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

Dancer Lil Buck and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, playing “The Swan” by Camille Saint-Saëns

Classroom Activities

Show your class the video of Lil Buck dancing to “The Swan,” as played on the cello by Yo-Yo Ma.

  1. Ask your students to write down what jumps out at them in the video. Show it to them a second time. This time ask them to think about what makes this a “layered” performance (for example, classical music and street dancing, or French, Asian and African cultures). Ask your students to turn and talk with a partner about the layers they saw.
  2. Hold a whole-class discussion about what makes something “layered,” making sure your students cite examples from the video to support their answers.
  3. In the front of the classroom project the poem “The Layers” by Stanley Kunitz. First, have your students read the poem silently and circle what jumps out at them in the poem. Then, ask one student to read the poem aloud to the class, while the others write down any questions they have about the poem. Finally, have another student read the poem aloud, while the listeners write down any other things they think are important in the poem.
  4. What do your students think are the layers to which Kunitz refers? What is the litter?  What does he mean by transformations?