Teach This Poem: "Binsey Poplars" by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Produced for K-12 educators, Teach This Poem features one poem a week from our online poetry collection, accompanied by interdisciplinary resources and activities designed to help teachers quickly and easily bring poetry into the classroom. The series is written by our Educator in Residence, Dr. Madeleine Fuchs Holzer, and is available for free via email.
Lane with Poplars Near Nuenen by Vincent van Gogh (Netherlands). Date: 1885. Medium: Oil on canvas. Credit Line: public domain.
- Project an image of the painting “Lane with Poplars Near Neunen” by Vincent van Gogh so all your students can see it. Ask them to write down what they notice in the painting.
- Ask your students to turn and talk with a partner about what they saw. Ask them to think about how van Gogh represents the light in the poplars and the overall role the poplars play in the landscape. Make sure to remind them to use the details they noticed to back up their answers.
- Project the poem “Binsey Poplars” by Gerard Manley Hopkins from Poets.org, so all your students can see it. Ask them to read the poem silently to themselves and circle all the words, phrases, and images that jump out to them.
- Ask your students to get in pairs and read the poem to each other. Make sure each student reads the poem all the way through.
- Whole-class discussion: How does Hopkins use the sound of words to help us understand how he feels about the poplars? Make sure they reference specific sounds in the poem. How does van Gogh use brush strokes? Make sure your students indicate specific brush strokes and colors.
- How do your students think van Gogh and Hopkins would feel about today’s environmental movement?