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.
Look closely at this image of a brain.
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: Sit quietly for a moment and think about how you’re feeling today. Are you happy? Sad? Worried? Excited? Why do you think you feel this way? Draw a private map or diagram of these feelings.
Before Reading the Poem: Look closely at this image of a brain. What do you notice? What does this make you think? Why?
Reading the Poem: Read the poem “Reading a Science Article on the Airplane to JFK” by Bianca Stone 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 might opt to listen to the audio of the poet reading the poem. (Teachers, while students are listening, you might want to play this video of aerial views of New York City.)
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 resource from the beginning of class, what role does the brain play in this poem? Discuss the lines “That there are bridges / not built in me. That there are areas / that do not light up—” How do you think the poem’s speaker would describe her feelings in this moment? If she were mapping these feelings onto an image of her brain like the one you looked at earlier, what do you think this would look like?
Whole-class Discussion: What are the most prominent images in this poem? Why? What might this poem have to say about resilience? How does the brain impact resilience? (Teachers, if you feel like your students might need more context, here is an article about the brain for younger students, and here is an article for older students.)
Extension for Grades 7-8: Reread the final three lines of the poem: “And you want to be good. / And you want to be liked. / And you want to recover.” Write a poem or create a visual representation about a time you have recovered from something.
Extension for Grades 9-12: Think back to the private map you made earlier of your feelings, and with both this and the poem in mind, imagine what questions might be included on “a questionnaire / on the emotional life of the brain / and personal capacity for resilience.” Create your own creative questionnaire, or turn these questions into a poem of your own. (Teachers, if you feel like students might need a model, you can direct them here.)
Six poets featured in the 2011 Poets Forum in New York City participated in a six-question interview in which they were asked about their own poetry, what books they’re reading, and how they engage with social media like Facebook and Twitter. Read their answers to the first question, “How do you begin a poem?”