Teach This Poem: “I Don't Know What Will Kill Us First: The Race War or What We've Done to the Earth" by Fatimah Asghar

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

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: (think-pair-share) Discuss with a partner or small group, how are bees important to our world? What else is important to the world? What would happen if bees became extinct?
     
  2. Before Reading the Poem: Watch this video about monarch butterflies. What did you learn about these butterflies?
     
  3. Reading the Poem: Now, silently read the poem “I Don’t Know What Will Kill Us First: The Race War or What We've Done to the Earth” by Fatimah Asghar. What do you notice about the poem? Note 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. Or you might opt to listen to the poet reading the poem. 
     
  5. Small-group Discussion: Share what you noticed in the poem with a small group of students. Based on the details you’ve just shared with your small group and the resources from the beginning of class, how might the speaker feel about the state of the planet? Why? 
     
  6. Whole-class Discussion: How would you describe the tone of the poem? Why? What do you make of the title: “I Don’t Know What Will Kill Us First: The Race War or What We’ve Done to the Earth”? 
     
  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: This poem is filled with creatures, such as bees and butterflies. Write a poem from the perspective of one of these creatures or write a poem inspired by something in this poem. For more inspiration, read the about this poem feature by the poet. Share your poem with your classmates. 
     
  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: In the about this poem feature, the poet shares, “And how hopeful that is, getting lost in the words and presence of someone you love, having them put a pause on the impending doom that seems right around the corner at all times.” Who or what “pauses the world” for you? Write an essay about why this person, place, or thing is important, and what you can do to preserve them.

More Context for Teachers

“Research focused on innovation in science also demonstrates that creativity is something we can practice and improve and that proficiency in a fine art, craft, or literary pursuit is a significant predictor of scientific productivity and innovation (Root-Bernstein, 2003). Poetry, the focus of our article, is one creative practice that conservation scientists can use to enhance their capacity to innovate, to communicate their work in compelling ways, and to enhance their own learning, as well as that of others.” Read the article “Poetry as a Creative Practice to Enhance Engagement and Learning in Conservation Science.”

Poetry Glossary

In honor of Earth Day, this week’s poetic term is nature poetry, or poetry that engages with, describes, or considers the natural world. Read more