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 1

"The House I Live In" by Paul Robeson

Listen to “The House I Live In” by Paul Robseon here.

Related Resource 2

"Our House" by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Listen to “Our House” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young here.

Classroom Activities

  1. Warm-up (quick draw): Draw a picture of a house or an apartment. What details can you add to make your house a home? Share your sketch with your classmates. 

  2. Before Reading the Poem: (Teachers, split students into groups of two and assign each group a song.) In your group, listen to your assigned song, either “The House I Live In” here by Paul Robeson or “Our House” here by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. What lyrics stand out to you? Why? Share your thoughts with your classmates. 

  3. Reading the Poem: Read the poem “Our House” by Sophie Cabot Black silently. What do you notice about the poem? Annotate for any words or phrases that stand out to you or any questions you might have.

  4. Listening to the Poem (enlist two volunteers to read the poem aloud): Listen as the poem is read aloud twice, and write down any additional words and phrases that stand out to you. 

  5. Small-group Discussion: Share what you noticed in the poem with a small group of students. Based on the details you just shared with your small group, how does the speaker define home? How do you define home? 

  6. Whole-class Discussion: What are the three definitions of home in the poem? How might those definitions compare to the songs? How has your own definition of home changed or altered this year? 

  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: Write a biography of the house. Who was the house before the “we” in the poem? Who will the house be after? Or, think about the whole class discussion. How has your own definition of home changed or altered this year? 

  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: Read about pastoral poems here and read more pastoral poems here. Participate in a debate where you consider this question: Is “Our House” a pastoral poem? Why or why not? (Teachers, to make this more interesting, you might want to assign students a side.) Or, after reading pastoral poems, write your own modern pastoral.

More Context for Teachers

In this 2017 installment of the Academy of American Poets’ Fall Conversation Series, Elizabeth Alexander and Maria Popova discussed the role poetry played in communities after the 2016 election. Alexander says, “We’ve got something that names one another; we’ve got something that sees one another. We’ve got something that connects people instead of separating them.” Read more.