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.
Watch the short TED-Ed video “Why Do We Dream?”
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 (think-pair-share): If you feel comfortable, share with your partner some of your own dreams. Or, share some dreams that you have seen on TV shows or in movies or read about in books.
Before Reading the Poem: Watch the short TED-Ed video “Why Do We Dream?” here. What does this video make you think or wonder about?
Reading the Poem: Read the poem “In Praise of Dreams” by Gary Soto 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. Or, you may opt to listen to the poet read the poem here.
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, and the discussions from the beginning of class, why do you think we dream? What does it mean to dream? How does the poem relate to the dreams you shared and the video you watched at the beginning of class?
Whole-class Discussion: This poem is called “In Praise of Dreams.” How does the speaker praise or honor their dreams? Or, why might dreams matter to the speaker? If you feel comfortable, share some of your dreams with the class. (Teachers, if you feel like your students might need more context, please see this definition of praise poems here.)
Extension for Grades 7-8: Create an illustrated picture of one of the dreams mentioned in the poem. Or, if you feel comfortable, create an illustrated picture of one of your dreams. (Teachers, if your students need more context, some of Salvador Dali’s most famous paintings have been said to be inspired by dreams. You can find some of Dali’s work here. You may want to preview images or pre-select work that feels appropriate for your age group.)
Extension for Grades 9-12: For one week, keep a journal of your dreams. Write a one-page description about what your dreams might mean to you. If you don’t dream or don’t feel comfortable sharing, research how famous artists over time have depicted dreams in their artwork. Create a presentation to share your findings.
This poem is an homage to Wisława Szymborska’s poem “In Praise of Dreams.” About his own poem, Gary Soto writes, “This poem of mine is all about the unbelievable, which visits me in dreams, with the help of godsend Polish poet Wisława Szymborska.” Read more about Szymborska.
On graduation day, friends and family often turn to poetry to express what they would like to pass on to the next generation—dreams, a few lines of guidance, a gesture toward possibility. Find classic and contemporary poems to share for graduation.