Produced for K-12 educators, Teach This Poem features one poem a week from our online poetry collection, accompanied by interdisciplinary resources and activities designed to help teachers quickly and easily bring poetry into the classroom. The series is written by our Educator in Residence, Dr. Madeleine Fuchs Holzer, and is available for free via email.

Featured Poem

“Tree Flowers II (Baumblumen II" by Antonius Höckelmann

Tree Flowers II

Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Friends Anniversary Collection, Gift of Siegfried Gohr.

Classroom Activities
  1. Project the image of the painting “Tree Flowers II (Baumblumen II)” so all your students can look at it carefully. Ask them to write down what they notice—the colors, the brush strokes, the images. If they think they see flowers, ask them to identify the colors, strokes and position of these. Give them plenty of time.
  2. Ask your students to gather in pairs and share what they noticed. If they offer an interpretation, such as “These flowers are happy,” ask them to tell their partner what details in the painting evoke this. What is their evidence? How did this painting make them feel? What, in the painting, made them feel this way?
  3. Project the poem “The Tradition” so all your students can see it. Ask them to read the poem silently and write down all the words and phrases that jump out at them, including references and words they do not know. Ask them to write down the questions they have about the poem. What do they notice about the way the poem is written?
  4. Ask one of your students to read the poem aloud to the class. Ask the listening students to add to their written list of words, phrases, and questions. Ask another student to read aloud, and have the listening students repeat the process.
  5. In groups of four, ask your students to share their words, phrases, questions, and observations about the way the poem is written.
  6. Whole-class discussions: Ask your students what questions they still have. See if the class, as a whole, can help answer them. If not, help them along. Ask your students why they think Jericho Brown writes about flowers. Are the flowers a metaphor for something else in the poem? What clues are there in the way the poem is structured? What (or who) has been cut down? What do your students think is “The Tradition”? How does the painting “Tree Flowers II (Baumblumen II)” relate to this poem? Make sure your students provide evidence for their interpretations.