Produced for K-12 educators, Teach This Poem features one poem a week from our online poetry collection, accompanied by interdisciplinary resources and activities designed to help teachers quickly and easily bring poetry into the classroom. The series is written by our Educator in Residence, Dr. Madeleine Fuchs Holzer, and is available for free via email.

Featured Poem

Industries of California

Industries of California

Industries of California. Artist: Ralph Stackpole. Location: Coit Tower, San Francisco, California. Commissioned by the WPA, 1934.

Classroom Activities

  1. Ask your students to look closely at the image of Industries of California, a section of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) mural in Coit Tower in San Fancisco, California. (You may need to explain what the WPA was to the students who are unfamiliar with it.) What are the people doing in the image? Ask your students to offer specific evidence for their conclusions. What emotions are these people expressing? Again, what evidence can your students provide to support their perceptions?
  2. Do a choral reading of “I Hear America Singing.” Ask your students to recite the poem as a group a second time, then ask them to write what stood out to them as they read the poem aloud in one voice.
  3. In a large group, discuss what jumped out at them. Why do they think we chose a choral reading in unison for this poem?
  4. What does Walt Whitman mean by “singing”? Why do the people in his poem “sing”?