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.
Listen to one or more of these audio recordings of the horned lark. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Horned_Lark/sounds
Warm-up (quick write): What is one place that you absolutely love? Write a short descriptive paragraph about this place.
Before Reading the Poem (noticing and pair share): Close your eyes and listen to the recording of the lark. As you listen, notice the sounds that you hear. Share with a partner what these sounds evoke for you.
Reading the Poem: Read the poem “Prairie Spring” by Willa Cather 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.
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. Call back the lines that you like by saying these lines aloud with your group.
Small-group Discussion: Share what you noticed in the poem with your partner and another pair of students. What images stand out to you most? Why? How do these images compare and contrast with the writing you did in class?
Whole-class Discussion: Describe the landscape portrayed in the poem. How does “Youth” contrast with the landscape? What might youth represent?
Extension for Grades 7-8: Return to your paragraph from the beginning of class. How is this place significant or meaningful? Write a poem that explores this question and, if possible, provides some conflict between humans and the natural world.
Extension for Grades 9-12: “Prairie Spring” is the epigraph to Willa Cather’s book O Pioneers! Read O Pioneers! and write an essay that explores the significance of the epigraph. Think about how the book might be different without this epigraph.
More Context for Teachers
Every National Poetry Month we present Dear Poet, a multimedia education project that invites young people in grades five through twelve to write letters in response to poems written and read by award-winning poets, including poets who serve on the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors and who have received our Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowships. Learn more about how to participate.