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.


Featured Poem

Audio Recording of a Human Heart Beating

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: Listen to the audio recording of a normal human heartbeat and write down a few words that come to mind.
  2. Before Reading the Poem: Share the words you wrote down with a partner. While your teacher plays the heartbeat again, decide together on a movement that illustrates one of your words. Practice the movement a few times. When you’re ready, share your movement with another pair of students. What do your movements have in common? How are they different?
  3. Reading the Poem: Read the poem “Hear the Light” silently, then write down the words, phrases, and structures that jump out at you.
  4. Listening to the Poem: Listen to the audio recording of Geffrey Davis reading his poem aloud. The first time you hear the poem, listen carefully without writing anything down. The second time, write down any words and phrases that jump out at you. Listen a third time and pay specific attention to any rhythms you might hear.
  5. Small-group Discussion: Back in your group of four, share what jumped out at you when you read and heard the poem. How did listening to the heartbeat and creating a movement to describe it relate to the poem? How does the way Geffrey Davis reads his poem relate to this heartbeat?
  6. Whole-class Discussion: What is happening in the poem? Where does it take place? What did you notice in the poem to make you think this? What is the speaker in the poem thinking about as he follows the boy through the Giant Heart?
  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: What do you know about the science of the human heart? Check out these resources from the Benjamin Franklin Institute. How do you think you would feel walking through the Giant Heart? What might you think about? Share these ideas with your small group, and work together to write a skit about walking through the Giant Heart. This skit, which you will act out for your classmates, should draw on what you have learned from both the poem and the Franklin Institute resources.
  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: Based on your earlier class discussions and experiences, why do you think the poet might be talking about “the well of our survival”? How might this relate to “this earthly cacophony pleading / toward the dark effort of tomorrow”? Who might the boy be in this poem? Do you think he might represent more than one person, or only one? Discuss the answers to these questions in your small group. Make a presentation to your class expressing why you think the poem is called “Hear the Light.”

More Context for Teachers

In an essay titled “Sidelong and Uncodifiable,” the poet Eleni Sikélianòs discusses different approaches to teaching poetry. She writes, “Teaching has also brought great revelations, some quotidian, some more profound. It took a second grader to teach me that the rhythms in Blake’s ‘The Tyger’ mimic the tiger’s heartbeat and the pounding of the hammer making him. How could I have ever missed that?” Read more.