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

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: (Free write or draw) What does it mean to survive? If you feel comfortable, share your response with a classmate.  

  2. Before Reading the Poem: (Think and pair-share) Discuss this question: If you were going to create a survival guide for other people your age, what three things might you include? Why?

  3. Reading the Poem: Silently read the poem “Survival Guide” by Joy Ladin. 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 discussions from the beginning of class, how is this poem a survival guide? What advice does the speaker give for survival?  

  6. Whole-class Discussion: What imagery feels the most powerful in this poem? What might these lines mean: “Learn to love / the awkward silence you are going to be” and “Turn yourself into / the real you / you can only discover by being other”? 

  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: Think back to what you discussed at the beginning of class. Write a letter to yourself one or more years in the future. What advice would you give yourself to survive? 

  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: Read Ladin’s article on identity and language here. What language do you use to describe yourself? Why? How might language connect to identity? Write a response to Ladin’s article about your own relationship to language and identity.

More Context for Teachers

“The power of language to shape our perceptions of other people is immense. Precise use of terms in regards to gender and sexual orientation can have a significant impact on demystifying many of the misperceptions associated with these concepts. However, the vocabulary of both continues to evolve, and there is not universal agreement about the definitions of many terms. A good best practice is to ask people what the words they use to describe themselves mean for them and how they would like you to use language when talking with or about them.” Browse the PFLAG National Glossary of Terms.

Poetry Glossary

This week’s poetic term is meter, referring to the measured pattern of rhythmic accents in a line of verse. Read more terms.