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 (whip-around): What are your hopes for the upcoming new year? Why?
- Before Reading the Poem (noticing and pair share): Watch the video of the song “Imagine” by John Lennon twice. During the first viewing, jot down what you notice. During the second viewing, write down your thoughts about the following questions: What words or phrases stand out to you? Why might the song be titled “Imagine”? (Teachers, as a modification, it might be helpful to play the video with the closed captions turned on.)
- Reading the Poem: Read the poem “Gitanjali 35” by Rabindranath Tagore 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.
- Small-group Discussion: Share what you noticed in the poem with your partner and another pair of students. Based on what you just shared, what connections can you make between the poem and the song “Imagine”?
- Whole-class Discussion: What does the speaker in this poem want? What might be the significance of the last two lines: “Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action / Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake”?
- Extension for Grades 7-8: Read Larry Levis’s poem “In a Country.” Write your own poem in which you imagine what you want for the country. Is your poem a protest poem, like Tagore’s, a meditation, like Levis’s, or something new?
- Extension for Grades 9-12: Read more about Rabindranath Tagore here. Write an essay where you compare and contrast Tagore’s poem and John Lennon’s song.
More Context for Teachers: In his iconic essay “How to Read a Poem,” Edward Hirsch writes, “Most readers make three false assumptions when addressing an unfamiliar poem. The first is assuming that they should understand what they encounter on the first reading, and if they don’t, that something is wrong with them or with the poem. The second is assuming that the poem is a kind of code, that each detail corresponds to one, and only one, thing, and unless they can crack this code, they’ve missed the point. The third is assuming that the poem can mean anything readers want it to mean.”