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.
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.
- Warm-up (whip around): Martin Luther King Jr. Day is January 21. What are one or two things you remember about Martin Luther King Jr. and the importance of this day? Share these when it is your turn.
- Before Reading the Poem: Read (or listen to) the final portion of King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. (Teachers, consider including the entire speech, rather than this excerpt, if you have time.)
- Small-group Discussion: Share the words and phrases that jumped out at you. What did Martin Luther King Jr. want for this country?
- Reading the Poem: Read the poem “In This Place (An American Lyric)” silently, then write down the words, phrases, and structures that jump out at you.
- Listening to the Poem: Watch the video of Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States, reading “In this Place (An American Lyric)” two times. The first time, simply watch the video all the way through. The second time, write down any additional words and phrases you notice.
- Pair Share: Share what you noticed in the poem with a partner.
- Whole-class Discussion: How does Amanda Gorman’s poem relate to what Martin Luther King Jr. wanted for this country? Use evidence from your small-group discussion and pair share.
- Extension for Grades 7–8: Use your own voice to write an essay or poem about what you would do to help fulfill Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream.
- Extension for Grades 9–12: Write an essay that compares and contrasts the text of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech with the text of Amanda Gorman’s poem. How is King’s speech like her poem? How is it different? How is Gorman’s poem like his speech? How are they different?
More Context for Teachers
“I must write, I must speak up, because there’s been too many people who’ve been kept from that opportunity…. In the Declaration of Independence to Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, poetry has always been the thread that is weaving throughout the fabric of American and global history.” In this interview on TODAY in 2018, Amanda Gorman shares why she came to poetry, what it means to her to be the first youth poet laureate, and more.