lesson plan

Teach This Poem: “Taking Down the Tree” by Jane Kenyon

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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

Classroom Activities

Resource: Two candles that smell like balsam fir.

  1. Light the two balsam fir candles and pass them around the room so that all your students get a chance to smell the aroma.
  2. Ask your students to write down as many words as they can to describe how balsam fir smells. Ask them to share their descriptive words with a partner.
  3. Project the poem, “Taking Down the Tree,” in front of the classroom. Ask your students to read the poem twice silently. The first time, they should read the poem straight through. The second time, they should circle the words and phrases that jump out at them, including the words/phrases they don’t know.
  4. Ask a student to read the poem aloud to the class, while the listening students add to their list of words/phrases that jump out. Repeat this process with a second student reading the poem aloud.
  5. Ask your students to gather in small groups to share their words and phrases, paying attention to the words some students may not recognize. If the groups cannot figure out the word from context, ask that they write the word on the board for discussion by the class.
  6. If your students have not studied Hamlet, you may need to give them, or have them explore, the context for the first stanza of the poem.
  7. Whole-class discussion: In what ways is the speaker in the poem talking about light? Why do your students think the speaker in the poem is concerned with light? Ask your students to review their descriptions of the aroma of balsam fir. Why might the speaker in the poem refer to “extravagant” darkness?