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


Watch this National Geographic video of sandhill cranes.

Classroom Activities

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.

  1. Warm-up: Watch this video of sandhill cranes. In a few words, share what you notice and your reaction to it. What do you notice about these birds? (Teachers, to start class, we suggest watching the first twenty-seven seconds, then maybe watching the rest later.
  2. Before Reading the Poem: Look closely at this interactive Periodic Table. Find and click on radium, and read the description. What do you notice about this element? Look again. What else do you notice? 
  3. Reading the Poem: Read the poem “Radium Dream” by Sheila 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, and your discussions from the beginning of class, what is unique about the mother and son’s bird-watching experience? What imagery in the poem stands out to you? 
  6. Whole-class Discussion: Why do you think the poem is titled “Radium Dream”? Think back to what you learned about radium at the beginning of class. What might radium relate to in the poem? What is the tone at the end of the poem? What is the speaker’s wish? 
  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: What might the cranes feel about being watched? Write a poem from the perspective of the crane, and think about what you watched in the video, too. As a response, find another piece of art, a song, or a photograph that feels like it could be in conversation with these poems and share your art with the class.
  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: Read about the “radium girls” hired during the 1920s to paint the numbers onto watch faces, and write a research paper about Mae Keane, a radium girl who lived to be 107 years old. 
More Context for Teachers

Teachers, we’ve put together a round-up of best practices for making sure that virtual events, webinars, and other programs are accessible. Please take a look at these best practices to see if there are any you can implement in the virtual classroom—and don’t hesitate to let us know about any we might have missed!

Poetry Glossary

This week’s poetic term is free verse, referring to poetry not dictated by an established form or meter and often influenced by the rhythms of speech. Read more.