Teach This Poem, though developed with a classroom in mind, can be easily adapted for remote-learning, hybrid-learning models, or in-person classes. Please see our suggestions for how to adapt this lesson for remote or blended learning. We have also noted suggestions when applicable and will continue to add to these suggestions online.

Featured Poem

Related Resource

video screen shot
Watch this video of the song “Autumn Leaves” by Nat King Cole. 

Classroom Activities

The following activities and questions are designed to help your students use their noticing skills to move through the poem and develop their thinking about its meaning with confidence, using what they’ve noticed as evidence for their interpretations. Read more about the framework upon which these activities are based.

  1. Warm-up(think-pair-share) What does the fall season make you think of? 
  2. Before Reading the Poem: Watch this video of the song “Autumn Leaves” by Nat King Cole. What words or phrases stand out to you? Why? (Teachers, you might want to play the video more than once.) 
  3. Reading the Poem: Silently read the poem Autumn Leaves" by Marilyn Chin. What do you notice about the poem? Note any words or phrases that stand out to you or any questions you might have.
  4. Listening to the Poem (Enlist two volunteers to read the poem aloud): Listen as the poem is read aloud twice, and write down any additional words and phrases that stand out to you. 
  5. Small-group Discussion: Share what you noticed about the poem with a small group of students. How do the resources from class connect to the poem? What is the speaker’s connection to fall? What imagery in the poem feels the most exciting to you? 
  6. Whole-class Discussion: How might you describe the mother in this poem? What do you make of these two lines “The dead piled up, thick, fragrant, on the fire escape” and “let the dead rain over the Wong family’s patio”? 
  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: What might a poem sound like from the point of view of Achilles Wong? Write it, or write about your favorite season. 
  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: Join with a partner or small group and read more poems about autumn here. Choose one or more poem(s) and write about how each poet explores the season.
More Context for Teachers

“Recently I was inspired by a show by contemporary Chinese visual artists who use vibrant visual puns in protest. Some of the puns are not translatable into English and elude the present critical apparatus. I love the possibility of discovering a pure “imagist” poem that can’t be categorized or demeaned or subjugated by a critical regime.” Read this interview with Marilyn Chin on Poets.org.

Poetry Glossary

Alliteration: the repetition of consonant sounds, particularly at the beginnings of words. Read more.