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

Rockefeller Center, New York City. Planted with Azaleas I.

Azaleas at Rockefeller Plaza
Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc. Rockefeller Center, New York City. Planted with azaleas I. Apr. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.


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 (quick write and pair share):  Quickly jot down answers to the following questions: What does it mean to be lonely? Have you ever been lonely? Share your writing with a partner. 
  2. Before Reading the Poem (noticing and pair share): Look carefully at the image of Rockefeller Center and the azaleas. With your partner, make a list of what you notice. 
  3. Reading the Poem: Read the poem by Naomi Shihab Nye silently. Notice the words and phrases that jump out at you, then think about what you noticed as you annotate the poem. 
  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 jump out at you. Call back the lines that you like by saying these lines aloud with your partner. 
  5. Small-group Discussion: Share what you noticed in the poem with your partner and another pair of students. Based on the details you just shared, how do you think the speaker feels about loneliness? Why? How might the speaker feel about speed? 
  6. Whole-class Discussion: Can you ever really escape your emotions? What do you think the speaker in the poem might mean when they say, “A victory! To leave your loneliness / panting behind you on some street corner”? Do you think the title “The Rider” refers to the boy on roller skates or the speaker, or both? Why? 
  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: Think about what you wrote about loneliness at the beginning of class. Write a poem in which you personify something you want to escape from. (Teachers, if you haven’t already introduced personification, now might be a good time to do so.)
  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: Listen to the “Wild Honeysuckle” recording. Think about how the couple might feel about Nye’s poem. Write a persuasive essay about why you think the couple would feel this way, citing evidence from both the poem and the recording.

More Context for Teachers: In a video from 2010, Naomi Shihab Nye discusses poetry and inspiration. She says, “It is often shocking to have conversations on planes with adults, or to visit schools where the students have not been regularly reading or writing poetry, and feel the hunger in most of us for that kind of delicious experience, whether it’s even been identified.” Read the transcript and watch the video.