Produced for K-12 educators, Teach This Poem features one poem a week from our online poetry collection, accompanied by interdisciplinary resources and activities designed to help teachers quickly and easily bring poetry into the classroom. The series is written by our Educator in Residence, Dr. Madeleine Fuchs Holzer, and is available for free via email.
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.
- Project the photograph “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?
- Project the poem “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?
- 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”?
- 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.