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.

Featured Poem

Related Resource

Head Nods
Look closely at the collage Head nods and handshakes by Deborah Roberts.

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 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.

  1. Warm-up: Watch this video about greetings from around the world. What stood out to you in the video? Why? What ways do you greet people? How might the greetings be different for family, friends, or other people? Why?

  2. Before Reading the Poem: Look closely at the collage Head nods and handshakes by Deborah Roberts. What stands out in this collage? Why? Look again. What else do you see? What questions do you have?

  3. Reading the Poem: Silently read the poem “Ode to the Head Nod” by Elizabeth Acevedo. What do you notice about the poem? Note any words or phrases that stand out to you, or any questions you might have.

  4. Listening to the Poem: Enlist two volunteers and listen as the poem is read aloud twice, and write down any additional words and phrases that stand out to you. Or, you may opt to listen to the poet read the poem. 

  5. Small Group Discussion: Share what you noticed about the poem with a small group of students. Based on the details you just shared with your small group and the resources from the beginning of class, how does the poem relate to the video and the collage? 

  6. Whole Class Discussion: In what ways is the poem an “ode?” How would you describe the relationship between the speaker and the copywriter in the poem? Why?

  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: Read the “About This Poem” section included on the bottom right page of the poem. Then, write your own ode to a gesture, a greeting, or something that is meaningful to you. 

  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, work with your class to create a digital anthology Hispanic / Latinx poems or create a playlist of poems to read/play through the month. You can find information about creating an anthology, as well as poems, videos, and essays for Hispanic Heritage Month on Poets.org.

More Context for Teachers

In the “About This Poem” statement, Elizabeth Acevedo writes, “I am working on a series of odes based on small gestures: how Dominicans point with our mouths, how children learn intimacy through childhood games, how Black folks say hello with a head nod. This poem is very much based in the literal situation: can a piece of text hold the friction of a writer writing specifically about such in-group gestures being edited by a well-meaning outsider who ‘corrects’ the language? I wanted to sit with what it means to not only have language lost in translation, but being told even our embraces, our greetings, often color outside the lines of the literary stylebook.”

Poetry Glossary

Ode: a lyric address to an event, a person, or a thing not present. Read more.