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

barbarism definition reads "extremely cruel and unpleasant behavior"

Read this definition of barbarism.

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) Read this definition of barbarism. Join with a partner and discuss what it means. 

  2. Before Reading the Poem: (write) What does hair mean to you? 

  3. Reading the Poem: Read the poem “Barberism” by Terrance Hayes silently. What do you notice about the poem? Annotate 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. Or, you may choose to watch a video of the poet reading the poem.  

  5. Small-group Discussion: Share what you noticed in the poem with a small group of students. Based on the details you just shared with your small group and the resources from the beginning of class, how might you describe the scene in the poem? How might the definition of the word relate to the title of the poem? 

  6. Whole-class Discussion: What imagery do you notice in the poem? What does this poem have to say about family or grief? How does it compare to what you wrote about at the beginning of class? 

  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: In honor of Black History Month, read poems chosen by Black poets. Create an anthology in which you celebrate Black poets. 

  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: In honor of Black History Month, study and read Black poets. (Teachers, your students might enjoy reading Black poets in a poetry book club. Here is a list of additional materials. The Center for Racial Justice also has a list of good resources.)
More Context for Teachers

“Barbershops provided this space of community and congregation at times when things were hard, but also at times when things were good, too. Black men went to, and I argue still go to, Black barbershops because of the production of Black community that happens in this space.” Listen to this lecture by Quincy T. Mills (or an excerpt) about the history of Black barbershops in America.

Poetry Glossary

This week’s poetic term is couplet: two successive lines of poetry, often rhymed. Read more.