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.
Sunrise on the Matterhorn by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902). Date: after 1875. Medium: Oil on canvas. Dimensions: 58 ½ x 42 ⅝ inches. Credit line: Gift of Mrs. Karl W. Koeniger, 1966. www.metmuseum.org.
- Show your students the image of Sunrise on the Matterhorn so they can look at it closely. Ask them to write down what they see—the colors, the images, the light. Ask them to share what they noticed with a partner and talk about how these aspects of the painting made them feel.
- Ask your students to gather in small groups to create a tableau (a silent, physical representation of one point in time) showing how the painting made them feel. Have each group present their tableau to the rest of the class. The other students should then talk about what they noticed in the tableau, how it made them feel, and the gestures the group used to elicit those feelings.
- Project the poem “Before a Painting” so all your students can see it. Ask them to write down what words, phrases, and structure jump out at them from the poem. Ask one student to read the poem aloud to the class, while the listening students write down new words and phrases that they hear. Repeat the process with a second student reading aloud.
- Ask your students to return to their small groups to share the feelings that were elicited by the painting, the tableaux, and the poem. What did the three have in common? How were they different?
- Whole-class discussion: What tools does a painter use to elicit images and emotions? What tools does the poet use to elicit images and emotions? How does creating something, such as a tableau, help you to better understand the painting and the poem?