“Verse has mostly been erased from the curriculum. After Inauguration Day, [and Amanda Gorman, U.S. youth poet laureate reading her poem “The Hill We Climb’] it should be easy to see why that’s a mistake.” A. Gabor, Bloomberg News January 23, 2021
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
“President Joe Biden finally took his oath of office during the inauguration ceremony on Wednesday. Having overcome historic obstacles, he was almost upstaged by a poet — a fitting coda to the investiture of the nation’s poetry-lover-in-chief.
The performance of “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman, the U.S. youth poet laureate, brought politicians and dignitaries to their feet and set YouTube ablaze.
Nobody was more enthusiastic than teachers, who took to Twitter to celebrate the 22-year-old poet and her work as an inspiration for their students and quickly incorporated the poem into their lesson plans.
Gorman’s debut turned out to be a much needed uplift, not just for a nation battered by Covid-19 and shocked by the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, but for English curricula that have often been shorn of great literature and poetry…With schools encouraged to focus on practical subjects such as math, science and engineering, and a growing emphasis on nonfiction in the Common Core standards used to help states and school systems decide what to teach, poetry has become an afterthought…For children, poetry serves as a key to literacy with the rhythm and cadence of books like Dr. Seuss’s ‘Cat in the Hat’ helping even the youngest decode words and meaning, while its absurd rhymes make reading fun…For Gorman and Biden, who both wrestled with speech impediments, reciting poetry paved the way to eloquence.
Gorman has trouble pronouncing Rs, so she practiced the rap lyrics of ‘Aaron Burr, Sir’ from ‘Hamilton.’ To help him overcome a stutter, Biden recited the poems of William Butler Yeats… Gorman’s Inauguration Day performance is a reminder of the power of poetry to salve a nation struggling to recover from disease, economic devastation and attacks on democracy itself.”
National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman Reciting Her Poem, ‘The Hill We Climb’ during the inauguration of President Joe Biden, January 20, 2021 –
Here is a transcript of the poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ By Amanda Gorman, From CNN.
An Interview with Amanda Gorman, ByAdeel Hassan, The New York Times, Feb. 28, 2018 “I grew up at this incredibly odd intersection in Los Angeles, where it felt like the black ’hood met black elegance met white gentrification met Latin culture met wetlands. Traversing between these worlds, either to go to a private school in Malibu, or then come back home to my family’s two-bedroom apartment, gave me an appreciation for different cultures and realities, but also made me feel like an outsider. I’m sure my single mother, Joan Wicks, might describe me as a precocious child, but looking back in elementary school I often self-described myself as a plain “weird” child. I spent most of elementary school convinced that I was an alien. Literally.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 60 minutes.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer
Directions: Examine the title of the post and of the actual article. Next examine any photos. Write a paragraph describing what you think this article will discuss. A pre-reading organizer may be used.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Try to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. You use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- President Joe Biden was almost upstaged by a poet at his inauguration ceremony.
- Amanda Gorman is the U.S. youth poet laureate.
- Teachers took to Twitter to celebrate the 22-year-old poet and her work as an inspiration for their students.
- Gorman’s debut turned out to be a much needed uplift for English curricula.
- For too long, poetry has been treated as impractical, and even frivolous.
- In many school systems poetry has become an afterthought.
- Poetry teaches grammar in bite-sized stanzas.
- Elevating the role of poetry could serve as a low-cost way to bolster student creativity and engagement.
- For children, poetry serves as a key to literacy with the rhythm and cadence of books like Dr. Seuss’s “Cat in the Hat” .
- As children get older, the metaphors and ambiguity of more complex poems serve as an intellectual puzzle, which fosters critical thinking.
Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
- President Joe Biden finally took him oath of office during the inauguration ceremony on Wednesday.
- Amanda Gorman, the U.S. youth poet laureate.
- Nobody was more enthusiastic than teachers.
- Gorman’s debut turned out to be a much needed uplift.
- For to long, poetry has been treated as impractical.
- Poetry can be inspirational and teach important lessons about communication.
- For Gorman and Biden, who both wrestled with speech impediments.
- To help him overcome an stutter, Biden recited the poems of William Butler Yeats.
- Gorman has trouble pronouncing Rs, so she practiced the rap lyrics of ‘Aaron Burr, Sir’ from ‘Hamilton.’
Reading Comprehension: Fill-ins
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
Poetry has its real-world___ too. Sidney Harman, the ___of the audio-technology company Harman Kardon, once___said: “Get me poets as___. Poets are our systems thinkers.” (Harman endowed a writer-in-residence program at Baruch College; I’m on the program’s___committee.)
WORD LIST: selection, original, managers, famously, founder, uses,
III. Post Reading Activities
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Have students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- What is a poet Laureate?
- What group of people were most enthusiastic about Amanda Gorman’s poem? Why?
- How has the subject of poetry been treated in schools?
- How many adults read poetry?
- Which subjects are encouraged in schools? Why?
- The article states that “Poetry can be inspirational and teach important lessons about communication.” Give an example of how poetry can be inspirational.
- How does poetry help children? Do you agree with this statement? Why?
- Which people did Gorman research for her inaugural poem?
- The following is from Gorman’s poem, “We’ve seen a force that would shatter this nation rather than share it.” To what force was she referring?
- What speech problems did Amanda and President Biden have? How did they each overcome these impediments?
1-Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class.
Extra Writing Ideas from The New York Times:
Write Your Own Occasional Poem:
Consider writing your own occasional poem inspired by a news event that moves, angers, saddens or inspires you.
For example, right now, many poets are writing about the losses Covid-19 has wrought. Julia Alvarez’s “How Will This Pandemic Affect Poetry?,” which you can read in this piece, is a remarkable example, and a collection edited by Alice Quinn, “Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic,” contains many more.