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 (individual writing): How might you feel if you saw shooting stars in the night sky?
- Before Reading the Poem (pair share): Look at the animated gif from TED-Ed with a partner. Share what you notice in the animation. What are the colors and shapes you see? What is the motion? What might the figures represent? What do you think they see? How might they feel about it? What is your evidence for these interpretations?
- Reading the Poem (individual reading): Read the poem by Rainer Maria Rilke silently, and then write down the words and phrases that jump out at you.
- Listening to the Poem (enlist two volunteers to read the poem aloud): Listen as the poem is read aloud and write down any additional words and phrases that jump out at you.
- Small-group Discussion (two pairs join together to form a small group): Share the words and phrases that jumped out at you with the rest of your small group. What feelings do the words and phrases you noticed evoke in you?
- Whole-class Discussion: What do you think Rilke meant by the lines “and our heart felt like a single thing / beneath that vast disintegration of their brilliance— / and was whole, as if it would survive them!”?
- Extension for Grades 7–8: Browse a selection of poems about love on Poets.org and select a poem that you like. Write a short essay justifying why you like it. You might also include an illustration (or animation, if you have the technology for it) at the top of your essay.
- Extension for Grades 9–12: Choose a poem that you like from the selection of poems about love. What images does your chosen poem use to express the feelings associated with this love? What kind of structure does your chosen poem use? Compare and contrast it with Rilke’s poem.
More Context for Teachers
Elizabeth Barrett Browning famously wrote, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. / I love thee to the depth and breadth and height / My soul can reach.” In a lesson plan titled “Love as a Two-Way Street,” students learn more about this poet’s loving marriage to Robert Browning, read additional poems about love, and write love poems of their own. Read more.