Teach This Poem, though developed with a classroom in mind, can be easily adapted for remote learning, hybrid learning models, or in-person classes. Please see our suggestions for how to adapt this lesson for remote or blended learning. We have also noted suggestions when applicable and will continue to add to these suggestions online.

Featured Poem

Related Resource

Study for "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" by Georges Seurat

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: (quick-draw) Draw what comes to mind when you hear the phrase “garden of my childhood.” What might this “garden” look like? Is it even a garden? 

  2. Before Reading the Poem: Look closely at the image of the painting “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.” What do you notice about the painting? Look again, what else do you see? What do you notice about the brushstrokes?

  3. Reading the Poem: Read the poem “from Grandmother’s Garden” by Meena Alexander 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.

  5. Small-group Discussion: Share what you noticed in the poem with a small group of students. Based on the details you just shared with your small group, the painting, and your drawings from the beginning of class, what does the speaker hold dear? At the beginning of class, you viewed an image of a famous painting. How might a painting of this poem look? Where does the poem make you think of using dark colors?  Where might you use light ones?  How would you use color and brushstrokes to create the feelings and images the poet conveys?

  6. Whole-class Discussion: The poem opens with the line “I am in another country.” In what ways, if any, do you see displacement in the poem? For the speaker, what might be the significance of memory and place? How does the first stanza connect to the rest of the poem? 

  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: Read this definition of a prose poem. Think back to the drawing you created at the beginning of class. How might you create your own prose poem? Try writing one or more prose poems. Share them with your class. 

  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: Meena Alexander’s final book, In Praise of Fragments includes other poems in the series, “Grandmother’s Garden.” Read “Grandmother’s Garden, Section 18.” What might the poems before, after and in between 8 and 18 be? Write one of these missing poems. 

More Context for Teachers

In her essay “Poetry: The Question of Home,” Meena Alexander writes, “Then poetry happened. That is the only way I can put it. I started writing poetry young. I was eleven or twelve. The reason why I keep writing is still the same: For me, it is the music of survival. There is an inner voice that speaks to me, makes music out of words, makes notes out of syllables, makes rhythms out of what words cannot reach.” Read more.

Poetry Glossary

This week’s poetic term is fragment, referring to a part of a larger work, or a poem made to appear discontinuous or incomplete. Read more.