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.
Students’ family trees going back two or three generations.
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.
- Homework: Ask your parents or guardians to tell you what they know about their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. (If you can only learn about one or two generations, that’s fine.) Write down what they tell you and bring it into school. You will use this information in class.
- Warm-up (pair share): Tell your partner about the history of your family. What did you learn? What more do you wish you knew? Did you discover any surprises?
- Reading the Poem: Read the poem silently, then 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 does the speaker in the poem say about past generations? How does this speaker think these generations relate to you? Why do you think the poet chose to write the poem in couplets? Cite evidence in the poem.
- Whole-class Discussion: What do you think the poet means when he says “we can make a house called tomorrow”? With what does the poet say we should build this house? How should we do it?
- Extension for Grades 7-10: What are your New Year’s resolutions? How will you build a “house called tomorrow” based on what you have learned from your ancestors? Share your resolutions and what you will do to build this “house” as part of a class book for the new year.
- Extension for Grades 11-12: It has been a divisive year in the history of this country. Give a presentation to your class about how you will contribute to building “a house called tomorrow” that is more equitable for its residents and less divided. How will you rely on values transmitted by your ancestors as you contribute to a positive future?
“So much of any year is flammable,” Naomi Shihab Nye writes in her poem “Burning the Old Year.” Take a look at this archived Teach This Poem from a previous New Year for another way to celebrate 2019 with poetry.