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.

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Featured Poem

Pinnacles Night Sky

Pinnacles Night Sky

Photograph by Joe Parks, 2013.

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 (whip around): Quickly go around the room and share something in your world that is different from the world in which your father or another parental figure grew up. If you want to pass, say so, and your teacher will come back to you.
  2. Before Reading the Poem (noticing and pair share): Look carefully at the image of the night sky and write down specifically what you notice. Remember that writing “stars” or “darkness” is an interpretation; be sure to write down what you see, not what you think it looks like. Share what you wrote with a partner.
  3. Reading the Poem: Read the poem by Martín Espada silently, then write down the words and phrases that jump out at you.
  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 jump out at you.
  5. Small-group Discussion: Share what you noticed in the poem with your partner and another pair of students. Based on the details you just shared, what did the speaker’s father see when he “saw stars”? What did the speaker see? What does the speaker’s son see?
  6. Whole-class Discussion: How does the sky change for each of the people in the poem? What do you think the speaker in the poem might mean when he says, “The earth rolls beneath / our feet. We lurch ahead, and one day we have walked this far”?
  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: Interview your father or another parental figure to get their opinion about how the world has changed since they were your age. Ask them for specific examples. Write a short essay that shows these differences and what you think about them.
  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: What does “see[ing] stars” represent in each of the stanzas in the poem? What has happened to the father and the son in the first and second stanzas? What is happening in the third stanza? How have the lives of men in this family changed over time? What does the speaker in the poem think about this? Write an essay that shows how their lives changed over time. Compare this to how lives have changed over time in your own family.

More Context for Teachers: In an interview originally published by Verse Wisconsin, Martín Espada says, “Why not write about work? Why not write about the things we do to occupy our time all day long? You can write about any kind of work, even if you work in an office and think it's the dullest kind of occupation. You can still find something to say about it. You can write about power relationships, about human relationships, about what you create.” Read more.