Keller's autobiography would support or refute Twain's statement? (This annotation contains an image)
Summarize the central idea of the highlighted passage.
Below is a picture of vintage canoes. Keller's enjoyment of boating supports her love of the outdoors and athleticism. (This annotation contains an image)
Which type of figurative language is used in the highlighted text?
The highlighted lines were spoken by James Russell Lowell (pictured below), an American Romantic poet during the late 1800's. Why do you think Keller includes them in her writing? (This annotation contains an image)
This period in history from 1865-1920 is known as the Gilded Age and Progressive Movement. These years are characterized by social activism and political reform. With the boom in jobs due to industrialization, Americans and millions of European immigrants flock to cities.
The highlighted description is primarily an effect of what?
This is a reference to the Roman goddess of the hunt, the moon, and childbirth. Below is a statue of Diana. The inclusion of the arrows on her back and the stag at her feet helps viewers identify which goddess they are looking at. (This annotation contains an image)
How does Keller's tone shift in this highlighted passage? Explain in two sentences.
Watch this short video featuring Helen Keller. As you watch, does this video enhance your understanding of Keller's life? (This annotation contains a video)
According to Bishop Brooks, what is the "universal religion"?
Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes asks Keller to recite his own poem, "The Chambered Nautilus." The poem begins by describing the mollusk of the chambered nautilus's emergence like the human soul's freedom as it leaves earth and arrives in heaven.
After reading Helen Keller's autobiography, what do you believe is Helen's specific purpose in writing her story? Support your answer with at least two examples from Keller's autobiography.
How would you characterize Keller's earliest childhood letters compared to now? Give a detailed explanation.