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

Classroom Activities

  1. Project “After Action Report, ‘The Battle of Hue, 2-26 February 1968’” (pages 11-12). Ask your students to silently read these pages twice and write down the things that jump out at them, including vocabulary they might not know.
  2. Ask your students to gather in small groups (four students) to share what they have noticed and modify their own lists as they learn from one another.
  3. Explore the following questions with the class: What details did you notice in the report? What is the perspective of the writer (close/far/both)? What did you notice about the language that is used? Is it the same throughout the report? Does it change at any point? If so, where? Why do you think the language changes at this point?
  4. Project the poem “Kissing in Vietnamese” by Ocean Vuong. Ask your students to read the poem silently and write down the words and phrases that jump out at them. Ask one student to read the poem aloud to the class, while the listening students write down the words and phrases they did not notice before that they think are important. Repeat this process with a second student reading aloud.
  5. Ask the students to share what they noticed with their small groups. Ask each group to pick a phrase or two that was particularly compelling and to create a tableau with their bodies (a still picture with no voices) that illustrates this phrase or these phrases. Have each group present their tableau to the class. What do the non-presenting students notice? Based on what they noticed, what were the feelings expressed by the tableaux? What specific body positions showed this? What perspective is represented in the poem “Kissing in Vietnamese”?
  6. Whole-class discussion: What do we learn from poems that we do not necessarily learn from official reports from the field? Why do you think this is the case? Why might it be important to experience different kinds of communication when learning about the Vietnam War.
  7. For a more in-depth study of perspectives on the Vietnam War see the lesson plan developed for a workshop conducted by Richard Blanco at the National Archives during July 2017.