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.

Featured Poem

Related Resource

Before the lesson, instruct students to bring in an item that is personally meaningful to them. This item could be an article of clothing, a picture, a card, a handwritten letter, etc.

Classroom Activities
  1. Warm-up (pair share): Tell your partner about the item you brought today. Share why it is important to you. 

  2. Before Reading the Poem (writing): Write a short paragraph about the most important people in your life and explain why they are important. 

  3. Reading the Poem: Read the poem “The Red Sweater” by Joseph O. Legaspi 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. Call back the lines that you like by saying these lines aloud with your group.

  5. Small-group Discussion: Share what you noticed in the poem with your partner and another pair of students. How is the item you brought to class related to the poem, if at all?

  6. Whole-class Discussion: How does the speaker feel about the sweater? How do you know? How would you describe the mother? The speaker? 

  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: Write a poem from the perspective of the mother in “The Red Sweater.” What might the mother say to the poem’s speaker? Why? Read your poem in front of the class. Or, write a poem about someone that is important to you. 

  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: Write a poem from the perspective of the sweater in the poem. What might the sweater want to say to the speaker or the mother? Or, create a poem of appreciation for someone special in your life. 

More Context for Teachers

In this essay about teaching poetry while encouraging students to explore family history, Benjamin Gott writes, “I emailed all of my class parents to let them know that a conversation with their children—mandated as it was—was on the horizon. On the day I introduced the assignment in class, there were some audible groans—“What do you mean I have to talk to a relative?!”—but most students were excited about the opportunity to hear stories that they might never have heard before.”