lesson plan

Teach This Poem: "Knoxville, Tennessee" by Nikki Giovanni

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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.

Featured Poem

The Blind Boys of Alabama Perform “Wade in the Water”

Classroom Activities
  1. Ask your students to listen to the Blind Boys of Alabama singing “Wade in the Water.” As they listen, they should write down what they hear in the words the Blind Boys sing, and the way they sing the song; for example, their use of harmony. What feelings do they associate with hearing this recording?
  2. Project the poem “Knoxville, Tennessee” by Nikki Giovanni in the front of the classroom. Ask your students to read the poem silently and write down all the words and phrases that jump out at them. How are the words placed on the page? Why do they think certain words and phrases are on their own line?
  3. Ask one student to read the poem aloud, pausing at the end of each line. Ask another student to repeat this process. What do your students hear in the way the poem was read that helps them understand why certain words and phrases might be on only one line?
  4. Ask your students to think about connections between the recording of “Wade in the Water” and the poem “Knoxville, Tennessee.” Have them discuss these in small groups and report them to the whole class.