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.
Warm-up (quick write): What is one thing that comes to mind when you hear the number 2020? Why?
Before Reading the Poem: Watch the video of the garden time lapse. The first time, just watch the video and pay attention to the images. As you watch the second time, notice what stands out to you. Share with a partner.
Reading the Poem: Read the poem “Election Year” by Richard Blanco 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.
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 partner. You may also wish to listen to the poet read the poem aloud in this video.
Small-group Discussion: Share what you noticed in the poem with your partner and another pair of students. Based on these details, can you make any connections between the poem and the video you watched at the beginning of class? Why might this poem be titled “Election Year”?
Whole-class Discussion: What might the garden symbolize? Why? How does the tone shift in the poem? What might the following passage mean: “Maybe it’s not just the garden / you worry about, but something we call hope / pitted against despair”?
Extension for Grades 7-8: Thinking about the current election year, write a poem about your own hopes and fears. Or, create a comic strip of three major events or details shared in the poem.
Extension for Grades 9-12: Richard Blanco, the Education Ambassador of the Academy of American Poets, shared the poem “One Today” at President Barack Obama’s 2013 inaugration. Read the poem and/or watch the video from the inauguration. With a partner, create a poster that shows your annotated versions of “Election Year” and “One Today,” as well as connections and differences between the two poems. Be prepared to share your poster with the class and discuss major themes in each poem.
More Context for Teachers
Richard Blanco says, “My experiences as the first Latinx, immigrant, and gay man to serve as Presidential Inaugural Poet set a newfound place for me at the proverbial American table, one that I had not expected. Indeed, I came to definitively understand and believe that my story—alongside the stories of millions like me from marginalized walks of life—is, and has always been, a grand part of our country’s cultural and historical narrative.” Read more.