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

“Ottendorfer, Stacks and desk”

“Ottendorfer, Stacks and desk”

Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. “Ottendorfer, Stacks and desk” New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Classroom Activities

  1. Project the photograph “Ottendorfer Stacks and Desk” in front of the class so all your students can see it. Ask them to write down what they notice in the image. Have them list as many specific things as possible. Ask them to share what they wrote down with a partner and to add to their lists as they learn more.
  2. Ask your students to gather in small groups and discuss how the photograph makes them feel about the thought of walking to the back of the library stacks. Ask them to talk about specific details that contribute to this feeling.
  3. Project the poem “Chance” by Molly Peacock in front of the class so all your students can see it. Ask them to read it silently to themselves two times. The second time have them write down what jumps out at them in this poem, including words, phrases, and structural details. Also, ask them to write down the words they don’t know and other questions they might have about this poem.
  4. Ask one student to read the poem aloud to the class. Have the other students continue adding to their lists while listening. Repeat this process with a second reader.
  5. Ask your students to gather in small groups and share their lists and questions. Group members should help one another with words they do not know.
  6. Whole-class discussion: Ask your students to think both about the photograph of the library stacks and their lists of words and phrases from the poem. Ask them to use these as resources and think about what it may mean or feel like “to find yourself.” What does Molly Peacock seem to think is important in this journey? What do your students think is important in this journey?