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

Ellis Island, N.Y. Line Inspection of Arriving Aliens, 1923

Ellis Island

From the National Archives. Date: 1923. Medium: Photograph.

Classroom Activities
  1. Show your students the photograph and ask them to write down what they notice. Remind them to write what they actually see, not their interpretations of what they see.
  2. Ask them to turn and talk with a partner about what they noticed and any connections they made to themselves, to others, and to other texts.
  3. Ask them for questions they might have about the photograph. Write these questions on the board to revisit after reading “The Buttonhook.”
  4. Watch Mary Jo Salter read her poem twice (click the video icon beside the poem). The first time, have your students experience the reading. The second time, ask them to write down what they noticed, the connections they made, and any questions.
  5. Ask your students to read the poem silently. Have them write down what they notice about the lines and the spacing of the words on the page, as well as the words and phrases that jump out at them.
  6. Hold a whole-class discussion based on what your students noticed in both the video and text versions and the connections they made. Also ask for questions they still have. Some prompts to try: What are the feelings in the poem? How did Mary Jo Salter get us to feel that way? What techniques did she use? How are the video and text versions similar or different?