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.
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 (individual writing): What do you think a candidate for public office should promise voters? Why?
- Before Reading the Poem: Watch the video clip from Citizen Kane. Watch it a second time and write down the details that jump out at you. What do you notice the candidate doing and saying? Be specific.
- Small-group Discussion: Share what jumped out at you in the video with your small group. Did you notice the same things or different ones? Compile a list of what you noticed.
- Reading the Poem: Read the poem silently. Write down the words, phrases, and structures that jump out at you.
- Listening to the Poem (enlist two volunteers to read the poem aloud): Listen as the poem is read aloud, and write down any additional words and phrases that jump out at you.
- Small-group Discussion: What words, phrases, and structures did you notice in the poem? What kinds of things did the speaker in the poem promise? What is your reaction to these promises?
- Whole-class Discussion: What about this piece of writing seems like a poem to you? What about it seems like a campaign speech? Do you think the speaker is serious or not? Cite specific evidence from the poem.
- Extension for Grades 7-10: Pretend you are a candidate for political office. Referring to the writing activity you did at the beginning of this lesson, write a speech that reflects the promises you would make to voters. Read your speech aloud to your classmates.
- Extension for Grades 11-12: Research a campaign speech that has been made by a real politician and write down the promises the candidate made. Write an essay discussing this speech and its promises. How realistic do you think these promises were? What would have made these promises more realistic, if anything? Why do politicians often exaggerate in their promises?
More Context for Teachers: In this video, the poet Rita Dove shares her thoughts on the distinction between political poetry and other kinds of writing. She says, “If it’s just for political persuasion—it’s not a poem. It’s a piece that moves you. It could be well-orated, it could be a beautiful speech, it could be a political diatribe, or it could be a piece of really well-written propaganda, which can also be an art form. But, if it does not at some level really love every syllable and think of every syllable that it shapes, and that becomes part of its making, then it’s not a poem.” Watch the video.