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.
Aretha Franklin sings the iconic song “Respect” in this 1967 recording from Rhino Atlantic.
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 (quick write and pair share): Write down the name of your favorite vocalist. Think of the most unique words you can to describe their voice and write those down. Share your writing with a partner.
- Before Reading the Poem (listening and noticing): Listen to the audio of Aretha Franklin singing “Respect” twice. The first time simply listen all the way through. The second time write down words and images that you think of when you hear her sing. You should be able to connect these thoughts directly to a part of the song that you heard. If you need to listen more closely, you may listen to the audio one more time.
- Reading the Poem (individual reading): Read the poem by Crystal Williams silently, 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 twice, and write down any additional words and phrases that jump out at you.
- Small-group Discussion: Share the words and phrases you wrote to describe what you heard in the song and the words and phrases that you noticed in the poem. In what ways are they similar? In what ways are they different?
- Whole-class Discussion: Based on evidence from the poem, what are the many items to which Crystal Williams compares the voice of Aretha Franklin? How do you think the speaker in the poem feels about Franklin’s voice? How does the poem make you feel about her music? Is this the way you felt when you listened, or is it different?
- Extension for Grades 7-8: Write a poem about your favorite vocalist using the unique descriptive words you identified in the warm-up.
- Extension for Grades 9-12: Write a persuasive essay that uses descriptive words and metaphors to describe your favorite vocalist. You will be trying to persuade your reader that this vocalist is uniquely special.
More Context for Teachers: In an essay about the relationship between poetry and music, Claudia Emerson writes, “We all know that poetry is not one thing; the spectrum from lyric to narrative in the category of ‘poem’ is vast and encompasses much; so, too, the spectrum of formal to freer verse. The same goes for song, for music itself.” Read more.