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.
Look closely at the image of a sunset.
The following activities and questions are designed to help your students use their noticing skills to move through the poem and develop their thinking skills so they understand 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.
- Warm-Up: Look closely at this image of a sunset. What stands out to you in this image? Why? Imagine that this image is the front of a postcard. Write a few lines that you would add to the back if you were sending the postcard to a friend.
- Before Reading the Poem: What do you think of the phrase “haven of calm”? Who or what is your “haven of calm”? Why? Share your answer and your postcard writing with a partner or small group.
- Reading the Poem: Silently read the poem “June Sunset” by Sarojini Naidu. What do you notice about the poem? Note any words or phrases that stand out to you or any questions you might have.
- Listening to the Poem: Enlist two volunteers, listen as the poem is read aloud twice, and write down any additional words and phrases that stand out to you. Or, listen to the poem by clicking the audio icon at the top right corner of the poem.
- Small-group Discussion: Share what you noticed about the poem with a small group. How does it connect to the photograph from the beginning of class? What images in the poem stand out to you? Why? Have you ever seen a sunset or a sunrise? What does a sunset represent to you? Why?
- Whole-class Discussion: How might you describe this poem and/or the speaker to someone else? Why? Read this definition of the poetic term pastoral. Do you think that this poem is a pastoral poem? Why or why not?
- Extension for Grades 7-8: The last line of the poem is “To herald a rising moon.” What do you think happens next? Write a poem about it, or write a poem about a person or place that is your safe haven. Share your writing with the class.
- Extension for Grades 9-12: Read more pastoral poems or nature poems. Choose a poem and write a paragraph or essay comparing and contrasting this poem to “June Sunset.” Share your writing with the class.
From poets.org on the history of the pastoral tradition: “The pastoral tradition can be traced back to Hesiod, a Greek oral poet active between 750 and 650 BC, roughly the same time as Homer. His most famous poem, Works and Days, is part farmer’s almanac and part didactic exploration of the nature of human labor.” You can read more about the history of pastoral poetry here.