Teach This Poem is a weekly series featuring a poem from our online poetry collection, accompanied by interdisciplinary resources and activities designed to help K-12 teachers quickly and easily bring poetry into the classroom.

Featured Poem

Related Resource

Classroom Activities
  1. Warm-up (whip around): What is the best advice you have ever been given? Why? 

  2. Before Reading the Poem (noticing and pair share): Watch the short Nick Cave video twice. The first time, just watch and notice what you see and hear. During the second viewing, begin to think about what is happening and how this video makes you feel. Share what you noticed and how you felt with a partner. 

  3. Reading the Poem: Read the poem “Earth Your Dancing Place” by May Swenson 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.

  4. 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. Call back the lines that you like by saying these lines aloud with your group.

  5. Small-group Discussion: Share what you noticed in the poem with your partner and another pair of students. How did you feel when you were reading the poem, and how did this relate to your feelings when watching the video? In what ways are the poem and the video similar? How are they different?

  6. Whole-class Discussion: Reread the lines “Keep a tall throat / Remain aghast at life // Enter each day / as upon a stage / lighted and waiting / for your step….” Who might the speaker be addressing here and in the poem? What do you think that these lines might mean? 

  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: Write a response to the poem, in which you write back to the speaker and give them advice. Or, reread the poem and think more about the title. What is the purpose of this title? How might the poem be different without the title or with a different title? Write an essay exploring these questions. 

  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: Read more about May Swenson’s biography. Choose one of the following of her poems: “Water Picture,” “Question,” “Double Exposure,” “Strawberrying,” “Bleeding,” or “Four-Word Lines.” Closely read the poem to annotate and create related discussion questions. Lead your class in a reading and a discussion of your chosen poem.