poem index

Teach This Poem

Inspired by the success of our popular syndicated series Poem-a-Day, we're pleased to present Teach This Poem. 

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 curated by our Educator in Residence, Dr. Madeleine Fuchs Holzer, and is available for free via email.

Beneath the Soil: Potato Tubers Timelapse

In this timelapse video, a mother tuber begins producing new tubers beneath the soil.

Classroom Activities

  1. Warm-up: Ask your students to jot down two or three things that they are most grateful for about home, however they define the term. Ask them to turn and talk with a partner about what they have written and why.
  2. Project the timelapse video in front of the class and play it twice. The first time, ask your students to simply watch the video. The second time, ask them to write down what they notice, focusing on the specific details of what they see rather than generalizations, such as “roots growing.” Ask your students to gather in small groups to share what they noticed in the video. What do they think the tubers are doing, and what action words would they use to describe this?
  3. Project the poem “Home” in front of the class. Ask your students to read it silently and write down what they notice. What words and phrases jump out at them? What do they notice in the poem’s structure? Ask one of your students to read the poem aloud to the class while the listening students write down details they did not notice before. Repeat this process with another student reading aloud.
  4. Ask your students to get back in their small groups to share what they noticed in the poem. How does the video of tubers growing relate to the poem? Why do they think Weigl chose to use that image?
  5. Whole-class discussion: Where is home for the speaker in the poem? How does he feel about it? What evidence in the poem supports their interpretations? What do they think might be “the exiled and unraveling strangeness,” and how do these lines make them feel?
  6. Possible writing assignment: Ask your students to expand their notes about what they are grateful for at home into a longer piece of poetry or prose.

Thanksgiving Day Dinner, Grand Hotel, Indianapolis, 1898

Thanksgiving Day Dinner
Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library. "THANKSGIVING DAY DINNER [held by] GRAND HOTEL [at] INDIANAPOLIS (HOTEL;)" New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Classroom Activities

  1. Warm up: Quickly go around the room and ask your students to say one to three words they associate with Thanksgiving Day. If a student wishes to pass, come back to them after the other students have said something.
  2. Project the image of the Thanksgiving dinner menu from 1898 in front of the class. Ask your students to look at it carefully, writing down the details of what they see. Ask them to turn and share what they have written with the student next to them. What are their reactions to what they see? 
  3. Whole-class discussion: How does the person who created this menu want us to feel about Thanksgiving Day? What are the details your students have noticed that back up their interpretations?
  4. Project the poem One day is there of the series” by Emily Dickinson in front of the class and ask your students to read it silently. Then ask them to read it a second time and write down all the words, phrases, and structural aspects that jump out at them, as well as any words they don’t understand. What questions do they have about the poem?
  5. Ask your students to gather in small groups to share what they have noticed in the poem. Ask them to work with one another to try to answer any questions they have. 
  6. Whole-class discussion: How do your students think the speaker in the poem feels about Thanksgiving Day? What details in the poem back up their interpretations? What questions do they have that are left unanswered after their small-group discussions?

Bombs Fall on the Truong Quang Tin Railroad Bridge

Bombs Fall on the Truong Quang Tin Railroad Bridge

Photograph 428-K-33354; 9/16/1966; General Color Photographic File of the Department of Navy, 1958–1981; General Records of the Department of the Navy, Record Group 428; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

Vietnamese Children Outside the Viet Huong Refugee Center

Vietnamese Children

Photograph 111-CC-81726; Vietnamese Children Outside the Viet Huong Refugee Center; 4/1972; Color Photographs of Signal Corps Activity, 1944–1981; Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, Record Group 111; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

Classroom Activities

  1. Ask your students to make a circle with their thumb and forefinger. They should look through the opening to focus on something close to them, then on something far away. Ask them to write down the details they notice in both the close-up and far-away views. What is the difference between the two?
  2. Introduce the idea of perspective (that the vantage point from which you look at something influences what you see). Show your class the image from the National Archives of bombs falling and ask them to write down the details they notice (not their interpretations, but what they actually see). Do the same with the image of the Vietnamese children. Ask your students to gather in small groups to share their thoughts and observations about the photographs’ different perspectives.
  3. Whole-class discussion: From what perspective do your students think the photograph of the bombs was taken, and what details in the photograph support this? What about the photograph of the Vietnamese children? What can your students learn from the focus of each of the photographs? How does each perspective make them feel?
  4. Project the poem “Facing It” in front of the class. Ask your students to read it silently and write down the words and phrases that jump out at them. Ask one student to read the poem aloud to the class, while the listening students write down words and phrases they have not noticed before that they think are important. Repeat this process with a second student reading aloud. Ask your students to get back in their small groups to share what they noticed and why they thought it might be important in the poem.
  5. Whole-class discussion: From what perspective is the speaker in the poem experiencing the Vietnam War Memorial, and what details in the poem suggest this? What is the speaker’s perspective on the Vietnam War itself? What details in the poem support this interpretation? (At this point you might want to share more information about the poet, Yusef Komunyakaa.)

Classroom Activities

  1. Play a short excerpt from the pianist George Winston’s composition “Colors/Dance” for your students. While the excerpt is playing, ask them to stand and move to the music. After one minute and ten seconds, stop the video and ask your students to sit back down. Ask them to write a description of their movements and about how the composition made them feel.
  2. Play the excerpt again. This time ask your students to stay seated while they listen and to write down what they hear. When the excerpt has ended, ask them to turn and talk with a partner about what they heard and felt during the two different experiences.
  3. Project William Shakespeare’s sonnet in front of the class. Ask your students to read it silently and write down the words, phrases, and aspects of the poem’s structure that jump out at them. Ask a student to read the poem aloud to the class; the listening students should write down additional words and phrases that seem important. Repeat this process with a second student reading aloud.
  4. Ask your students to share what they noticed in small groups. About what time of year is Shakespeare writing? What evidence do they find for this in the poem? How do they think this time of year makes the speaker in the poem feel? Again, what evidence in the poem supports this?
  5. Whole-class discussion: Why is Shakespeare trying to evoke these emotions about the season in his readers? Aside from a particular season, about what do they think he is writing? What do the last two lines of the poem mean to them?
  6. If your students have also read “October” by Robert Frost, you may want to ask them to compare and contrast these two poems.

Night Series: The Cat

Night Series

Anne Goldthwaite (American, 1869-1944). Night Series: The Cat, 20th century. Lithograph, white line on wove paper, 4 1/2 x 6 in. (11.4 x 15.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Estate of Anne Goldthwaite, 49.164.13.

Classroom Activities

  1. Warm-up: Go around the room asking each student to quickly make a gesture or sound they associate with a black cat. If a student wishes to pass, allow them to do so and come back to them when the rest of the class is finished.
  2. Project the image of the lithograph by Anne Goldthwaite so all your students can see it. Ask them to look at it silently, then to write down the details they notice. Ask them to turn and talk with a partner to share what they have noticed and how it made them feel about the cat.
  3. Project Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem in front of the class. Ask them to read it silently and to write down the words and phrases that jump out at them. Ask a student to read the poem aloud to the class, while the listening students write down the words and phrases they have not noticed before that they think are important. Repeat this process with a second student reading aloud.
  4. Ask your students to gather in small groups to share what they noticed in the poem. What parts of the cat seem to be most important to the speaker? What is the evidence for their interpretation? To what does the speaker compare the black cat?
  5. Whole-class discussion: After the warm-up, looking at the image of the lithograph, and reading the poem, how do your students feel about seeing a black cat? What, in the lithograph and the poem, leads them to feel this way? How do your students think the speaker in the poem feels about a black cat? What evidence in the poem supports this? What are their thoughts about the saying that a black cat crossing your path brings bad luck?

Happy Halloween!!!

Classroom Activities

  1. Project “After Action Report, ‘The Battle of Hue, 2-26 February 1968’” (pages 11-12). Ask your students to silently read these pages twice and write down the things that jump out at them, including vocabulary they might not know.
  2. Ask your students to gather in small groups (four students) to share what they have noticed and modify their own lists as they learn from one another.
  3. Explore the following questions with the class: What details did you notice in the report? What is the perspective of the writer (close/far/both)? What did you notice about the language that is used? Is it the same throughout the report? Does it change at any point? If so, where? Why do you think the language changes at this point?
  4. Project the poem “Kissing in Vietnamese” by Ocean Vuong. Ask your students to read the poem silently and write down the words and phrases that jump out at them. Ask one student to read the poem aloud to the class, while the listening students write down the words and phrases they did not notice before that they think are important. Repeat this process with a second student reading aloud.
  5. Ask the students to share what they noticed with their small groups. Ask each group to pick a phrase or two that was particularly compelling and to create a tableau with their bodies (a still picture with no voices) that illustrates this phrase or these phrases. Have each group present their tableau to the class. What do the non-presenting students notice? Based on what they noticed, what were the feelings expressed by the tableaux? What specific body positions showed this? What perspective is represented in the poem “Kissing in Vietnamese”?
  6. Whole-class discussion: What do we learn from poems that we do not necessarily learn from official reports from the field? Why do you think this is the case? Why might it be important to experience different kinds of communication when learning about the Vietnam War?
  7. For a more in-depth study of perspectives on the Vietnam War see the lesson plan developed for a workshop conducted by Richard Blanco at the National Archives during July 2017.

Classroom Activities

  1. For homework, ask your students to write down what they remember about a special time with a parent, guardian, or other important older person in their lives.
  2. Ask them to share what they wrote down with a partner. The partners should ask questions to help each other add details to their description of the special time. Make sure both students have time to share.
  3. Project the poem “Afternoons” by Jorge H. Aigla so all your students can see it in both Spanish and English. Ask your students to read the poem silently and write down the words and phrases that jump out at them in the language or languages they understand. When they have finished writing, ask one of your students to read the poem in English aloud to the class while the listening students jot down details that they did not notice before in the poem. Repeat this process with another student reading aloud. (If some of your students are fluent in Spanish, ask one or two of them to read the poem aloud in Spanish, as well. What do they hear in the Spanish that they do not hear in English, and vice versa?)
  4. Ask your students to gather in small groups to share what they noticed in the poem. What kinds of details stand out to them? Why do they think they might be important?
  5. Whole-group discussion: Ask your students what made their times with an older person special to them? Why do they think the speaker in the poem thought his afternoons were special? What do they think “alertness of time” means? Why do they think the speaker says the afternoons “taught me what it is to fill out/the alertness of time?” 
  6. Additional writing: Ask your students to continue refining their descriptions of their special memories with attention to “the alertness of time.” This can be a paragraph, an essay, or a poem.

Still Life with Grapes

Still Life with Grapes

Still Life with Grapes by Carducius Plantagenet Ream (1838–1917). Medium: Oil on canvas. Dimensions: 14 x 10 inches. Credit Line: Gift of Peck Stacpoole Foundation, 1999. www.metmuseum.org.

Classroom Activities

  1. Warm up: Quickly go around the room asking your students for one or two words they associate with autumn. If a student cannot think of something, they can pass, and you can return to them when everyone else if finished.
  2. Project Still Life with Grapes so everyone can see it.  Ask your students to look at it carefully and silently write down the details they notice in the image.  Saying “a bunch of grapes” is not enough. What are the colors? The brushstrokes? The structure? When they have finished writing, ask them to turn and talk with a partner about what they noticed and how it made them feel about the grapes.
  3. Project the poem “October” by Robert Frost so all your students can see it. Again, ask them to silently write down what they notice in the poem. What jumps out at them? Then, ask one of your students to read the poem aloud to the class while the listening students jot down what details they hear that they did not notice before. Repeat this process with another student reading aloud.
  4. Ask your students to gather in small groups and share what jumped out at them in the poem, including the words, phrases, and structure. How does Frost describe October? What words and phrases can they cite, drawing on what they noticed, as evidence for their interpretation?
  5. Whole-class discussion: What role do your students think the grapes play in the poem? Ask them to think back to the image of grapes that they looked at earlier. How does what they noticed about these grapes make them feel about the grapes at the end of the poem? What would they want to say to the month of October after reading this poem?

The Youngbloods, “Get Together”

Classroom Activities

  1. Warm-up:  Go quickly around the room asking your students what associations they have with the word stranger. If a student cannot think of anything, allow them to say “pass” and come back to them when everyone else is finished.
  2. Play the video of the song “Get Together” so all your students can see and hear it. While they are listening, ask them to write down the words and sounds that jump out to them.
  3. Ask them to gather in small groups to share what they heard and to discuss what they think the song is about. Why do they think this song was popular in 1967?
  4. Project “Amendment” by Christina Davis so your students can see it. Ask them to read it silently and to write down the words, phrases, and structural aspects of the poem that jump out at them. Ask a student to read the poem aloud to the class, while the listening students write down new words, phrases, and structural aspects they might think important. Repeat this process with a second student reading aloud.
  5. Ask your students to get back in their small groups and to share what they noticed in the poem. What do they think the speaker in the poem is saying about strangers, how they should be treated, and what we might have to do first? What is the evidence in the poem for their opinions?
  6. Possible whole-class discussion topics:  Why do your students think this poem is called “Amendment?” What would they title this poem? What are the similarities and differences between the song and the poem? What are the similarities and differences between this time in history and the 1960s?

Mahalia Jackson at Newport Jazz Festival

Classroom Activities

  1. Warm-up: Ask your students to get into small groups, with one laptop or iPad in each group. Ask your students if anyone knows who Mahalia Jackson was; those who do should share what they know with the rest of the class. Then, your students should quickly look up as much information as they can about Mahalia Jackson, using the laptops or iPads, and share this among the members of their group.
  2. Play the video of Mahalia Jackson singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth” so all your students can see and hear it. Play the video a second time and ask them to jot down what they see and hear.
  3. Whole-class discussion: How does this video make your students feel about this song? What, in the video, leads them to feel this way?
  4. Project Claudia Rankine’s poem “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely [Mahalia Jackson is a genius]” so all your students can see it.  Ask them to write down what jumps out at them, including words, phrases, and structure. Ask a student to read the poem aloud so all the class can hear it. Ask the listening students to write down anything new that jumps out at them. Repeat this process with another student reading aloud.
  5. Ask your students to return to their small groups and share what they noticed in the poem and what questions they have. Ask them to try to answer their questions in their groups.
  6. Whole-class discussion: What are your students’ questions? Write them on the board and hold a class discussion around as many of these as you wish. (You should be prepared for questions about Paul CelanGeorge Wein, and Hegel, as well as questions about prose poems—students might want to discuss whether this is a poem at all.) What are the questions your students think Claudia Rankine might be raising?

Photograph Taken on 9/13/01 in New York

Photograph Taken on 9/13/01 in New York

By Andrea Booher/ FEMA News Photo. Sep 13, 2001. Location: New York, NY.

Classroom Activities

  1. Warm-up: Go around the room quickly and ask your students what associations they have with the date September 11. If a student can’t think of what to say, they can pass, and you can ask them again when everyone else has finished.
  2. Project the photograph taken by Andrea Booher on September 13, 2001, so all your students can see it.  Ask them to write down the things that jump out at them from the image. Give them plenty of time.
  3. Place your students in small groups. Ask each group to create a tableau (a still picture with no talking) of the details they saw in the photo and how these made them feel. Give them several minutes to work together, and then ask each group to present their tableau to the other students in the class. Ask the watching students to report on the details they see in the tableau and how these details make them feel.
  4. Project Lucille Clifton’s poem “Tuesday 9/11/01” so all your students can view it. Ask them to read it silently and jot down the words, phrases, and structural elements that jump out at them. Ask one student to read the poem aloud while the listeners add new words, phrases, and structural aspects to their notes. Repeat the process with another student reading aloud.
  5. Ask your students to gather back in their small groups and share what they have written down.
  6. Whole-class discussion: What feelings are evoked by the photograph and the poem about September 11? How are these feelings similar to, and different from, each other? What did the photographer and the poet do to evoke these feelings? (Your students can use the details they have written down as  evidence.) What feelings and ideas do your students take away after viewing the photograph and reading the poem? (You may want to ask them to write in some way about the last question.)

Li-Young Lee Reads "I Ask My Mother to Sing"

Classroom Activities

  1. For homework ask your students to bring either a song that their parents taught them from their native culture or a photograph of a place in the country where their ancestors came from originally.
  2. Ask your students to write a short paragraph about their song or photograph and how it makes them (or other members of their family) feel.
  3. Gather your students in small groups and ask them to share their songs and photographs, along with any contextual information or stories they know about them. They can use the paragraphs they wrote as reference, if helpful.
  4. Project “I Ask My Mother to Sing” so your students can see it. Ask them to read it silently and write down the words, phrases, and structural aspects of the poem that jump out at them. Ask a student to read the poem aloud. Then play the video of Li-Young Lee reading his poem. Ask your students to write down new words, phrases, and structural aspects they might think important after hearing the poem in two different voices.
  5. Whole-class discussion: Why does the speaker in the poem “love to hear [the song] sung,” even though it makes his mother and grandmother cry? How does the speaker feel about the places in China he mentions? Ask your students to give evidence from the poem to support their thoughts.
  6. Introduce the idea of a sonnet. You may also want to ask your students to write sonnets about their memories relating to their native cultures.

Classroom Activities

Resources: photos of special places in your students’ lives.

  1. Homework: Ask your students to take a photo of a favorite place using their cell phones (if they are allowed to bring them to school) or to bring in a printed photo of a place they like. This photo will be used as preparation for reading Richard Blanco’s poem.
  2. In class, ask your students to look carefully at their photographs and write down what they notice. Ask them to describe objects in detail, including colors, shapes, positions, etc. Then ask them to recall and write down what they hear (or imagine they hear) in that space, what they might taste, and how objects feel (or might feel).
  3. Project the poem “El Florida Room” so all your students can see it. Ask them to read it silently and write down the words, phrases, and structural aspects of the poem that jump out at them. Ask a student to read the poem aloud to the class, while the listening students write down new words, phrases, and structural aspects they might think important. Repeat this process with a second student reading aloud.
  4. Place your students in small groups and ask them to share what they noticed in the poem. What sensory details does Richard Blanco use in this poem? What structural details are there?
  5. Whole-class discussion: How does the speaker in the poem feel about the Florida room? How do you know? How does the repetition of the word not help you think about the poem?
  6. As an extension, you can ask your students to write a poem about their favorite place using descriptive sensory language, and, if they’d like, some form of repetition.

Note: This Teach This Poem was adapted from a lesson plan by Richard Blanco.

Alvin Ailey's Revelations

Watch an excerpt from a 2008 performance of Alvin Ailey's Revelations, a suite of dances using African-American traditional spirituals.

Classroom Activities

  1. Warm up: Place your students in small groups. Ask them to brainstorm with one another about what it means to “hear [your] being dance from ear to ear.” Ask one person from each group to report back to the whole class.
  2. Project the video excerpt from Revelations so all your students can see it. Show the video twice. The first time ask them to watch the excerpt all the way through. The second time, ask them to write down what they notice about the way the dancers move. Do they move quickly, slowly, up, down? Do they move their feet, arms, hands, whole bodies? Are their movements choppy, fluid, or both?
  3. Whole-class discussion: After watching the video, do your students think the Ailey dancers “hear [their] being[s] dance from ear to ear?” What evidence do they have from the video for their opinions?
  4. Project “The Waking” so all your students can see it. Ask them to read it silently and write down the words, phrases, and structural aspects of the poem that jump out at them. Ask a student to read the poem aloud to the class, while the listening students write down new words, phrases, and structural aspects they might think are important. Repeat this process with a second student reading aloud.
  5. Place your students back in their small groups and ask them to share what they noticed in the poem. What do they think Roethke is saying about a “being dancing from ear to ear?” Is it similar to, or different from, the Ailey dancers? About what do your students think Roethke is learning? How do they think he learns? What did they notice about the poem’s structure?
  6. Whole-class discussion: Based on their small-group discussions, what do your students think Roethke is saying about how to live? Based on what they have noticed about the poem’s structure, introduce the concept of a villanelle.

Sow and Five Piglets

Sow and Five Piglets

This image is in the public domain.

Classroom Activities

  1. Ask your students what they know about Saint Francis. Make sure they have a complete enough understanding to read this poem. Also, ask them if they know the meaning of the word sow. Fill in, again, as necessary.
  2. Project the image “Sow and Five Piglets” so all your students can see it. Ask them to write down what they see and their reaction to it. Go quickly around the room and ask each person to share something they saw and how they reacted.
  3. Project Galway Kinnell’s poem and ask your students to read it twice silently. The first time, they should simply read the poem. The second time, they should write down the words and phrases that jump out at them. (Caveat: Some less mature students might start giggling when they get toward the end of the poem. Ask them to write down the phrases that make them giggle, so they can be discussed.)
  4. Ask one student to read the poem aloud while the listening students add words and phrases to their lists. Repeat the process with a second student reading out loud.
  5. Small-group discussions: Share the words and phrases that jump out at you in the poem. What does Saint Francis do in the poem?
  6. Whole-class discussion: How does the speaker in the poem feel about the sow at the end? What does he do in the poem to help us reach that conclusion? (Make sure your students use what they noticed in the poem as evidence.) What point do your students think the speaker is trying to make? (Again, give evidence.)

World Map

World Map

Classroom Activities

  1. Project the map of the world so everyone in your class can see it. Let your students look at it for several minutes and then ask them to write down what they notice about the map itself—the colors, shapes, etc. Point out that you do not want them to say that they see “countries” or “mountains”; rather, you are asking them to write down what the mapmaker has used to depict these items. After your students have written down everything they notice, ask them to share what they have written with a partner. Ask them to clean up their lists to only include what they see, without any interpretations.
  2. Project the poem “Maps” so all your students can view it. Ask them to read the poem silently twice. The first time, they should simply read the poem all the way through. The second time, they should write down the things that jump out at them in the poem and the words and phrases that strike them in some way. They should also look at how the poem is structured and write down any questions they might have about what they notice.
  3. Ask your students to listen to the audio of Yesenia Montilla reading her poem twice. What new things do they notice after hearing her read her poem?
  4. In small groups, ask your students to share what they noticed from reading and listening to the poem. How does this relate to what they noticed earlier in the map of the world?
  5. Whole-class discussion: How do your students think the speaker in the poem feels about maps? What evidence do they have to support this answer, using the lists of what they have noticed in the poem? What might the structure of the poem have to do with how the speaker feels about maps? What does the speaker in the poem want to do about maps? Do your students agree or disagree with her perspective?

Classroom Activities

Resources: Some “knick knacks” or objects that your students can arrange and rearrange. (Enough for several small groups of students.)

  1. Warm up: Go around the room quickly and ask your students to make a gesture with one hand that represents spring to them. If a student can’t think of anything, they can say “pass” to wait until after all the other students have contributed.
  2. Place your students in small groups of no more than four or five. Give each group four or five items, and ask your students to, without talking, arrange these items on a desk. Then ask them to rearrange the items on the desk, again, without talking. All this should be done without knocking anything over or breaking any of the items.
  3. Project the poem “Spring is like a perhaps hand” by E. E. Cummings so all your students can see it. Ask your students to read it silently, and then write down the words and phrases that jump out at them. What structural oddities do they see? Ask a student to read the poem aloud to the class, while the listening students write down new words and phrases they think are important. Repeat this process with a second student reading aloud.
  4. Ask your students to get back in their small groups to discuss how the gestures and the rearrangement of the items might relate to their interpretation of the poem.
  5. Whole-class discussion: How would your students define a “perhaps hand”? What do they think the poem is saying about spring? How do they feel the structural oddities affect the poem? Ask them to provide evidence to back up their assertions.

Garden at Vaucresson

Garden at Vaucresson

Garden at Vaucresson by Édouard Vuillard (1868–1940). Date: 1920; reworked 1926, 1935, 1936. Medium: Distemper on canvas. Dimensions: 59 ½ x 43 ⅝ inches. Credit line: Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1952. www.metmuseum.org

Classroom Activities

  1. Whip-around: Go around the room and ask your students to say, in two or three words, what the term country house means to them.
  2. Project the painting Garden at Vaucresson so all your students can see it. Let them look at it for several minutes. Then ask them to write down what they see in the image—colors, brush strokes, objects, etc. Ask your students to turn to a partner and share what they see and how it makes them feel about this country house.
  3. Project the poem “A Place in the Country” by Toi Derricotte for your students to see. Ask them to read it silently, and then write down the words and phrases that jump out at them. Ask a student to read the poem aloud to the class, while the listening students write down new words and phrases they might think important. Repeat this process with a second student reading aloud.
  4. Gather your students in small groups and ask them to share the words and phrases that jumped out at them. Why do they think these words and phrases might be important to the poem?
  5. Whole-class discussion: Drawing on their discussion of the image of the painting and what they noticed in the poem, what do your students think are the initial feelings of the couple in the poem toward buying a house in the country? How do their feelings change over the course of the poem? Why do their feelings change?

Paul McCartney Sings "Blackbird"

Classroom Activities

  1. Warm up: Ask your students to think about a cold day at the beginning of spring and write down a quick sentence about how that day makes them feel.
  2. Play the video of Paul McCartney singing “Blackbird” twice for your students. The first time, ask your students to listen to it quietly. The second time, ask them to write down what jumps out at them from the lyrics. Ask them to turn and talk with a partner about what they have written from the song and how that might relate to a cold day in spring.
  3. Project the poem “In cold spring air” by Reginald Gibbons so all your students can see it. Ask them to read it silently and write down the words, phrases, and structural aspects of the poem that jump out at them. Ask a student to read the poem aloud to the class, while the listening students write down new words and phrases they might think important. Repeat this process with a second student reading aloud.
  4. Place your students in small groups. Ask them to share what they noticed that seemed important or unusual in this poem.
  5. In a whole-class discussion, ask your students the following questions: What is the poem saying to them? What evidence do they have to support this? How is the poem structured? What do they think this structure adds to the poem, if anything?

Sunrise on the Matterhorn

Sunrise on the Matterhorn

Sunrise on the Matterhorn by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902). Date: after 1875. Medium: Oil on canvas. Dimensions: 58 ½ x 42 ⅝ inches. Credit line: Gift of Mrs. Karl W. Koeniger, 1966. www.metmuseum.org.

Classroom Activities

  1. Show your students the image of Sunrise on the Matterhorn so they can look at it closely. Ask them to write down what they see—the colors, the images, the light. Ask them to share what they noticed with a partner and talk about how these aspects of the painting made them feel.
  2. Ask your students to gather in small groups to create a tableau (a silent, physical representation of one point in time) showing how the painting made them feel. Have each group present their tableau to the rest of the class. The other students should then talk about what they noticed in the tableau, how it made them feel, and the gestures the group used to elicit those feelings.
  3. Project the poem “Before a Painting” so all your students can see it. Ask them to write down what words, phrases, and structure jump out at them from the poem. Ask one student to read the poem aloud to the class, while the listening students write down new words and phrases that they hear. Repeat the process with a second student reading aloud.
  4. Ask your students to return to their small groups to share the feelings that were elicited by the painting, the tableaux, and the poem. What did the three have in common? How were they different?
  5. Whole-class discussion: What tools does a painter use to elicit images and emotions? What tools does the poet use to elicit images and emotions? How does creating something, such as a tableau, help you to better understand the painting and the poem?

April 17, 2017

Arthur Sze

Old-Growth Clear-cutting in Klanawa Valley

From "B.C. municipalities support Vancouver Island push to save old-growth forests," Vancouver Sun. Photo credit: TJ Watt/Ancient Forest Alliance. www.AncientForestAlliance.org.

Classroom Activities

  1. When the trees in your area are in full leaf, ask your students to find a tree that “speaks” to them.  Ask them to describe, in writing, the details of that tree and why they are attracted to it. They should pay particular attention to the tree's leaves, and they may even want to draw a picture of a leaf they particularly like.
  2. Show your students the image of old growth clear-cutting, but do not tell them the title. Ask them to write down the details of what they see. How does this image make them feel?
  3. If your students do not know, tell them what clear-cutting is. In small groups, ask them to discuss how they feel about clear-cutting after seeing the image.
  4. Project the poem by Arthur Sze. Ask your students to write down what jumps out at them in the poem. Ask one student to read the poem aloud, while the listening students add details to their writing from what they hear. Repeat this process with another student reading aloud.
  5. Place your students in small groups to research the types of trees mentioned in the poem.
  6. Whole-class discussion: What do they think Arthur Sze might be saying about how different leaves and trees make him feel? What does it mean to “be on the edge of a new leaf”? Have your students ever felt that way?

Other ideas for teaching this poem can be found in a lesson plan specifically designed for the National Poetry Month poster.

"Swing Dance, 1941"

Watch this video of a swing dance from the 1941 short film Skinnay Ennis and His Orchestra.

Classroom Activities

  1. Show your class the video “Swing Dance, 1941” twice. The first time ask them to watch the video straight through and write one or two words they associate with the dance they have just seen. The second time, ask them to write down what they notice about the dance—the steps, moves, tempo, body posture of the dancers, etc.
  2. Ask your students to pair up and share what they wrote with their partners. If one person gives an interpretation, such as “they trusted each other,” their partner should ask for evidence from the video for the interpretation.
  3. Project Juan Felipe Herrera’s poem so all your students can see it. Ask them to read the poem silently and write down words and phrases that jump out at them. Play the audio of Herrera reading the poem twice. Ask your students to write down new words and phrases that jump out at them from the reading.
  4. Ask your students to gather in small groups to share what they noticed in the poem and what they learned about the poet Philip Levine.
  5. Play an excerpt of Philip Levine giving his inaugural address as U.S. Poet Laureate, starting from the beginning of the video. Be sure to listen to him read at least one or two full poems.
  6. Whole-class discussion: How do you think Juan Felipe Herrera feels about Philip Levine? What does the jitterbug have to do with the way Philip Levine lived in the world? What questions do your students still have about Philip Levine, his poems, and his life? (Use his poems and biography on Poets.org as a resource to help answer these questions.)

Other ideas for teaching this poem can be found in a lesson plan specifically designed for the National Poetry Month poster.

Ship at Sea

Ship at Sea

Ship at Sea by Albert Ernest Markes (1865-1901). Date: Late 19th century. Medium: Watercolor. Dimensions: 10 3/8 x 16 5/8 inches. Credit Line: Bequest of Susan Dwight Bliss, 1966. www.metmuseum.org.

Classroom Activities

  1. Whip around: Quickly ask each of your students to give a one or two word association they have with a ship on the sea.  If a student wishes to pass, come back to them after all the other students have said something.
  2. Project the painting Ship at Sea and ask your students to look at it carefully. Ask them to write down what they notice about how the ship was painted—colors, brush strokes, etc. What is the impression they have of this ship on the sea? What is their evidence for this impression? (They should use what they noticed to help them provide this evidence.) Ask your students to turn and talk with a partner about what they saw and their impressions of the painting.
  3. Project the poem “There is no frigate like a book (1263)” by Emily Dickinson. First, ask your students to make a list of the vocabulary words they do not know in the poem. Help them discover the meaning of the words. Next, ask them to read the poem closely, writing down what jumps out at them in the poem. Ask a student to read the poem aloud to the class while the listening students to write down anything new that they hear. Repeat this process with another student reading aloud.
  4. Ask your students to gather in small groups to share what jumped out at them in the poem. They should discuss what they think the poem is saying about books and poetry.
  5. Whole-class discussion: How do your students feel when they are really engrossed in a book, story, or poem? To what is Emily Dickinson comparing this experience? What are the similes and the metaphors in this poem?

Other ideas for teaching this poem can be found in a lesson plan specifically designed for the National Poetry Month Poster.

The History of Old South Meeting House

“When the Old South Meeting House was built in 1729, its Puritan congregation could not foresee the role it would play in American history. In colonial times, statesman Benjamin Franklin was baptized here. Phillis Wheatley, the first published black poet, was a member, as were patriots James Otis, Thomas Cushing, and William Dawes. When rumblings started to shake the colonies and the Revolution grew imminent, patriots flocked to Old South to debate the most pressing issues of the day. They argued about the Boston Massacre, and they protested impressment of American sailors into the British Navy. And then, on the night of December 16, 1773, they acted. Some 5,000 angry colonists gathered at Old South to protest a tax on tea. When the negotiations failed, disguised men took action and destroyed over 1.5 million dollars worth of tea in today's money.”

—“Old South Meeting House,” National Park Service, March, 2017.

Classroom Activities

  1. Whip-around: Go around the room and ask your students what associations they have with the words Boston Tea Party. If someone does not have an answer ready, they can say “pass” to wait until after all the other students have contributed.
  2. Ask your students to read the short excerpt about the Old South Meeting House, and the role it played at the beginning of the American Revolution. Ask them to write down what they think are the important words and phrases in the excerpt. Then, ask your students to gather in pairs to share what they learned about the Old South Meeting House from this excerpt.
  3. Project January Gill O’Neil’s poem so all your students can see it. Ask them to read the poem silently and write down the words and phrases that jump out to them. Ask one student to read the poem aloud to the whole class while the listeners add to their lists of words and phrases. Repeat this process with a second student reading aloud.
  4. In small groups, ask them to share their words and phrases. What do these words and phrases tell us about the poem? What is the structure of the words? What might this have to do with the Old South Meeting House?
  5. Whole-class discussion: What did your students learn from the historical excerpt about the Old South Meeting House? What did they learn from the poem? What do your students think accounts for the difference? Make sure they give detailed evidence from both the historical excerpt and the poem.

Flowers in Front of an Abandoned House in Demerino, Russia

 Flowers in Front of an Abandoned House in Demerino, Russia

This image is in the public domain.

Classroom Activities

  1. Show your students the image of ruins and flowers. Let them look at it for several minutes, and ask them to write down what they notice. Make sure they remember to include details and not just general statements.
  2. Ask your students to turn and talk with a partner about the details that they just wrote down. Ask them to come up with one list of details on which they can agree. Why do they think the photographer chose to include these particular details?
  3. Project “Lines Written in Early Spring” by William Wordsworth so all your students can see it. Ask them to read the poem silently and write down the words and phrases that jump out to them. Ask one student to read the poem aloud to the whole class while the listeners add to their list of words and phrases. Repeat this process with a second student reading aloud.
  4. Ask your students to look at the poem again. What do they see in the structure of the poem that jumps out at them? Ask them to get back with their partners to share the words, phrases, and structure that they noticed.
  5. Ask your students to gather in groups of four to discuss what Wordsworth is comparing. Make sure they cite evidence in the poem to back up their interpretations.
  6. Whole-class discussion: What do your students think Wordsworth is trying to say? What evidence do they have that he is trying to say it? What structure does he use to say it? What is the rhyme scheme? What do they think “man has made of man?”

Syrian Refugee Children Speak Out | UNICEF

In this video from UNICEF, Syrian children discuss escaping the violence in the Syrian Arab Republic and their current situation in Lebanon as refugees.

Classroom Activities

  1. Play four to five minutes of the UNICEF film “Syrian Refugee Children Speak Out” for your students twice. The first time, they should watch carefully. The second time, ask them to write down the details, including sights and sounds, that they notice most.
  2. Ask your students to gather in groups of four to share what they wrote. They should use these observations as a stepping-off point to create a tableau (a still, silent picture with their bodies) that illustrates what they observed. Give the groups time to create and rehearse their tableaux, which they will present to the rest of the class.
  3. Ask the groups to present their tableaux. While each tableau is in place, ask the observers to write down what they notice—posture, position, gesture, etc. Ask them what they think each tableau is about. What do they think each tableau is saying? What is their evidence?
  4. Project Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Business” so all your students can see it. Ask them to read the poem silently and write down the words and phrases that jump out at them. Ask one student to read the poem aloud to the whole class while the listeners continue taking notes. Repeat this process with a second student reading aloud.
  5. Ask your students to gather again in their small groups and discuss the details in the poem that help them understand what it feels like to be a refugee.
  6. Whole-class discussion: What does it feel like to be a refugee? Make sure your students cite evidence from the poem that backs up their opinions. If you were a refugee, what would you want for yourself and your family?

Rising Sun

Rising Sun

Rising Sun, by Shibata Zeshin (Japanese, 1807–1891). Medium: ink and color on silk. Dimensions: 80 x 23.5 cm. The Howard Mansfield Collection, Purchase, Rogers Fund, 1936. www.metmuseum.org.

Classroom Activities

  1. Whip-around: Go quickly around the room, asking each of your students to say one word they associate with the word sun and one word they associate with heart. Any student who does not have an answer can say “pass” and wait to go until all the other students have had a turn.
  2. Show your students the image “Rising Sun” by Shibata Zeshin without mentioning the title. Ask them to look at it closely and write down what they see in the picture. Remind them that they should be looking for details. If they write, “I see the sun,” they should explain what in the picture tells them it is the sun. Ask them to turn and talk with a partner to share what they noticed. Ask them to discuss how the image made them feel. What in the image made them feel this way?
  3. Project “This Morning I Pray for My Enemies” so all your students can see it. Ask them to read it silently and write down the words and phrases that jump out at them. Ask one student to read the poem aloud to the whole class while the listeners add to their list of words and phrases. Repeat this process with a second student reading aloud.
  4. Ask your students to get in groups of four and discuss what the statement “The heart is the smaller cousin of the sun” might mean. Why do they think this, based on what they know about the heart and the sun?
  5. Whole-group discussion: What do your students think it takes to turn an enemy into a friend? What do they think Joy Harjo is saying about this in the poem?

“Tree Flowers II (Baumblumen II” by Antonius Höckelmann

Tree Flowers II

Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Friends Anniversary Collection, Gift of Siegfried Gohr. http://www.harvardartmuseums.org.

Classroom Activities

  1. Project the image of the painting “Tree Flowers II (Baumblumen II)” so all your students can look at it carefully. Ask them to write down what they notice—the colors, the brush strokes, the images. If they think they see flowers, ask them to identify the colors, strokes and position of these. Give them plenty of time.
  2. Ask your students to gather in pairs and share what they noticed. If they offer an interpretation, such as “These flowers are happy,” ask them to tell their partner what details in the painting evoke this. What is their evidence? How did this painting make them feel? What, in the painting, made them feel this way?
  3. Project the poem “The Tradition” so all your students can see it. Ask them to read the poem silently and write down all the words and phrases that jump out at them, including references and words they do not know. Ask them to write down the questions they have about the poem. What do they notice about the way the poem is written?
  4. Ask one of your students to read the poem aloud to the class. Ask the listening students to add to their written list of words, phrases, and questions. Ask another student to read aloud, and have the listening students repeat the process.
  5. In groups of four, ask your students to share their words, phrases, questions, and observations about the way the poem is written.
  6. Whole-class discussions: Ask your students what questions they still have. See if the class, as a whole, can help answer them. If not, help them along. Ask your students why they think Jericho Brown writes about flowers. Are the flowers a metaphor for something else in the poem? What clues are there in the way the poem is structured? What (or who) has been cut down? What do your students think is “The Tradition”? How does the painting “Tree Flowers II (Baumblumen II)” relate to this poem? Make sure your students provide evidence for their interpretations.

Rosa Parks on a Bus in Montgomery, Alabama, December 21, 1956

Rosa Parks

New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, NYWT&S Collection, LC-DIG-ds-07979.

Classroom Activities

  1. Project the photograph of Rosa Parks on the bus without telling your students who she is. Ask them to look at the photograph carefully and write down what they see. It is not enough for them to write “I see a man and a woman.” They have to write as many details as possible about what they see. If they immediately recognize the subject of the photograph, ask them to write down what elements of the photograph tell them who this person is.
  2. Ask your students to get in pairs and to share the details they noticed. What do they think is the situation in the photograph? What details in the photograph support this interpretation?
  3. Whole-class discussion: Ask your students if they know about Rosa Parks. If some students do know, have them tell the rest of the class who she was. Add details, as necessary. If no one knows, tell them the story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, or direct them to the primary resources from the Library of Congress.
  4. Project the poem “Making History” so all of your students can see it. Ask them to read the poem silently and write down all the words and phrases that jump out at them. Ask them to write down the questions they have after reading the poem.
  5. Ask one student to read the poem aloud, while the other students listen and write down any new words, phrases, or questions. Ask another student to read the poem aloud and have the listening students follow the same process.
  6. Ask your students to get into groups of four to share their lists and help one another answer their questions. This may involve some individual/group research to discover all the “firsts” mentioned in the poem.
  7. Whole-class discussion: What is the speaker in the poem telling us is necessary to “make history?” What are the “little white lies” about which she is speaking?

Blooming Red Rose Timelapse

Classroom Activities

  1. To help your students explore the central image of both the resource and the poem, place them in groups of no more than four. Ask them to come up with a group movement that shows something opening slowly and then closing. They should rehearse this movement briefly, then each group should present their movement to the rest of the class. While each group is presenting, the rest of the class should watch and write down what they notice. Repeat this process until every group has presented.
  2. Project the timelapse image of the blooming rose so all your students can see it. As your students look at the image, ask them to write down what they notice about how the rose opens.
  3. Ask your students to gather in pairs and discuss how the opening of the rose is similar to, or different from, the characteristics they noticed from their groups’ opening and closing. What words would they use to describe the opening of the rose?
  4. Project the poem “somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond” so all your students can see it. Ask them to read it silently and write down all the things about the poem that jump out at them. Ask your students to gather in pairs again to discuss how the poem makes them feel. What in the poem fosters this feeling?
  5. Whole-class discussion: Ask your students, How does E. E. Cummings use the image of opening and closing to express love? What did you notice about E. E. Cummings’s use of punctuation? Why do you think he wrote this way? Make sure your students give specific examples from the poem.

Magnetic Fields, “The Book of Love”

This song is recommended for middle school and high school, but teachers should use their own discretion.

Classroom Activities

  1. Whip-around: Go quickly around the room asking your students for one one-word association they have with the word love. If a student does not have an idea, it is fine for them to say “pass,” but remind them you will come back to them when the rest of the class has finished.
  2. Play the audio of “The Book of Love” by Magnetic Fields. Ask your students to write down words and phrases they hear that jump out at them. Play the audio a second time. This time, ask your students to write down how this song makes them feel. What in the song makes them feel this way?
  3. Ask your students to get into pairs to share their answers to question #2.
  4. Project the poem “Love at First Sight” by Wislawa Szymborska so all your students can see it. Ask them to read the poem silently, writing down all the words and phrases they think are important. Ask one student to read the poem out loud to the class, while the listening students continue listing the words and phrases that jump out at them. Ask another student to read the poem to the class, repeating the same process.
  5. Ask your students to gather in groups of four to share what they have noticed.
  6. Whole-class discussion: What does the speaker in Szymborska’s poem say are the “signs and symbols” of love? How do these relate to the characteristics of the song “The Book of Love”? Make sure your students back up their interpretations with evidence from the poem and the song.

X-ray of the Right Hand

X-ray of the Right Hand

This image is in the public domain.

Classroom Activities

  1. Whip-around: Go around the room quickly and ask each student to share something they’d love to do when they have to choose their life’s work. If a student does not have an idea, they can say “pass” and you can go back to them when the other students have spoken.
  2. Show your students the x-ray image of the right hand. Ask them to write down what they see—the colors, the light, the dark, the clarity. Where are these aspects located in the X-ray?
  3. Project the poem “The Chance” by Arthur Sze in front of the class, so all your students can see it. Ask them to read it silently and write down all the words and phrases that jump out at them. Ask a student to read the poem aloud, while the listening students continue listing new words and phrases that draw their attention. Repeat this process while another student reads aloud.
  4. Ask for volunteers to write their lists on the front board, not repeating any words or phrases that are already written. Point out the images in the compiled list of words and phrases. Hold a discussion about the use of images and why your students think Arthur Sze uses them.
  5. Referring back to what your students said in the whip-around, ask them to think about their “clear white light [that works] against the fuzzy blurred edges of the darkness.” Have them share what they think this might be with a partner.
  6. Ask them to write a paragraph or poem about what the image of the “clear white light” means in their lives.

On the Trail: Everglades National Park

A video about "The River of Grass," home to an abundance of plants and animals, produced by CBS Sunday Morning.

Classroom Activities

  1. Show the video “On the Trail: Everglades National Park” to your students. After they see it, ask them to write down what they remember. What did they learn from this video? How do they feel about the Everglades after watching this video? Please remind them that there are no right or wrong answers to these questions.
  2. Project the poem “The Everglades” by Campbell McGrath in front of the class, so all your students can see it. Ask them to read it silently and write down what they notice in the poem, including all the words, phrases, and structures that ring out to them. Ask a student to read the poem aloud to the class.  Ask the listening students to continue adding to their lists during this reading. Repeat this process with another student reading out loud.
  3. Ask your students to turn and talk with a partner about what they noticed in the poem. What do they learn from the poem? How do they feel about the Everglades after reading and hearing this poem?  Ask them to provide evidence from the poem to support their answers.
  4. Whole-class discussion: What do they remember from watching the video? What do they remember from the poem? How is the language in the poem different from that in the video? What do they think is the function of these different types of language?

Martin Luther King, Jr., Montgomery, Alabama

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dan Weiner (1919–1959). Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Transfer from the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Beinecke Fund.

Classroom Activities

  1. Show your class the photograph of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Ask them to write down what they notice about the way he is posed, about the look on his face. If they write down an interpretation (for instance, “He looks like he is thinking”), ask them to provide evidence from the photograph that supports this.
  2. Have a whole-class discussion about who Martin Luther King, Jr., was and what happened to him.  Why do your students think he looks the way he does in this photograph?
  3. Project the poem “won’t you celebrate with me” by Lucille Clifton in front the class, so all your students can see it. Ask your students to write down what they find interesting in the words, phrases, and structure of the poem. Ask a student to read the poem aloud to the class. Ask the listening students to add new words and phrases that they hear to what they have written. Repeat this process with a second student reading the poem aloud.
  4. Ask your students to gather in small groups and share what they noticed about the poem and how it is written. Remind them to use evidence from the poem when making an interpretation.
  5. Hold another whole-class discussion: What do both the photograph and the poem remind us of? Why is this important to remember in today’s world?

“Ottendorfer, Stacks and desk”

 “Ottendorfer, Stacks and desk”

Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "Ottendorfer, Stacks and desk" New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org.

Classroom Activities

  1. Project the photograph “Ottendorfer Stacks and Desk” in front of the class so all your students can see it. Ask them to write down what they notice in the image. Have them list as many specific things as possible. Ask them to share what they wrote down with a partner and to add to their lists as they learn more.
  2. Ask your students to gather in small groups and discuss how the photograph makes them feel about the thought of walking to the back of the library stacks. Ask them to talk about specific details that contribute to this feeling.
  3. Project the poem “Chance” by Molly Peacock in front of the class so all your students can see it. Ask them to read it silently to themselves two times. The second time have them write down what jumps out at them in this poem, including words, phrases, and structural details. Also, ask them to write down the words they don’t know and other questions they might have about this poem.
  4. Ask one student to read the poem aloud to the class. Have the other students continue adding to their lists while listening. Repeat this process with a second reader.
  5. Ask your students to gather in small groups and share their lists and questions. Group members should help one another with words they do not know.
  6. Whole-class discussion: Ask your students to think both about the photograph of the library stacks and their lists of words and phrases from the poem. Ask them to use these as resources and think about what it may mean or feel like “to find yourself.” What does Molly Peacock seem to think is important in this journey? What do your students think is important in this journey?

Classroom Activities

Resource: Student lists of things they accomplished in the past year and things they wanted to accomplish, but did not.

  1. Ask your students to make a list of things they accomplished in the past year and things they wanted to accomplish, but did not. (Perhaps this could be a homework assignment.) In class, have them share their lists with a partner.
  2. Project the poem “Burning the Old Year” by Naomi Shihab Nye so all your students can see it. Ask them to read it silently and write down all the words and phrases that jump out at them. Ask a student to read the poem aloud while the listening students list more words and phrases that ring out to them. Ask another student to read the poem aloud and repeat the process.
  3. Ask your students to gather in small groups and share what they noticed in the poem. How does what they noticed tell them something about transitioning from the old to the new year?
  4. Whole-class discussion: Ask your students if they think Naomi Shihab Nye is really burning something. How is she using the idea of burning? Introduce the idea of metaphor here. What does the metaphor tell us?
  5. Ask your students to write an essay about what they did not accomplish last year that they plan to accomplish in 2017. They should include a fairly detailed description of how they plan to do this.

 

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?

"Orion on Film"

\"Orion on Film\"

“Orion on Film” by Matthew Spinelli. NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day Collection. 7 February 2003. apod.nasa.gov.

Classroom Activites

  1. Project the image of Orion as large as you possibly can for students to experience. Ask them to gaze at it for a few minutes. Then ask them to write down what they see and how it makes them feel. What is it about the image that makes them feel this way?
  2. Ask your students to turn and talk with a partner about what they wrote down.
  3. Project the poem “Wonder and Joy” by Robinson Jeffers so all your students can see it. Ask them to read it silently to themselves twice. The first time they should just read it through. The second time, ask them to write down the things about the poem that seem special.
  4. Ask one student to read the poem aloud to the class. The listening students should write down new things they notice that seem special in the poem. Ask another student to read the poem aloud, with the listeners once again writing down what they notice.
  5. Whole-class discussion: What kinds of things does Jeffers think “one grows tired of”? What do your students grow tired of in their lives? What does Jeffers think makes a person fortunate? Do your students agree?
  6. If you and your students are interested in rhyme and form, you might want to plot out the rhyme scheme in this poem and have a discussion about the sonnet form.

Family

Family

Copyright © 2010 by Danielle Legros Georges.

Classroom Activities

  1. Warm up: Go quickly around the room and ask your students to use one word that represents what they know about Haiti. It is all right if they say “nothing” or decide to pass on their turn.
  2. Project the image of a Haitian family so the whole class can see it. Ask your students to look at the image closely and write down what they see—not what they think they see, but what they actually see. If they write down, for example, that someone looks confident, they must give evidence from the image of what makes them think the person looks that way. Ask them to share what they noticed with a partner.
  3. Project “Poem for the Poorest Country in the Western Hemisphere” by Danielle Legros Georges so all your students can see the poem. Ask them to read it silently and write down the words and phrases that jump out at them.
  4. Ask one student to read the poem aloud to the class, while the listeners jot down new words and/or phrases that jump out.  Repeat this process with a second student reading aloud.
  5. Ask your students to gather in groups of four and discuss what they noticed in the image and in the poem. How are these things similar and/or different?
  6. Continue the small group discussion on what your students discovered. You may want to prompt them to look for the internal rhymes (rhyming words that may occur within lines instead of only at line ends). Consider pointing out one instance of this to your students, then asking them to identify others.
  7. Whole-class discussion: Ask your students what they have learned from Georges’s poem and the photograph. Does the imagery evoked by the poem say the same things as the imagery in the photograph? If so, what? Does the imagery say something different? If so, what? (Make sure your students use evidence from their experience of the poem and the photograph to support their answers.)

Snow by John Singer Sargent

Snow by John Singer Sargent

Snow, by John Singer Sargent (1856–1925). Date: 1909–1911. Medium: Watercolor and graphite on white wove paper. Dimensions: 11 5/8 x 14 in. Gift of Mrs. Francis Ormond, 1950. www.metmuseum.org.

Classroom Activities

  1. Project the image of John Singer Sargent’s Snow so all your students can see it. What do they notice about how Sargent painted the snow? What are the colors? The strokes? The lines? Have them make a list of what they see.
  2. Ask your students to pair up and discuss how this piece of art makes them feel about snow. Ask them to talk about the techniques they think Sargent used to make them feel this way.
  3. Project “The Snowfall Is So Silent” for everyone to see.  Ask your students to read the poem silently, writing down all the words and phrases that ring out to them. Ask one student to read the poem aloud to the class as the listeners continue to write down additional words and phrases that ring out. Repeat this process with another student reading aloud.
  4. Ask each pair from #2 above to find another pair to form a group of four. Ask each group to discuss words and phrases that rang out to them in the poem. How does the poem make them feel about snow? Do they think that is what Miguel de Unamuno might be saying? What evidence can they cite in the words and phrases they just discussed to support what they think and feel?
  5. Hold a whole-class discussion: After looking at both the drawing and the poem, and discussing what they saw and felt, what do your students think are several ways people can think/feel about snow? How are the drawing and the poem similar and/or different?

Billie Holiday Sings "Willow Weep for Me"

Listen to musical legend Billie Holiday sing the song "Willow Weep for Me," written by Ann Ronell.

Classroom Activities

  1. Ask your students to listen to the recording of Billie Holiday singing “Willow Weep for Me” twice.  The first time, just ask them to listen. After listening, they should write down what they remember about the willow and the image of it they have in their head, and they should also record how they feel after hearing the song. While listening to the song a second time, they should write down the images that jump out at them.
  2. Next, ask your students to gather in groups of four or fewer and to create a tableau, or a still picture, using their bodies.  This tableau should depict the willow tree and be based on their experience with the song. (Remind them there is no right or wrong way to do this.)  Ask them to present their trees to the other class members. The students who are watching should keep track of what they notice in the tableaux.
  3. Project “Willow Poem” from Poets.org so all your students can see it.  Ask them to read it silently and write down all the words and phrases that jump out at them.  Ask one student to read the poem aloud to the class, while the others add new phrases and/or words to their lists.  Ask a second student to read aloud and repeat the process.
  4. Ask your students to gather back in their small groups.  Based on what they read, ask them to create a tableau of the willow tree in William Carlos Williams’s poem.  Ask them to repeat the same process of presenting and noticing that they did with the willow tree in the song.
  5. Whole-class discussion:  Ask your students to cite the notes they’ve taken to discuss the following questions: What image was conveyed by the use of the willow in the song, and how did the song accomplish this image? What image was conveyed by the willow in Williams’s poem, and what words and/or phrases helped create this image?
  6. Discuss the Imagist movement in poetry with your class.

Enamorada (1946)

Filmed in 1946 and set during the Mexican Revolution, Enamorada was directed by Emilio Fernández and stars María Félix and Pedro Amendariz.

View the clip beginning at 32:23 and ending at 33:51.

 

Classroom Activities

  1. Show your students a clip from the film Enamorada (1946) twice, beginning at 32:23 and ending at 33:51. The first time they should simply watch the clip straight through. The second time, ask them to write down what they notice in the video. (It doesn’t make any difference if they can’t understand the Spanish.  There is much to notice without understanding the words.)
  2. Turn and talk:  Ask your students to talk with the person next to them about what they saw in the video and what they think it means.  Ask them to back up their interpretations with what they specifically noticed in the video.
  3. Project the poem “When There Were Ghosts” by Alberto Ríos.  Ask your students to read it silently while writing down words and phrases they think are important.  Ask one student to read the poem aloud to the class while the listening students add new words and phrases that might be important to their lists.  Repeat this process as another student reads aloud.
  4. Turn and talk:  Ask your students to talk with their partners about what jumped out to them in the poem.  How does it relate the video clip they saw earlier?
  5. Whole-class discussion:  What do your students think Ríos means in the last two stanzas of his poem?  What do they think he means by the “dance of the dream?”

Classroom Activities

  1. Ask your students to go to http://www.amphibianark.org/education/what-are-amphibians and read about amphibians and their context in the world. Have them keep a record of the important words and phrases they read. Also have them record words they do not understand.
  2. Ask your students to turn and talk with a partner about what they’ve learned about amphibians and any questions they might have. Ask them to try to figure out the meaning of new words together.
  3. Project Joseph O.Legaspi’s poem “Amphibians” in front of the classroom. Have your students read the poem silently, using the same process they did for Amphibianarc.
  4. Ask a student to read the poem out loud to the class, as the listeners repeat the process they used for the written poem. Repeat this again, with a second student reading.
  5. Ask your students to gather in small groups and discuss what experiences amphibians and immigrants have in common.
  6. Conduct a whole-class discussion: What point is Joseph O. Legaspi trying to make? Is he making a point about immigrants? About amphibians? Or both? Are amphibians a successful metaphor for immigrants? Make sure your students cite evidence from their notes and discussions.

Classroom Activities

  1. Whip-around:  Go around the room and ask your students to describe their reaction (using appropriate language) to the 2016 Presidential election in no more than two or three words.
  2.  Ask your students to read the entry in the online Encyclopedia Britannica for the Presidential Election of 1884. Make sure they write down the most important and interesting things that jump out at them as they read. (Have them keep a running list of vocabulary words they don’t know while they are reading.)
  3. Ask your students to get in small groups and discuss what they learned from their reading. Have them work together to figure out the meaning of the vocabulary words. In addition, have them help one another frame questions about this election.
  4. Project Walt Whitman’s poem “Election Day, November, 1884” in front of the class. Ask one student to read the poem out loud to the class as all the students read along and write down what jumps out at them. Ask another student to read the poem out loud, while the listeners follow the same procedure, adding new words and phrases to their lists.
  5. Hold a whole-class discussion: What jumped out at your students from the poem? Ask your students what they think Whitman was saying about the Presidential election of 1884; remind them to use the words and phrases in their lists as evidence for their statements. How was the election of 1884 similar to, or different from, the election of 2016?
  6. Ask your students to write a paragraph or poem that includes their reaction to, and questions about, the 2016 Presidential election.

 

Classroom Activities

  1. Project the image of Isadora Duncan above for your students to see, alongside the additional three images in the slideshow.
  2. Ask your students to look carefully at each image and to write down what strikes them about the clothing of the person depicted.  Then ask them to think about which type of clothing they might see a ghost wear.
  3. Ask your students to gather in small groups and share their thoughts about ghostly costumes.  Ask them to back up these opinions with what they already know or imagine about ghosts.
  4. Project the poem “Ghosts and Fashion” so your students can read it easily.  Ask your students to read the poem silently twice.  The first time, they should read it straight through.  The second time, ask them to write down the words and phrases that jump out at them.  Make sure they include the words they don’t know so you can go over them later in the lesson.
  5. Ask a student to read the poem aloud to the class.  The listening students should write down new words and phrases that jump out when they hear the poem read. Ask another student to read the poem aloud, and repeat the same process.
  6. Ask your students to discuss the poem in pairs. How do the last three lines differ from the rest of the poem? Remind them to cite the notes they took while reading and listening to the poem. 
  7. Ask your students to use their imaginations to write how they, like visual artists and poets, would clothe the “ghost” of a loved one. How will the clothes the ghost wears tell us something more about the person?

Classroom Activities

  1. Whip-around:  Ask your students to share the country where they were born and one thing they remember about their life in that place.
  2. Play the audio recording of “We All Return to the Place Where We Were Born” in English and Spanish three times (click on the audio icon beside the poem on Poets.org). The first time, ask your students to write down the words and phrases that jump out at them in either language. The second time, ask them to listen to the sounds of the poem in English and write down what they hear. The third time, ask them to listen to the poem in Spanish and write down what they hear, even if they do not understand the words.
  3. Project the poem “We All Return to the Place Where We Were Born” in front of the class and have your students read the English version and write down additional words and phrases that jump out at them. Then ask those students who speak Spanish to write down the words and phrases in Spanish that jump out at them.
  4. Ask your students to get in pairs and discuss the following questions: What did you learn about how Oscar Gonzales feels about the place where he was born and his childhood there?  How about the place where he is now?
  5. Ask your students to gather in groups of four and discuss with one another what they learned from listening and reading the poem first in English and then in Spanish. Ask them about the sounds they heard in the Spanish version of the poem. What sounds are heard most in the first part of the poem? In the second? How do these sounds reinforce the meaning of the poem?

Ellis Island, N.Y. Line Inspection of Arriving Aliens, 1923

From the National Archives. Date: 1923. Medium: Photograph. https://catalog.archives.gov

Classroom Activities

  1. Show your students the photograph and ask them to write down what they notice. Remind them to write what they actually see, not their interpretations of what they see.
  2. Ask them to turn and talk with a partner about what they noticed and any connections they made to themselves, to others, and to other texts.
  3. Ask them for questions they might have about the photograph. Write these questions on the board to revisit after reading “The Buttonhook.”
  4. Watch Mary Jo Salter read her poem twice (click the video icon beside the poem). The first time, have your students experience the reading. The second time, ask them to write down what they noticed, the connections they made, and any questions.
  5. Ask your students to read the poem silently. Have them write down what they notice about the lines and the spacing of the words on the page, as well as the words and phrases that jump out at them.
  6. Hold a whole-class discussion based on what your students noticed in both the video and text versions and the connections they made. Also ask for questions they still have. Some prompts to try: What are the feelings in the poem? How did Mary Jo Salter get us to feel that way? What techniques did she use? How are the video and text versions similar or different?

Classroom Activities

Resource: Have your students bring in a piece of clothing that they love and about which they want to write.

  1. Tell your students that they are going to read a poem by Pablo Neruda in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Ask them, as a way of preparing to read this poem, to think of a piece of clothing from home that they love and can easily bring to school. (You might have to remind older students that this piece of clothing needs to be appropriate.) This piece of clothing should also be something they are willing to share with their peers.
  2. When your students have brought in their special piece of clothing, ask them to write a short list (or paragraph) that describes in detail how the clothing looks. Then ask them to add what they love about it and why.
  3. Project the poem “Ode to My Socks” by Pablo Neruda in front of the class. Ask your students to read it closely and to write down all the words and phrases that jump out at them.
  4. Ask one student in the class to read the poem aloud. Ask the listening students to jot down the new words and phrases they notice when they hear the poem read. Repeat this process with another student reading the poem aloud.
  5. After your students have compiled their lists, ask them to turn to a partner and share what they noticed. Ask them to discuss what Neruda does to make us love his socks as much as he does, using their compilations to assist them.
  6. Have a whole-class discussion, based on the concept of an ode. Why do your students think Neruda wrote odes to common things, such as socks?
  7. Ask your students to write an ode (or paragraph) praising the piece of clothing they have brought from home.

Autumn’s Grey and Melancholy by Henry Farrer

Autumn's Grey and Melancholy by Henry Farrer

Autumn's Grey and Melancholy by Henry Farrer (1844–1903). Date: 1884. Medium: Etching. Dimensions: 3 7/8 x 6 inches. Credit Line: Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1917. www.metmuseum.org.

Classroom Activities

  1. Project the image of Autumn’s Grey and Melancholy for your whole class to see. Leave the image up for several minutes and ask your students to write down what they see.
  2. Zoom in on a part of the image so your students can see more of the details. Again ask them to write down what they see.
  3. Pair share: What does zooming in tell your students about how the artist created the etching—not only in terms of the content, but also the feeling/tone?
  4. Project the poem “The Plain Sense of Things” by Wallace Stevens  in front of the class. Ask your students to read it twice silently. The first time, they should just read it through. The second time, they should jot down the words and phrases that jump out at them, including things they do not, initially, understand.
  5. Ask two students, one after the other, to read the poem out loud to the class. Have the listeners add to their list of words and phrases that jump out at them.
  6. Ask your students to gather in small groups to discuss what they think the poem is about. Ask them to provide evidence from the things they’ve written down that supports their interpretation.
  7. Whole-class discussion: Is autumn the end of the imagination, or the beginning of it?

Classroom Activities

Resource:
Enough fresh blackberries so that each student in your class can have one or two.

  1. Tell your students that the poet Galway Kinnell liked to use words that he said had “mouth feel.” Give your students one or two blackberries to eat slowly. Have them think of words that describe what it feels like to eat the berries, paying close attention to the words that sound like what it feels like to eat them. Ask them to quickly write down their words.
  2. Project the poem “Blackberry Eating” in front of the class. Ask your students to read it twice silently. As they read it the second time, have them write down the words and phrases in the poem that jump out at them.
  3. Ask one of your students to read the poem aloud to the class. Ask the listening students to write down additional words and phrases that jump out at them. Repeat this process with a second student reading aloud to the class.
  4. Ask your students to gather in small groups and share their lists of words with one another. Which of their words have “mouth feel”? Which of the words they wrote down in Activity 1 have “mouth feel”?
  5. Ask your students to write a paragraph or poem about a favorite food using words that have “mouth feel” to describe the eating experience.
  6. Ask for volunteers to share their work (and maybe their food) with the class.

Rabbit in the Garden

Rabbit in the garden

Classroom Activities

  1. Project the image of the rabbit in the garden. Ask your students to look closely at the image.
  2. Ask them to write down answers to the following questions: What do they notice in the photograph? How does it make them feel? What associations do they have with this image of a rabbit in a garden?
  3. Have your students turn and talk with a partner about their responses to the above questions, using evidence that they have written down. Make sure both students get a chance to talk while they are in pairs.
  4. Hold a whole-class discussion where your students share their reactions to the photo and their evidence.
  5. Project “A Small Needful Fact” by Ross Gay from Poets.org. Ask your students to read it twice silently. The first time, they should read the poem through. The second time, they should write down the words and phrases that jump out at them.
  6. Ask a student to read the poem aloud to the class. Have the listening students write down new things they notice with this reading. Repeat this process while a second student reads aloud.
  7. Hold a whole-class discussion: What words and phrases does Ross Gay repeat to keep the rhythm of the poem moving? Why does he use the image of Garner’s role as a gardener? How do your reactions to the photograph of the rabbit in the garden help you understand the poem? Why does he end with breathing? What do your students think Gay is saying about Eric Garner? What is their evidence from their reading and listening to the poem?

Elizabeth Bradfield Reads "Pursuit"

Classroom Activities

  1. Ask your students to imagine something they did over the summer and have them “paint a picture” in their imaginations of what happened. Have them write a short paragraph describing the event, the people who were there, and the setting, in as much detail as possible, so someone else can see the scene in their “mind’s eye.”
  2. Ask your students to share what they wrote with a partner. If the partner has trouble envisioning the scene, she should ask the writer to add more detail to help her “see” it better. Make sure both partners have time to share their work and provide feedback to each other.
  3. Project the poem “Pursuit” in front of the class. Ask them to read the poem twice silently.  The first time, they should simply read the poem all the way through. The second time, they should write down all the words and phrases that help them envision the scene.
  4. Ask one student to read the poem aloud to the class. Have the listening students write down additional words and phrases that jump out at them to describe the scene.
  5. Play the audio of Elizabeth Bradfield reading her poem. Ask your students to write down additional things they hear from her reading.
  6. Have your students gather in small groups and discuss what they think Bradfield did in her poem to have them envision the scene on the Provincetown pier.
  7. Hold a whole-class discussion:  What happens in the last three lines of the poem? (You can introduce the idea of a turn, if you’d like.)  What do your students think the speaker in the poem is trying to tell us about herself, her relationship to MacMillan, and the teenagers who are jumping from the pier?

 

Skunk

Skunk

Photo credit: Public domain.

Naomi Shihab Nye Reads “Valentine for Ernest Mann”

Classroom Activities

  1. Project the image of the skunk so all your students can see it. Have them look at the image for several minutes, then ask them to write a detailed description of anything they think is beautiful about this animal. The description should make us feel that what they have seen is beautiful.
  2. Divide your students into pairs. Ask your students to read their descriptions to their partners. The listening partner should tell the reader whether or not she felt the beauty of this part of the skunk and offer suggestions to help the writer describe its beauty. Make sure both students have a chance to be both readers and responders.
  3. Project the poem “Valentine for Ernest Mann” so all your students can see it. Ask them to read the poem silently twice. The first time, they should simply read it through. The second time, they should write down the words and phrases that jump out at them.
  4. Ask one of your students to read the poem aloud to the class. Have your students write down anything new that they hear in the poem after having heard it.
  5. Show your students the video of Naomi Shihab Nye reading her poem. Ask them to add items to their list of what they notice about the poem after watching Naomi Shihab Nye’s reading. What words and phrases does she emphasize, if any?
  6. What does Shihab Nye mean when she says, “Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us / we find poems…?”
  7. Ask your students to look for an item that they don’t think is particularly beautiful. Have them bring it to class and look at it for a long while. Ask them to “reinvent” the object with either a detailed description or a poem.

Four Trees by John Kovacich

Four Trees by John Kovacich

Photo credit: Public domain.

Trees by David Johnson

Trees by David Johnson

Trees by David Johnson (1827–1908). Date: 1886. Medium: Black ink washes and graphite on off-white wove paper. Dimensions: 18 7/16 x 12 7/8 inches. Credit Line: Purchase, Charles and Anita Blatt Gift, 1968. www.metmuseum.org

Classroom Activities

  1. Project the image of the photograph “Four Trees” by John Kovacich so all your students can see it. Ask them to write down all that they notice in the photograph.
  2. Project the image of the painting “Trees” by David Johnson. On a separate piece of paper, ask your students to write down all that they notice in the painting.
  3. Ask your students to get in groups of four to five and discuss the similarities and differences between the images of the photograph and the painting.
  4. Conduct a whole-class discussion: What do we experience (cognitively and emotionally) from the image of the photograph? What do we experience (cognitively and emotionally) from the image of the painting? To what do your students attribute the differences?
  5. Project the poem “Crows” by Marilyn Nelson in front of the class. Ask your students to read it once, silently. Ask them to read it a second time, writing down the words and phrases that jump out at them.
  6. Ask one of your students to read the poem aloud to the class. Ask the listening students to write down additional words and phrases they notice when they hear the poem read.
  7. Ask another student to read the poem aloud, and have the listening students write down new words and phrases they notice. Have your students turn and talk with a partner about what they have seen and heard in the different readings of the poem.
  8. Conduct a whole-class discussion: As they think about the images of the trees, as well as the words and phrases in the poem that jumped out at them, what do your students think Marilyn Nelson might mean when she talks about “…the hand-created taste of leftover macaroons / The instant sparks in the earth’s awareness”?

South Miami Beach

South Miami Beach

Photo Credit: Public domain.

Classroom Activities

  1. Project the photograph of the beach so all your students can see it.
  2. Ask your students to gaze at the picture and imagine they were standing or sitting just in front of the waves. What would they see? Hear? Smell? Have them write down what they imagine.
  3. What associations do they make with sitting at the beach? Ask your students to write these down, as well.
  4. Project the poem “maggie and milly and molly and may” by E. E. Cummings so all your students can see it. Ask your students to read the poem silently and circle all the words, phrases, and images that jump out at them.
  5. Ask your students to get into groups of no more than four people. Have two students in each group read the poem aloud to the other two students. Ask the listening students to write down anything new that they hear. Reverse the process so that the listening students get a chance to read, and the reading students get a chance to listen and write.
  6. Whole-class discussion: Ask your students if they agree with the last two lines of the poem. Make sure they cite ideas from their own writings, as well as evidence from the poem to back up their ideas.

Lane with Poplars Near Nuenen

Lane with Poplars Near Nuenen

Lane with Poplars Near Nuenen by Vincent van Gogh (Netherlands). Date: 1885. Medium: Oil on canvas. Credit Line: public domain.

Classroom Activities

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. How do your students think van Gogh and Hopkins would feel about today’s environmental movement?

Bear Glacier

Bear Glacier. Photo credit: Jim Pfeiffenberger, National Park Service.

Photo credit: Jim Pfeiffenberger, National Park Service.

Classroom Activities

  1. Project the image of Bear Glacier so all your students can see it. Give them several minutes to look at it, and then ask them to imagine what they might see in this environment. Have them write these down. What other things do they associate or imagine when they look at this photograph? Ask them to let their imaginations roam free. They should not limit themselves to what might really be in this environment. Make sure they write down these associations and imaginings.
  2. Project the poem “Unpacking a Globe” by Arthur Sze from Poets.org. Ask your students to read it silently and write down the words, images, and phrases that jump out at them. Ask ten students to read the poem out loud, each student reading one of the couplets in the poem. Ask the listening students to write down what they hear that is new to them. Repeat this process with ten new students reading the couplets.
  3. Have your students get in small groups and ask them to share the words, images, and phrases that they wrote down. Where do they see Arthur Sze’s imagination working?
  4. Whole-class discussion: What do your students think the poet means by the last two lines in the poem? Based on the discussions your students had in their small groups, how does this poem illustrate what the last lines say?
  5. Ask your students to write a poem (or paragraph) that uses the images they imagined, both free and/or appropriate to the Bear Glacier environment, to make a point that is important to them.

Video: Amaryllis Growing, Flowering and Decaying, Time-Lapse

Classroom Activities

  1. Show your students the video “Amaryllis Growing, Flowering and Decaying, Time-Lapse” twice. The first time, they should watch the entire video. The second time, ask them to write down as many details as they can about the growth of the amaryllis bulb. Ask your students to share their details with a partner.
  2. Project the poem “The Metier of Blossoming” so all your students can see it. Explain that métier is a French word. Ask if any of your students know the meaning. If not, help them look it up. Ask your students to read the poem silently and write down the words and phrases that jump out at them. Ask one student to read the poem aloud. The listening students should add new words and phrases that they notice to their lists. Ask a second student to read the poem aloud, with the others following the same process.
  3. Ask your students: What are the vivid words Denise Levertov uses to describe the growth of the amaryllis? Why does she say growth is its “métier”? In what ways does Denise Levertov compare and contrast human growth to amaryllis growth? What is the evidence for this in the poem?

 

Classroom Activities

Resources
Four to five groups of the following materials:
• three boxes of different shapes and sizes
• cardboard roll from paper towel or gift wrap
• scissors
• one roll of packing tape
• string

  1. The week before you study the poem with your students, ask for volunteers to bring in a total of four to five paper-towel or gift-wrap rolls, and fifteen medium-sized boxes (no more than 12 by 18 inches).
  2. Divide your class into small groups of no more than five students each. Give each group a set of the materials listed above in the Resources section.
  3. Tell the groups they will have twenty minutes to collaborate in building a birdhouse using the materials they have. They must make it as sturdy and long-lasting as they can.
  4. When they’ve finished, ask one person from each group to present the birdhouse to the class, with a description of the collaborative process they used and how the group felt about it.
  5. Project the poem “The Tree Sparrows” by Joseph O. Legaspi from Poets.org so that all your students can see it. Ask your students to read it silently and write down the words and phrases that jump out at them. Ask one student to read the poem aloud. The listening students should add new words and phrases that they notice to their lists. Ask a second student to read aloud, with the others follow the same process.
  6. Whole-class discussion: How did your students feel as they were trying to build sturdy birdhouses? What is Joseph O. Legaspi saying is necessary to make a home sturdy? Remind your students to cite evidence from the poem for their answers.

Carolina Wren, from the American Bird Conservancy

Classroom Activities

  1. Project the image of the Carolina Wren and play its song.  (Do not mention you are playing its song.) Ask your students to write down what they notice in the order that they notice it. Project the image and the song again. Ask your students to follow the same procedure.
  2. Ask your students to turn and talk with a partner about what they noticed first. What was the last thing they noticed? Then hold a whole-class discussion to see what most people noticed first and last. If no one mentions the sound of the wren, play the call of the wren for them.  What do they notice about the call? What associations do they have with the call?
  3. Project “The Carolina Wren” by Laura Donnelly so all your students can read it silently. Ask them to write down words and phrases that jump out at them.
  4. Ask one student to read the poem aloud to the class. Ask the listeners to jot down what jumps out. Ask a second student to read the poem aloud. Have your students write down new things they hear in the poem.
  5. What associations does Laura Donnelly make with the sound of the wren?
  6. Why do your students think she is “Pinned and spinning in the sound of it?”

Classroom Activities

Resources:  Dried lima beans, clear plastic cups, paper towels, water, potting soil.

  1. Start this activity approximately one week before you and your students read the poem together:  Soak enough dried lima beans in warm water for twenty-four hours, so that each student in your class can have three or four. Have your students place their lima beans between a wet paper towel and the inside of a plastic cup. Place the cups on a sunny windowsill. Keep the paper towels moist (not soaking wet) until the beans start to send out small shoots.

    When the beans have medium-sized roots (one inch or so), ask your students to take the lima beans out of the paper towel, remove the paper towels from the cup, and fill the cup with potting soil. They should then plant the lima beans, roots down in the soil, stems and any small leaves above the soil. Place the cups back on the windowsill so your students can watch the beans grow.
     
  2. After your students first place their beans on the windowsill, ask them to check the beans each day and write a description of what they see happening with the beans. They should continue to do this even after the beans are in soil, until they have grown and sprouted leaves.
  3. Project the poem “Putting in the Seed” by Robert Frost so all your students can see it. Ask them to read it silently, writing down all the words and phrases that jump out at them.
  4. Ask one of your students to read the poem aloud to the class. The listening students should write down new words and phrases that they think are important. Follow this process with a second student reading aloud.
  5. Conduct a whole-class discussion: How did Robert Frost feel about planting seeds and watching them grow? From what you recorded in your notes, what, in the poem, lets us know how he felt? Ask your students how they felt watching their lima beans grow. What words did they write down to describe the growth that would let us know how they felt?
  6. Ask your students to write a descriptive paragraph that shows how their beans grew and how they felt about it. (Remind them about “show don’t tell.”)

Garden

Garden

Borneo River Toad

Borneo River Toad

Credit: California Academy of Sciences

Classroom Activities

  1. Ask your students to look at the image of the garden for several minutes and to write down all the words that would help someone imagine the garden in their “mind’s eye.”
  2. Similarly, ask your students to look at the image of the Borneo River toad and write down all the details they can about what a toad really looks like.
  3. Using the details you collected in activities 1 and 2, have your students place their toad in the garden and write four lines that would make us imagine that there is a real toad in their imaginary garden.
  4. Project “Poetry” by Marianne Moore so that all your students can see it. Ask them to read it silently and write down the words, phrases, and images that jump out at them. What do they notice about the structure of the poem?
  5. Ask two students to read the poem aloud, one after the other, paying attention to the line breaks as they read. What do the listening students hear that they did not notice before as they were silently reading?
  6. Conduct a whole-class discussion: What does Marianne Moore really think about poetry? What does she mean by “imaginary gardens with real toads in them?” What role does Marianne Moore think poetry plays in life? Make sure your students use evidence from their writing and reading of the poem to support their answers.

Classroom Activities

  1. The day before you teach this lesson, ask your students to find a favorite poem to bring into class. (This can be done either in class or as homework.)
  2. Have your students get into small groups and share their poems with each other. Ask them to discuss what they like about their poems, and what makes their choice a poem and not a paragraph.
  3. Project “Ars Poetica” by Archibald MacLeish so your students can read it. Ask them to read it silently and write down all the words, phrases, and images that jump out at them.
  4. Ask one student to read the first stanza of the poem aloud, a second student the second stanza, and a third student the third stanza. Repeat this process with three different students. Have the listening students write down additional words, phrases, and images that jump out at them as they hear the stanzas read.
  5. Ask your students to share with their group what they have written.
  6. Hold a whole-class discussion: What does Archibald MacLeish mean when he says, “A poem should not mean / But be.”? What evidence do they have for what they noticed in the poem to support their answers?

A Mile of Trash Quickly Disappears

A Mile of Trash Quickly Disappears

From "A Mile of Trash Quickly Disappears." The Elkhart Truth, March 22, 2013.

Classroom Activities

  1. Show your students the photograph of trash near the railroad tracks from The Elkhart Truth. Ask them to look at it twice—the first time to get a feel for what is going on in the photograph. The second time, ask them to write down the details of what they see.
  2. Ask your students to write a paragraph describing what they see in the photograph and their reaction to it.
  3. Project the image of Ruth Stone’s poem “Always on the Train.” Ask your students to read it silently and write down the words, phrases, and images that jump out at them.
  4. Ask two students to read the poem aloud, one after the other. Have the listening students write down new words, phrases, and images that jump out at them that they did not hear before.
  5. Ask your students to get into small groups and to share what they wrote down from the two readings. Tell them this is important to the next discussion.
  6. From what they read and heard, what do they the poet is saying about the trash in the poem?
  7. If it does not come up naturally, ask them why they think Ruth Stone talks about the “black high flung patterns of flocking birds.”

“Birds in Snow” by Chris Burke

Classroom Activities

  1. Show your students the video “Birds in Snow” twice. The first time ask them to watch the video straight through. The second time, ask them to write down what they see in as much detail as possible.
  2. Ask your students to polish their lists into a paragraph that is a vivid description of what they saw in the video.
  3. Project the poem “Because You Asked about the Line Between Prose and Poetry” by Howard Nemerov so all your students can read it. Ask your students to read it silently, writing down all the words and phrases that jump out at them.
  4. Ask one of your students to read the poem aloud to the class. The listening students should write down new words and phrases they hear that they think are important. Follow this process with a second student reading aloud.
  5. Ask one of your students to read the poem aloud to the class. The listening students should write down new words and phrases they hear that they think are important. Follow this process with a second student reading aloud.
  6. Conduct a whole-class discussion based on the notes they have just taken:  What might be the line (or difference) between prose and poetry that Nemerov refers to in his title? Make sure your students cite evidence from the poem to support their interpretations.

Diagram of the Human Skeleton

Diagram of the Human Skeleton

 

 

 

 

 

Jane Hirshfield Reads Her Poem "My Skeleton."

Classroom Activities

  1. Show your students the labeled image of the human skeleton. Ask them to write down what they see in the skeleton.
  2. Project the poem “My Skeleton” by Jane Hirshfield in front of the class. Ask your students to read it through silently and circle all the words and phrases that jump out at them.
  3. Ask one student to read the poem aloud paying attention to the structure of the poem on the page, followed by a second student reading the poem aloud with the same instruction. Have the students who are listening add anything else that jumps out at them to their notes.
  4. Show your students the video of Jane Hirshfield reading her poem and talking about what inspired her to write it.
  5. Ask your students to turn and talk with a partner about what they noticed in Hirshfield’s poem after the first four activities.
  6. Ask your students to look at the image of the human skeleton again. Hold a whole-class discussion: Do they notice anything differently about the way they look at the skeleton after experiencing the poem? If so, what is different.

 

Classroom Activities

  1. Play the audio recording of Lucille Clifton reading “sisters” twice. The first time, ask your students to listen. The second time, ask them to write down the words and phrases that jump out at them. What words and phrases does Clifton emphasize? How does she emphasize them? Why do they think she emphasize these words in that way?
  2. Project the poem “sisters” in the front of the classroom for your students to read. Ask one student to read the poem out loud to the class, followed by a second student. Have the listening students write down additional words and phrases, if any, that jump out at them.
  3. Ask your students to get in small groups and to talk about the following: Why do they think Clifton does not use capital letters? Why does she use the type of language she does? What poetic techniques does she use, e.g. repetition, rhyme, etc.?
  4. In a whole-class discussion, ask your students what they think Clifton is saying on the surface of the poem. What is the message underlying it?

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Classroom Activities

  1. Project the poem “The Hand” by Mary Ruefle in front of the classroom. Ask your students to read the poem silently and write down the words, phrases, and images that jump out at them.
  2. Ask two students to read the poem aloud, one after the other. Make sure your students add what they noticed from the oral reading to their notes from their silent reading.
  3. Next, ask your students if anyone in the class knows who Edgar Degas was. If so, ask them to share what they know with the rest of the class. If no one knows, tell your students who he was and emphasize that he was an artist.
  4. Play the audio recording of Philip Levine reading  “M. Degas Teaches Art & Science at Durfee Intermediate School, Detroit 1942” twice. The first time, let your students simply listen. The second time, ask them to write down the words, phrases, and images that jump out at them.
  5. Whole-class discussion: What are the similarities and differences between the speakers in the two poems? Make sure your students cite evidence in the poems to support their answers.

“Relaxing Jellyfish Loop” by Oregon Jones Music

Classroom Activities

  1. Show your students two to three minutes of the “Relaxing Jellyfish Loop” video twice. The first time, have them watch and listen. The second time, ask them to write down what they hear and see.
  2. Ask them to turn and talk with a partner about what they learned about jellyfish from the video.  How do they feel about jellyfish after watching the video?
  3. Project the poem “A Jelly-Fish” by Marianne Moore in the front of the class.
  4. Ask your students to read it silently and write down the words, phrases, and images that jump out at them. How are the words positioned on the page?
  5. Ask two students to read the poem aloud, one after the other. Make sure your students add what they noticed from the oral reading to their notes from their silent reading.
  6. Whole-class discussion: Why does Marianne Moore place her words where she does? Where are the rhymes? What does having one or two words on a line do to their meaning? What is Moore saying about the jellyfish? About what does she make you think?
  7. For some scientific information on jellyfish see KQED Quest “Amazing Jellies.”

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One Woman With Black Lives Matter Sign

Classroom Activities

  1. Show your students the above photograph, and ask them what they know about the Black Lives Matter movement. Have them fill in the gaps in their knowledge by conducting research on the movement by getting into small groups and using Internet and library resources (one place to start is the article “Black Lives Matter: The Growth of a New Social Justice Movement” from Blackpast.org). Ask each group to report back to the class what they have learned.
  2. Project the poem “Black Laws” by Roger Reeves in the front of the classroom, and ask your students to read it silently. Invite two students to read the poem out loud, one after the other. Ask the listeners to write down words and phrases in the poem that rhyme. What jumps out at your students? What do they learn about the meaning of the poem from what they have noticed? What kinds of rhymes have they found? What function do the rhymes serve in the reading of the poem?
  3. Why do your students think the speaker in the poem is putting on his “nice suit?”  What does he expect will happen to him? Ask your students to justify their answers with reference to specific details and images in the poem.
  4. How might the events that led to the Black Lives Matter movement relate to Reeves’s poem?

Studio portrait of a young couple, he seated, she with hand on his shoulder.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. [Studio portrait of a young couple, he seated, she with hand on his shoulder.] New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. [Studio portrait of a young couple, he seated, she with hand on his shoulder.] New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Classroom Activities

  1. Project “Studio Portrait of a Young Couple” in front of the classroom. Ask your students to write down what they see in the photograph. Have them get in small groups and discuss what they imagine the hopes and dreams are for this young couple. Why do they think these are their hopes and dreams?
  2. Project “The Bean Eaters” in front of the class. Ask your students to write down what jumps out at them in the poem from both the content and the structure. Ask two students to read the poem out loud; what more do the listeners notice in the poem?
  3. What do we know about the couple portrayed in the poem? What do we know about their present lives? What do we know about their past lives? What in the poem tells us this? What are the “beads and receipts and dolls and cloths, tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes”?
  4. Ask your students to get into small groups and think about whether the young couple in the photograph might wind up like the older couple in the poem, or whether they think they might have a different life. Ask them to write a paragraph or a poem about their portrait of the younger couple as they grow old.

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver

Credit Line: Circa 1910; photographer unknown. This photograph is in the public domain.

Classroom Activities

  1. Show your students the photograph of George Washington Carver, but conceal his name. Ask them to write down all the things they notice about the person in the photograph. Then ask them if they know who the person is. If no one knows, tell them. Then ask your students if they have ever heard of George Washington Carver, and if so, what they know about him.
  2. Project the poem “1905” by Marilyn Nelson in the front of the classroom. Have your students write down what jumps out at them in the poem, including words they might not understand.
  3. Ask one student to read the poem aloud while the listeners write down new things that “jump out.” Repeat this process with another student reading out loud.
  4. Ask your students to get into small groups and help one another figure out the words they might not understand, as well as share what they noticed in the poem.
  5. Hold a whole-class discussion: What did your students learn from the poem about George Washington Carver? What surprised them? How does Marilyn Nelson get us to feel about Carver? What poetic techniques does she use?

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.

Classroom Activities

  1. Ask your students to read the biography of Langston Hughes on Poets.org. Ask them to write down the things they think are important about his life.
  2. Have your students get in small groups and share with one another what they learned about Hughes from reading his biography. Have each group come up with a list of aspects of Hughes’s life they think are important.
  3. Ask one representative from each group to share the group’s list with the whole class, writing it on the front board. If they are repeating something that is already on the board, they do not have to rewrite it; rather they should write a check mark after the repeated item.
  4. Have your students silently read “Theme for English B,” writing down the words and phrases that jump out at them.
  5. Ask one student to read the poem out loud. Ask another student to do the same after the first student has finished.
  6. Whole-class discussion:  Compare and contrast what we can learn about Langston Hughes from the short biography and what we can learn from the poem “Theme from English B.”  Why are both important?

Classroom Activities

Show your class the video of Lil Buck dancing to “The Swan,” as played on the cello by Yo-Yo Ma.

  1. Ask your students to write down what jumps out at them in the video. Show it to them a second time. This time ask them to think about what makes this a “layered” performance (for example, classical music and street dancing, or French, Asian and African cultures). Ask your students to turn and talk with a partner about the layers they saw.
  2. Hold a whole-class discussion about what makes something “layered,” making sure your students cite examples from the video to support their answers.
  3. In the front of the classroom project the poem “The Layers” by Stanley Kunitz. First, have your students read the poem silently and circle what jumps out at them in the poem. Then, ask one student to read the poem aloud to the class, while the others write down any questions they have about the poem. Finally, have another student read the poem aloud, while the listeners write down any other things they think are important in the poem.
  4. What do your students think are the layers to which Kunitz refers? What is the litter?  What does he mean by transformations?

 

Aspects of Negro Life: Song of the Towers

Aspect of Negro Life: Song of the Towers by Aaron Douglas (American 1899-1979). Date: 1834. Medium: Oil on canvas.
Credit Line: The New York Public Library, Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, Art and Artifacts Division. www.nypl.org.

Classroom Activities

  1. Project the image of Aspect of Negro Life: Song of the Towers. Ask your students to write down what they see in the painting. Then, ask them to get into small groups and discuss what they think the painting represents, using what they see as evidence.
  2. Project the poem “Haircut” from Poets.org. Before your students read Elizabeth Alexander’s poem, ask them to look at the way thepoem appears on the page. Does it look like other poems they have read?  In what ways is it similar? In what ways is it different? Have them discuss these impressions in small groups.
  3. Introduce the idea of a prose poem to your students.  What makesthis text a prose poem?
  4. Ask them to read the poem silently. Ask two students to read thepoem aloud to the class. Make sure they circle the words, phrases, and images that jump out at them during the three readings of thepoem.
  5. Although the particular Aaron Douglas painting your students observed is not the one referenced in the poem, it represents Douglas’s style. Does it relate to “Haircut” in any way? If so, how?
  6. Hold a whole-class discussion: What do they think Elizabeth Alexander is saying about her culture and how she fits within it? What, in this prose poem, tells them this?

Seated Arabs

Seated Arabs. Artist: John Singer Sargent (American 1856–1925). Date: 1905–6. Medium: Graphite on off-white wove paper. Dimensions: 8 5/8 x 11 1/2 inches. Credit: Gift of Mrs. Francis Ormond, 1950. www.metmuseum.org.

Classroom Activities

  1. Ask your students to get into pairs and share with one another what it feels like to live in a country or state that is very different from where they have spent another part of their lives. If they have not, personally, had this experience, ask them to imagine what it would be like.
  2. Show your students the drawing Seated Arabs by John Singer Sargent. Ask them: What kinds of clothes are the men wearing? For what weather might it be appropriate? How are they sitting? Make sure they provide evidence from the drawing to support their answers.
  3. Ask your students to read “Arabs in Finland” silently, circling the words, phrases, and images that jump out at them. Ask one of your students to read the poem aloud to the class with the listeners circling additional words, phrases, and images that jump out at them.
  4. Have them listen to the audio recording of Naomi Shihab Nye reading her poem (click on the audio icon above the poem). What more did they learn by listening to this recording?
  5. What questions do they have about the poem? Ask them to discuss these in small groups and to help each other come up with the answers.
  6. What is the poem saying to them?

The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak

The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak by Albert Bierstadt (American1830–1902). Date: 1863. Medium: Oil on canvas. Dimensions: 73 1/2 x 120 3/4 inches. Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1907. www.metmuseum.org

Classroom Activities

  1. Ask your students to look carefully at “The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak” by Albert Bierstadt. What do they see in the colors and brushstrokes of the painting? Where do their eyes go first? Second?
  2. How does Bierstadt feel about the Rocky Mountains? How do they know? How does the painting make them feel?
  3. Ask your students to read “Remember” by Joy Harjo silently. Have them circle the images and words that jump out at them. Based on their reading of the poem, ask them how Harjo feels about the connectedness of all things. How is this related to who Harjo is, as a Native American?

Classroom Activities

Ask your students to bring in a photograph of themselves when they were at least several years younger than they are now.

  1. Have your students break into pairs and exchange photographs with their partner. Each student should write down what they notice in the photograph. What can they learn about their partner from what they noticed? What is their evidence?
  2. Ask each student to look carefully at their partner and to write down what they notice about them. How have they changed over time? What makes them the same person? What makes them different?
  3. Ask your students to read Natasha Trethewey’s poem silently to themselves, circling words and phrases that jump out to them. Ask two of your students to read the poem aloud, one after the other. What do they hear differently when the poem is read aloud?
  4. Have your students listen to the audio recording of Natasha Trethewey reading her poem. (Click the audio icon on the poem above to listen to audio.) How does the poet’s reading change their understanding of the poem?
  5. What is Natasha Trethewey saying about time and space? How is it similar to and different from what a scientist might say on the subject?

Mid-Infrared Image of a Star Forming Region in Orion Nebula

Mid-Infrared Image: NASA/DLR/SOFIA/USRA/DSI/FORCAST Team

Classroom Activities

  1. Ask your students to look closely at the composite image from the NASA SOFIA telescope of a star forming. How does reading the poem “Toward the Winter Solstice” enhance their experience of looking at the image? What colors and shapes do they see? Where do they think new stars may be forming? Why? (For more information on star formation in Orion, read the article “SOFIA Opens New Window on Star Formation in Orion” on the NASA website.)
  2. Ask five students to read one stanza each of “Toward the Winter Solstice” out loud. Repeat the process with another five students. The listening students should read along to themselves and circle what jumps out at them, including words they do not understand.
  3. How does seeing an image of actual star formation in Orion add to their experience of the poem? What might poets and scientists learn from each other’s work?

Classroom Activities

You will need construction paper, glue, and markers for this activity.

  1. Place your students in pairs. Ask each student to make a small gift for their partner with the materials at hand. Have them exchange their gifts.
  2. Ask each student to write a short descriptive paragraph (or poem) and to draw an image about how the gift they received makes them feel.
  3. Ask your students to read Alice Fulton's poem "Doha Thing Long Thought and Kind" first to themselves, then aloud to their partner. What words and phrases jump out at them? Ask them to make a list together. Ask your students how their list of items helps them understand the meaning of the poem.
  4. Next, ask them to look at the definition of doha from A Poet's Glossary by Edward Hirsch.
  5. Does Alice Fulton strictly follow this form in her poem? How does she change it?

The Kiso Mountains in Snow

The Kiso Mountain in Snow

The Kiso Mountains in Snow, 1857, Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797-1858). Medium: Triptych of woodblock prints; ink and color on paper. Dimensions: Each 14 1/4 inches by 9 3/4 inches. Credit: Rogers Fund, 1914. www.metmuseum.org.

Classroom Activities

  1. Project an image of The Kiso Mountains in Snow in class. Ask your students to jot down what they see and what questions they have about the image in front of them. How do they think the artist feels about winter? Ask them to provide evidence for their answers.
  2. Ask your students to silently read “Winter is good - his Hoar Delights (1316)” to themselves. Have them write down the words they don’t know. What questions do they have about this poem? Ask them to break into small groups and discuss what they have written down. See if they can figure out the meaning of the words that are difficult.
  3. How does Emily Dickinson feel about winter? How do your students know? How do the feelings and thoughts expressed in the Hiroshige image relate to the poem? Make sure your students give evidence for their perspectives. Have a large group discussion and/or ask them to write a persuasive essay on the subject.

Classroom Activities

  1. Have your students listen to Arlo Guthrie singing his father’s song “Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos).” Next, have them read the lyrics. Ask them to consider all or some of the following questions: Who is Woody Guthrie writing about? How do they know? What jumps out at them when they hear this song? What do they notice about the refrain? Do they think the song has relevance today? Why or why not?
  2. Ask at least two students to read “Everyday We Get More Illegal” aloud, then ask them to consider the following questions: How can someone get “more illegal”? What are the feelings of the people in the poem? How does the poem relate to the song? What relevance does the poem have today? Is it the same or different from the relevance of Guthrie’s song?

Harper's Bazar: Thanksgiving

Harper's Bazar: Thanksgiving

Harper’s Bazar: Thanksgiving, Louis John Rhead (American, born England, 1857–1926). Date: 1894. Medium: Lithograph. Dimensions: Mount: 19 1/4 x 14 1/4 inches. Credit: Leonard A. Lauder Collection of American Posters, Gift of Leonard A. Lauder, 1984. www.metmuseum.org.

Classroom Activities

  1. Show your students the image of the Harper’s Bazar Thanksgiving cover, published in 1894. Ask them to write down what they notice about the cover, such as the colors, lines, shapes, etc. What associations do they have with this cover?
  2. Ask your students to get into small groups to share how they celebrate Thanksgiving in their homes. Have each group choose a reporter to tell the whole class the ways in which the group members celebrate. Write these ways on the board.
  3. Ask two of your students to read the poem “América” aloud, one after the other. While they are reading, the listening students should circle the things that jump out at them.
  4. Ask your students to read the poem silently to themselves. What else jumps out at them? How is this poem related to the Harper’s Bazar cover? What is the poem saying to them? Does this poem connect to the ways they celebrate Thanksgiving? If so, how?

Listen to Alberto Ríos Read His Poem

Classroom Activities

  1. Ask your students to get in pairs and share a time they gave something that they thought was meaningful to someone. Then ask them to share a time when someone gave them something that was meaningful. Ask them to discuss how they knew it was a meaningful gift.
  2. Hold a large group discussion about what makes giving meaningful.
  3. Have your students listen to the audio recording of Alberto Ríos reading his poem “When Giving Is All We Have.” Next, ask one student to read the poem and then another. Ask the students who are listening and reading along to jot down what jumps out at them each time they hear the poem.
  4. What is Alberto Ríos saying about giving? What words and phrases does he use to help us understand what he means?

Industries of California

Industries of California by Ralph Stackpole

Industries of California. Artist: Ralph Stackpole. Location: Coit Tower, San Francisco, California. Commissioned by the WPA, 1934.

Classroom Activities

  1. Ask your students to look closely at the image of Industries of California, a section of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) mural in Coit Tower in San Fancisco, California. (You may need to explain what the WPA was to the students who are unfamiliar with it.) What are the people doing in the image? Ask your students to offer specific evidence for their conclusions. What emotions are these people expressing? Again, what evidence can your students provide to support their perceptions?
  2. Do a choral reading of “I Hear America Singing.” Ask your students to recite the poem as a group a second time, then ask them to write what stood out to them as they read the poem aloud in one voice.
  3. In a large group, discuss what jumped out at them. Why do they think we chose a choral reading in unison for this poem?
  4. What does Walt Whitman mean by “singing”? Why do the people in his poem “sing”?

Immigrant family looking for lost baggage, Ellis Island

Immigrant family looking for lost baggage, Ellis Island

 

"Immigrant family looking for lost baggage, Ellis Island," Lewis Wickes Hine (1874-1940). Date: 1905. Medium: photograph. Dimensions: 9 1/2 X 7 inches. Credit: Romana Javitz Collection; transferred from the Picture Collection, 1991. digitalcollections.nypl.org

Classroom Activities

  1. Show your students the photograph “Immigrant family looking for lost baggage, Ellis Island.” Ask them to write down what they see. If they give you an interpretation—e.g. the people look fearful—ask them to identify what in the photo shows you the people look fearful. They should write down their evidence. Next, have them turn and talk with a partner about what they see.
     
  2. Have your students get into groups of four. Ask them to read “The New Colossus” aloud to each other.  Make sure at least two people read in each group. Ask the listeners to read along with the text of the poem and circle the words that jump out at them, either because they seem important or because they don’t know what they mean.
     
  3. Have a class discussion about what the poem is saying to new immigrants. What important words does it use to say this? How do the photograph and the poem relate to each other? What is the New Colossus?

Ghost Chamber with the Tall Door (New Version)

Ghost Chamber with the Tall Door (New Version) by Paul Klee

Ghost Chamber with the Tall Door (New Version), Paul Klee (German, 1879–1940). Date: 1925. Medium: Sprayed and brushed watercolor, and transferred printing ink on paper. Dimensions: 24×16 5/8 inches. Credit: The Berggruen Klee Collection, 1987. www.metmuseum.org.

Classroom Activities

Whole Class Warm-Up:

  1. Ask your students to write down their associations with the words haunted and ghosts.
  2. Ask them to draw lines that look like the path a ghost might take through the air or to move their hands in that kind of path. What sounds do ghosts make? What words describe their lines, gestures, and sounds? Ask them to add these words to their list of associations.
  3. Call on a few students who want to share their lines by drawing them on the board or share their hand gestures by demonstrating them. Ask others to share their sounds. Ask the class what they see in the lines and gestures. What do they hear in the sounds? Write these descriptions on the board for all to see.
  4. Show your class Paul Klee’s painting. What do they notice about the lines, colors, and shapes? What do they think these represent? Ask them to provide evidence for their interpretations.

Small Group Activity:

  1. Ask each group to pick a facilitator, who will make sure each person in the group has a chance to contribute, and a reporter, who will take notes.
  2. Have the facilitator ask one person to read the poem aloud for the group, then a second person to read the poem aloud. The facilitator should then ask the following questions: 
         What do you think the poem is about? ​
         What questions do you have about the poem? 
         What connections/associations does the poet make?  
         What connections/associations do you make to the poem? 
         What jumps out at you in the poem?  
         What do you see?
         What do you hear? Are there rhymes? Are there repeating sounds? 
  3. The reporter should take notes on the group’s answers, check with the group to make sure her notes represent what was said, then report back to the whole class for discussion.