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.

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Featured Poem

Related Resource

Star Sound
Watch and listen to this video about the sound of a star.

Classroom Activities

The following activities and questions are designed to help your students use their noticing skills to move through the poem and develop their thinking skills so they understand 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.

  1. Warm-up: Have you ever wondered about the stars? Watch and listen to this video about the sound of a star. What, if anything, surprised you in this video? Why? 

  2. Before Reading the Poem: (think-pair-share) Join with a partner and discuss: What is a border? What is the purpose of a border? Who creates borders? Why? Then join with another pair and share your thoughts.   

  3. Reading the Poem: Silently read the poem “December Morning in the Desert” by Alberto Ríos. What do you notice about the poem? Note any words or phrases that stand out to you, or any questions you might have.

  4. Listening to the Poem: Enlist two volunteers and listen as the poem is read aloud twice, and write down any additional words and phrases that stand out to you. Or, you can opt to listen to the poet read the poem. 

  5. Small Group Discussion: Share what you noticed about the poem with a small group of students. How do the resources from the beginning of class connect to your reading and understanding of the poem? Why? 

  6. Whole Class Discussion: After reading this poem, how would you describe this December morning in the desert? Why? What is the landscape of this poem? 

  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: Create a visual postcard for this poem. What might it look like? Why? Create it. Feel free to draw, paint, take a photograph, or something else that comes to mind. Share your postcards with your classmates. 

  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: How do your mornings compare and contrast to this poem? Write a poem about the landscape of your December or something inspired by this poem. Share your poem with your classmates.  

More Context for Teachers

In providing an overview of the Sonoran Desert’s climate, the National Park Service wrote, “Precipitation and temperature are primary factors that determine an ecosystem’s structure and function. Secondary factors include long-term climate patterns, such as the timing, duration, and intensity of extreme weather events (such as frosts and violent downpours), and the variance in seasonal dynamics between and among years.” The article also features a brief video of snow in the Sonoran Desert. Read more.  

Poetry Glossary

Nature Poetry: poetry that engages with, describes, or considers the natural world. Read more.