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.

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Related Resource

Watch this TedEd video that references the Ship of Theseus.

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 skills so they understand 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: Make a timeline of your life, with four or five main events. Share with a partner or a small group. What did you include and why? How do these events make you, you? 
  2. Before Reading the Poem: (Teachers, bring in materials for students to build a small ship. These can be simple items like paper, pencils/popsicle sticks, tape, etc.) Take a few minutes and work with a partner or small group to build a ship. (Teachers, after a few minutes, tell the students to take the ship apart piece by piece and try to rebuild it.) After you have attempted to rebuild, share with your classmates. What was it like trying to rebuild? Is your new ship the same as the one that existed before? Why or why not? 

  3. Reading the Poem: Silently read the poem “Ship of Theseus” by Rodney Gomez. What do you notice about the poem? Note any words or phrases that stand out to you or any questions you might have.

  4. Listening to the Poem: Enlist two volunteers and listen as the poem is read aloud twice, and write down any additional words and phrases that stand out to you. Or, you can watch a video of the poet reading the poem.

  5. Small Group Discussion: Share what you noticed about the poem with a small group of students. Based on the details you just shared, what connections can you make between the poem and the activities from the beginning of class? 

  6. Whole Class Discussion: Answer the question in the poem: “A Ship of Theseus: the original ship, / stored in a museum, slowly rots away / and its parts are gradually replaced. / Eventually none of the original parts remains. / Is it still the same ship?” How does replacing something change it? How does it stay the same? What about the ship you built? What makes us, us? Why? (Teachers, if your students need more context, you can watch this TedEd video that references the Ship of Theseus.) 

  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: Think back to the timeline that you created at the beginning of class. Write a poem that uses events from your own life. How have the events that happened over the course of your life made you who you are today? Share your poem with your class. 

  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: The poem opens with the line “The other day I realized I wasn’t me.” Write a personal essay that explores the paradox of the Ship of Theseus through the lens of your own life. Who or what has made you who you are? How has who you are evolved over time? Share your essay with your class. 

More Context for Teachers

As part of the 2021 Dear Poet project, students around the country and the world wrote letters to Rodney Gomez in response to a video of him reading his poem “Ship of Theseus” aloud. Rodney Gomez wrote letters back to four of these students. Read their letters and Gomez's replies on Poets.org.

Poetry Glossary

Metaphor: a comparison between essentially unlike things, or the application of a name or description to something to which it is not literally applicable. Read more.