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.

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Featured Poem

Circuit Board

Circuit Board

This image is in the public domain.

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 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.

  1. Warm-up (whip-around): What are some ways artists contribute to society? Quickly go around the room until everyone has offered an answer. If you need to pass, do so, and the teacher will come back to you.
  2. Before Reading the Poem (noticing and pair share): Look very closely at the image of the circuit board. Make a list of the details you see, including any colors, lines, and shapes. (Writing that you see a circuit board is too general.) What is your overall impression of the image? Share the details you noticed with a partner.
  3. Reading the Poem (individual reading): Read the poem “On Gathering Artists” silently, then write down the words and phrases that jump out at you.
  4. Listening to the Poem (enlist two volunteers to read the poem aloud): Listen as the poem is read aloud twice. Write down any additional words and phrases that jump out at you.
  5. Small-group Discussion: Share the words and phrases you noticed in a small group with your partner and another pair of students. What might these tell you about what the speaker in the poem thinks about poets and other artists?
  6. Whole-class Discussion: Share some of the words and phrases that give you clues to how the speaker in the poem thinks about artists. How are artists “barkers of the carnival world,” “tailors of the light,” and “framers of the earth”? How might they “fish among the elements”? (Teachers: If you have not introduced the concept of a metaphor, now is a good time to do so.) Think back to Activity 2. How might a poem be “the circuit, the cure / Whose electricity is made from dreams”? Why are these metaphors important to the narrative of the poem?
  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: Think about a car: How might a poet be “not the steering wheel, but the headlamps”? Write a paragraph or two that illustrates your ideas. Include a metaphor that shows what you think a poet or artist might be like.
  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: What might be some similarities and differences between a circuit board and a poem? What might the poem tells us that the image of the circuit board cannot? Do you think a circuit board is a good metaphor for a poem? Write an essay that discusses these questions.

More Context for Teachers

In "Some Thoughts on the Integrity of the Single Line in Poetry," Alberto Ríos writes in praise of "lines that are long in their moment, that make me linger and give me the effect of having encountered something, something worth stopping for—the antithesis of our times, which seem to be all about getting somewhere else, and fast, and we’re late already." Read more.