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.
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.
Warm-up: With your class, make a list of what makes a story. Discuss: Why do people tell stories? Why do people want stories?
Before Reading the Poem: (Teachers, assign selected images from the New York Times Learning Network’s 40 More Intriguing Photos to Make Students Think archive.) View your assigned image alongside a partner. Ask one another questions from the site, including: What is going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? What else can you find? Make up a short story about your photo and share it with your partner.
Reading the Poem: Read the poem “Teller of Tales” by Gabriela Mistral 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.
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. Or, you may opt to listen to an audio of the poem.
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 the discussions from the beginning of class, what does this poem have to do with the questions: Why do people tell stories? Why do people want stories?
Whole-class Discussion: Out of the various tales mentioned in the poem, which ones are most intriguing to you? Why? What do you make of the lines “All of them want to hear my own story / which, on my living tongue, is dead”?
Extension for Grades 7-8: Select someone in your life to interview. This can be a family member, a friend, a teacher, a mentor, etc. Create an oral history project where you interview your selected person. (Teachers, here are some resources from Smithsonian.)
Extension for Grades 9-12: The writer Toni Morrison said, “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you have to write it.” Give yourself 1,000 words (or more) and permission to write the story you need to read.
Over the summer vacation, encourage your students to stay engaged with and excited about poetry through the following take-home activities based on our collection of Poems for Kids and Poetry for Teens, lists of poems curated by subject and theme for elementary, middle, and high school students. Read more.