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.

Featured Poem

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!!!