Teach This Poem is a weekly series featuring a poem from our online poetry collection, accompanied by interdisciplinary resources and activities designed to help K-12 teachers quickly and easily bring poetry into the classroom.


Featured Poem

In September 2001, Lucille Clifton sent the Academy of American Poets a short manuscript of seven poems, one for each day of the week, entitled “September Suite” in response to the events that transpired on September 11th. “Monday Sundown 9/17/01” is the final poem from that manuscript.

Rosh Hashanah Apples and Honey

 Rosh Hashanah Apples and Honey

This image is in the public domain.

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 (whip around): When you hear the day of 9/11 mentioned, what associations do you have? What feelings are evoked?  Share one association and one feeling.
  2. Before Reading the Poem:
       • (whole class research): What is Rosh Hashanah? When does it occur each year?
       • Write down what you notice in the photograph of some Rosh Hashanah food. What feeling does this photograph evoke? Why?
  3. Reading the PoemRead the poem silently. Record the words, phrases, and structures that jump out at you.
  4. Listening to the Poem (enlist two volunteers to read the poem aloud): Listen to the poem read aloud and write down any additional words and phrases that jump out at you.
  5. Small-group Discussion: What did you notice in the poem? What do you think might have inspired the poet to write the first two lines? The second two lines? What are your associations with apples? With honey? Why do you think the poet mentions these two things? Provide evidence for your interpretations.
  6. Whole-class Discussion: What might the speaker think is lost? What might she think is paradise?
  7. Extension for Grades 7-10: Bring in an artifact from your family that is associated with some sort of joyous gathering. Write a short description of the object and what the joyous gathering was. Be prepared to share this with other members of your class through a “classroom museum.”
  8. Extension for Grades 11-12: Why do you think Lucille Clifton is writing about Rosh Hashanah? Write an essay that explores this.

Read more poems about witness and remembrance.

More Context for Teachers: In a video from the Poetry Breaks series, Lucille Clifton shares her reflections on what poetry is. She says, “While poetry sometimes to teachers is a matter of text and something to be studied, for me poetry is a way of living in the world. I think that I don’t produce texts, and I don’t do it to be studied, though I do recognize the value of those things. But for me poetry is a way of trying to express something that is very difficult to express, and it’s a way of trying to come to peace with the world.”