Teach This Poem, though developed with a classroom in mind, can be easily adapted for remote learning, hybrid learning models, or in-person classes. Please see our suggestions for how to adapt this lesson for remote or blended learning. We have also noted suggestions when applicable and will continue to add to these suggestions online.

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Featured Poem

Related Resource

Whitney Houston’s 1988 performance of “I Want to Dance with Somebody.”

Watch this video of Whitney Houston’s 1988 performance of “I Want to Dance with Somebody.”

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 skills so they understand 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: (Teachers, before class begins, print out and prepare a few of these star finder games for your current month.) Work with a partner or small group to play the game. After, discuss which constellations you noticed and what questions you have. Who or what do you think about when you see stars?

  2. Before Reading the Poem: Watch this video of Whitney Houston’s 1988 performance of “I Want to Dance with Somebody.” Which words or phrases from the song stand to you? Why? What do you notice about the performance?

  3. Reading the Poem: Silently read the poem “When I See the Stars in the Night Sky” by Joy Priest. What do you notice about the poem? Note any words or phrases that stand out to you, or any questions you might have.

  4. Listening to the Poem: Enlist two volunteers and listen as the poem is read aloud twice, and write down any additional words and phrases that stand out to you. Or, you may opt to listen to the poet read the poem.

  5. Small Group Discussion: Share what you noticed about the poem with a small group. Based on the details you just shared, what connections, if any, can you make between the song and the star finder activity? How might the speaker feel about Whitney Houston? Why? Do you feel the same about any particular artists or musicians? Why or why not?

  6. Whole Class Discussion: What does this poem say about popular culture and/or stardom? What do you make of the last line: “Whitney, you know no one is coming—you must save yourself”?  

  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: In the poem, the speaker says “Her story / a constellation twinned with mine.” Write a poem in which you explore someone/something twinned with you. 

  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: In a poem or other piece of writing, explore your relationship to the stars, or the question posed by the poet in the About This Poem section: “How do you see the stars in the night sky?” Share your writing with a classmate or small group. 

More Context for Teachers

On March 2, 1988, at the 30th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony, Whitney Houston won Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for her song, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).” The award was presented by Anita Baker and Robbie Robertson at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, and Houston accepted the award, wearing a sequined dress. Read more

Poetry Glossary

The organic form, as opposed to the mechanic, is a form that is dictated by its specific content and not by a mechanic or pre-determined system. Read more.