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.
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.
Warm-up: Write down 3-5 things you like about yourself.
Before Reading the Poem: What is a self-portrait? Why do artists create self portraits? Use your phone or device and sketch yourself. If you feel comfortable, share with a partner.
Reading the Poem: Read the poem “This Body II” by Renée Watson silently. What do you notice about the poem? Annotate for any words or phrases that stand out to you or any questions you might have.
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 opt to watch the video of the poet reading the poem.
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, in what ways is this poem a self portrait?
Whole-class Discussion: What does this poem have to say about legacy and/or kinship? In what ways is this poem a praise poem? How does this poem compare to your description of yourself at the beginning of class and/or your self-portrait? What more could you have praised or honored about yourself?
- Extension for Grades 7-8: Continue reading poems that are praise poems and self-portrait poems. Write a poem that is both a self-portrait and a praise poem of you. As a challenge, create an accompanying image (selfies count) that is a photo, drawing, collage or painting. Share both with your classmates. (Teachers, for more about the poet, visit Watson’s resources for educators.)
- Extension for Grades 9-12: Extend your study of the self-portrait poem by creating a class anthology of poems. Celebrate what you learned by discussing the poems using hexagonal thinking.
Renée Watson was a judge for the 2021 National Poetry Month Poster Contest. The Academy of American Poets will distribute 100,000+ free copies of the 2021 poster featuring twelfth grader Bao Lu’s artwork to libraries, schools, bookstores, homes, and community centers nationwide to help mark the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of National Poetry Month this April. Sign up for your free copy of the poster.