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

Browse this article about Vietnam from National Geographic Kids.

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 share): Share with a few people your answer to this question: What does it mean to be a traveler or a wanderer?

  2. Before Reading the Poem: Look closely at the images of Vietnam at the beginning of this National Geographic article. What do you notice? Look again. What else can you find? 

  3. Reading the Poem: Read the poem “Rootless” by Jenny Xie 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 activities from the beginning of class, in this poem, what does it mean for the speaker to be a traveler? How does movement connect to the title “Rootless”? 

  6. Whole-class Discussion: What is the most vivid imagery in the poem to you? Why? Look again at the images you viewed at the beginning of class and imagine you’re sitting alone on a train and seeing them from your window.  What do you make of the question “Can this solitude be rootless, unhooked from the ground”? How or why do you think the act of traveling and the act of observing can be a lonely experience?

  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: During Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, continue reading more poetry by Asian American and Pacific Islander American poets. Work with a partner or small group to create an anthology of necessary Asian/Pacific American voices in poetry. Present your anthology to the class, along with biographies of the poets you included. 

  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: During Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, continue reading more poetry by Asian American and Pacific Islander American poets. Choose one poem and write your own creative lesson plan for bringing that poem to life in the classroom. Use these past lesson plans to inspire you.

More Context for Teachers

In her essay “Restoration in the Attention Economy: On Reading C. D. Wright’s ‘ShallCross,’” Jenny Xie writes, “One of the enduring pleasures of poetry lies in how poems ask us to tune in to a different frequency, a kind of deep listening and looking that can still the mind and enlarge the dimensions of the self.” Read more.

Poetry Glossary

This week’s poetic term is slant rhyme, referring to a rhyme formed with words with similar but not wholly identical sounds; also called an off rhyme, half rhyme, and imperfect rhyme. Browse the glossary.