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



This photograph is in the public domain.

Naomi Shihab Nye Reads “Valentine for Ernest Mann”

Classroom Activities
  1. Project the image of the skunk so all your students can see it. Have them look at the image for several minutes, then ask them to write a detailed description of anything they think is beautiful about this animal. The description should make us feel that what they have seen is beautiful.
  2. Divide your students into pairs. Ask your students to read their descriptions to their partners. The listening partner should tell the reader whether or not she felt the beauty of this part of the skunk and offer suggestions to help the writer describe its beauty. Make sure both students have a chance to be both readers and responders.
  3. Project the poem “Valentine for Ernest Mann” so all your students can see it. Ask them to read the poem silently twice. The first time, they should simply read it through. The second time, they should write down the words and phrases that jump out at them.
  4. Ask one of your students to read the poem aloud to the class. Have your students write down anything new that they hear in the poem after having heard it.
  5. Show your students the video of Naomi Shihab Nye reading her poem. Ask them to add items to their list of what they notice about the poem after watching Naomi Shihab Nye’s reading. What words and phrases does she emphasize, if any?
  6. What does Shihab Nye mean when she says, “Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us / we find poems…?”
  7. Ask your students to look for an item that they don’t think is particularly beautiful. Have them bring it to class and look at it for a long while. Ask them to “reinvent” the object with either a detailed description or a poem.