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

Billie Holiday Sings “Willow Weep for Me”

Listen to musical legend Billie Holiday sing the song “Willow Weep for Me," written by Ann Ronell.

Classroom Activities

  1. Ask your students to listen to the recording of Billie Holiday singing “Willow Weep for Me” twice.  The first time, just ask them to listen. After listening, they should write down what they remember about the willow and the image of it they have in their head, and they should also record how they feel after hearing the song. While listening to the song a second time, they should write down the images that jump out at them.
  2. Next, ask your students to gather in groups of four or fewer and to create a tableau, or a still picture, using their bodies.  This tableau should depict the willow tree and be based on their experience with the song. (Remind them there is no right or wrong way to do this.)  Ask them to present their trees to the other class members. The students who are watching should keep track of what they notice in the tableaux.
  3. Project “Willow Poem” from Poets.org so all your students can see it.  Ask them to read it silently and write down all the words and phrases that jump out at them.  Ask one student to read the poem aloud to the class, while the others add new phrases and/or words to their lists.  Ask a second student to read aloud and repeat the process.
  4. Ask your students to gather back in their small groups.  Based on what they read, ask them to create a tableau of the willow tree in William Carlos Williams’s poem.  Ask them to repeat the same process of presenting and noticing that they did with the willow tree in the song.
  5. Whole-class discussion:  Ask your students to cite the notes they’ve taken to discuss the following questions: What image was conveyed by the use of the willow in the song, and how did the song accomplish this image? What image was conveyed by the willow in Williams’s poem, and what words and/or phrases helped create this image?
  6. Discuss the Imagist movement in poetry with your class.