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.
Clouds by Thomas Cole (1801–1848). Date: ca. 1838. Medium: Oil on paper laid down on canvas. Dimensions: 8 3/4 × 10 7/8 in. Credit line: Morris K. Jesup Fund, 2013. www.metmuseum.org.
Warm-up: Go around the room and ask your students to share how they feel on a rainy day in winter. Any student who wants to can wait and answer after everyone else is finished.
Project the image of the painting “Clouds” in front of the class. Give your students plenty of time to look at the image carefully and write down what details they see, paying particular attention to colors, brush strokes, and the positioning of objects within the image. In small groups, your students should share what they notice in the image. How does the image make them feel? Do different parts of the image evoke different feelings? What did the painter do to evoke these feelings?
Back in their small groups, your students should compile a list of the images they think are important in this poem. How do these images make them feel? How do their feelings change from the beginning of the poem to the end? What moment(s) in the poem caused these changes in feeling? What did the poet do to make the reader’s feelings change?
Whole-class discussion: What do your students think is the “story” of this poem? On what images do they base this interpretation? What might the “silver thread” in the title and the end of the poem be? What evidence do they have from their previous lists and discussions?
Ask your students to come up with their own images for despair, faith, or love. How might they use these images in a poem?