This unit focuses on “Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich.


Clarifying one's identity is a process that goes on throughout life.  For adolescents, this becomes one of the major preoccupations. Introversion and outward experimentation go hand in hand. “Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich speaks to the complicated process of finding, and defining, oneself.

We encourage you to have your students watch the video before reading the poem.  This preactivity provides context and a visual entry point for diverse learners, helping students hone their skills of perception, and giving all a chance to have something to say both before and after reading the poem. As always, adapt all the activities to the specific needs and learning styles of your students, and your curriculum. Browse for more poems on identity and take a look at our anthology of poems on the subject.


Common Core State Standards

Reading Literature:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL, Key Ideas and Details, 9-12.1
CCSS. ELA-Literacy.RL, Craft and Structure, 9-12.4

Speaking and Listening:
CCSS. ELA-Literacy.SL, Comprehension and Collaboration, 9-12.1

Interdisciplinary Connections
Social Studies/English Language Arts/Guidance

Before Reading the Poem

Activity: Viewing “The Wreck of the Titanic”

Objective: Students will hone their perceptual skills (listening and seeing), as well as skills for speaking with a partner.

In this activity, your students will watch the video clip “The Wreck of the Titanic.”

Note:  Students can view this video either on laptops or iPads at their desks or on a large screen in the front of the room. If on a large screen, it is important to let students in the back of the room come up close to the screen, so they can view details in the video.

  • Ask how many of your students know what the Titanic was and what happened to it.  If not everyone knows, simply say that it was a cruise ship that sank when it hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic.
  • Place your students in pairs. With their partner, each student should write down what they think they will see in a video clip of the wreck of the ship at the bottom of the ocean. What do they think they know about the wreck? What are their “myths” about this ship?
  • Show the YouTube video “The Wreck of the Titanic” twice. The first time, simply ask your students to view the whole segment.  The second time, ask them to look very closely and write down what they see.  How did it feel, going down into the wreck and then seeing it?
  • Have them turn and talk with their partners about what they thought they would see, and what they actually saw.  What seemed permanent?  Impermanent?
  • Ask them to share with their partner what it felt like when they saw the video.
Reading the Poem

Activity I:  Reading and Listening Multiple Ways

Objective: Students will use careful noticing skills to identify important parts of a poem, while listening and reading.

  1. Hand out copies of “Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich.
  2. Ask your students to read the poem once, silently, to themselves.
  3. Have the poem read out loud twice, each time by a different student. You can also listen to the audio version of Adrienne Rich reading the poem herself by going to the poem page and clicking the audio icon.
  4. Ask your students to read the poem silently, again. This time, ask them to write down what “jumps out at them” in the poem, including words they don’t know.

Activity II:  Small Group Discussion

Objective:  Students will communicate their own ideas and perceptions in a small group.

  1. Assign your students to groups of no more than four or five.
  2. Have them discuss the following questions:
  • What jumped out at you in the poem?
  • What connections do you make to from your own experience (what you’ve done, what you’ve read, what you’ve seen) to the poem?
  • What questions do you have?

Activity III:  Vocabulary

Objective: Students will learn vocabulary from cues in content and from making connections.

  1. Ask your students for the list of vocabulary words in the poem they do not know. Conduct a full class discussion of the meaning of these words, based on prior small group discussions.
  2. Here are some words you might want to include in a vocabulary lesson if your students are not forthcoming with words they do not understand.


Activity IV:  Whole Group Discussions

Objective: Students will form an interpretation of a poem while citing evidence in support of their interpretations.

There are multiple topics you can include in whole class discussions of “Diving into the Wreck.” Choose the one(s) that fit most closely with your curriculum—or create your own!

  • Ask your students what jumped out at them in the poem.  From their answer you can frame a discussion of poetic techniques such as line breaks, internal rhyme, stanzas, and metaphor. (For reference, see "Poetry Glossary," as well as Edward Hirsch’s terms line and stanza, as well as other poetic terms, from his book A Poet's Glossary.
  • List your students’ questions on the board and conduct a discussion around possible answers.
  • Based on the students’ connections, answers to their questions, and what jumped out at them, what do they think the poem is about?  Ask them to cite evidence from the poem to back up their interpretations. 

Note: They all should have information to help them participate in these discussions, because of the preceding activities.