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 (quick write and pair share): Write down several words that describe how you feel when you can’t complete something you really want to finish. Share these with a partner.
- Before Reading the Poem (individual and small group): First read the information about the cabbageworm silently to yourself. Look carefully at the included photos and circle the words in the article that seem important, as well as the ones that are unfamiliar. In groups of four, share what you learned about the cabbageworm and help each other figure out what you don’t know.
- Reading the Poem: Read the poem by Minnie Bruce Pratt silently, then write down the words and phrases that jump out at you.
- Listening to the Poem: Listen twice to the audio of Minnie Bruce Pratt reading her poem. The first time, just listen all the way through. The second time, write down new words and phrases that jump out at you. Did the poet emphasize any particular parts of the poem? If so, write these down, too.
- Small-group Discussion: How does what you learned about the life cycle of the cabbageworm relate to the second stanza of the poem? What might have no end?
- Whole-class Discussion: One person from each small group should report to the whole class about what the group thought was happening in the second stanza. Keeping the second stanza in mind, what might the “we” in the third stanza want to “stop, stop, stop!”? Why might someone else be calling them “monster”? What might be “the final / word”? (Teachers, after you have this discussion with your class, share with them the “About this Poem” section from Poem-a-Day, featured below. Help your students understand how their interpretations and the author’s statement can complement each other.)
- Extension for Grades 7-8: How would you feel if someone thought you were a monster? What would you do about it? Discuss these questions with a partner, then write two paragraphs that answer these questions.
- Extension for Grades 9-12: Why do you think the poet might have written the first line? What was she trying to complete? Write a short essay that shows why you think this poem is complete, or why you think the poet should continue writing it, as she indicates.
More Context for Teachers: In the About This Poem section in Poem-a-Day, Minnie Bruce Pratt writes, “During the years that I wrote and revised this poem, my lover, and ultimately spouse, was gravely ill. Hir medical care and my caregiving were deeply complicated by the anti-LGBTQ prejudices of some medical personnel, who certainly viewed us as ‘monsters.’ Every day for those years I took a walk to write a poem, trying to find a way to go on, a reason to even write poetry. The first draft of ‘The Cabbage Butterfly’ came from a walk I took on July 8, 2011. My beloved died in November 2014. I revised the poem four times before that loss and one time since. It is still not the final word.”