A Poetic Inaugurational Lesson Plan
I have to admit I am a person who's not interested in political affairs (to my father's disappointment) and I was going to completely ignore last week's inauguration ceremony in America. However, the wind of hope and optimism carried in Amanda Gordon's poem "The Hill We Climb" swept me away. I've listened to it many a time and her powerful essence shatters every core in my body. There are plenty of things I love about the poem and its writer: *the way Amanda plays with the words, *her inner strength and determination, *her inspirational message of unity *how she uses the American past to evoke strong memories * proclaiming love should be our legacy But my favourite verse is the ending: "For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it If only we’re brave enough to be it." How does Amanda Gorman's poem make you feel? Inspired by "The Hill We Climb" and the poet's story, I’ve created a lesson for B2/C1 students which I am happy to share with you today.
The Hill We Climb
Lesson plan for B2/C1 students
Show your students Amanda Gorman's picture. You can find plenty of images on Google. Ask them if they know who she is. In case, they don’t, explain that she is an American National Youth Poet Laureate who read her poem “The hill we climb” at the inauguration ceremony in Washington D.C. on 20th January.
Then ask them to predict what the poem is about bearing in mind its title “The Hill We Climb”.
Hand out the worksheet with the poem in which there are 12 words missing. Ask the students to read the text carefully and think of words that could fill in the gaps appropriately.
NB. All the worksheets for this lesson can be found in my Free printables page.
Play the video in which Amanda reads her poem so that they can check the answers.
Key: 1-light, 2-unfinished, 3-president, 4-before, 5-differences, 6-victory, 7-pride, 8-future, 9-power, 10-bruised, 11-love, 12-blooms
You can find the whole text here.
Reading aloud and listening to someone read aloud can be a great way to tune into the present moment and bring our mindfulness practise to life. In addition, it improves our comprehension skills and memory.
One of the reasons we find Amanda Gorman’s poem so powerful when we watch the video is because of the way she reads it. As a mindful reader, she pays attention to her intonation, pitch of the voice, rhythm of the sentences and even her body language. She’s deeply connected with the message the poem carries and all the characters she portrays. Of course, you would say, she’s the poet. But we can use her example to encourage our students to do the same.
Since the poem is quite long, you can split it into verses and assign each verse to a student. You may have to do this activity a few times if you teach a large class. Ask each student to read their part to themselves in order to “feel” it and check for the pronunciation of the words. Clarify any mispronounced words. Then ask them to read the poem aloud.
Analysis of the poem
After the students have read the poem, they should be familiar with its content and message. Then give them the second handout and ask them to read the poem on their own and answer the questions:
1. What does the title of the poem mean?
2. What is the tone of the poem?
3. How does the poem illustrate the current social situation in America?
4. What dreams does Amanda have?
5. What will help the American citizens rebuild the country again according to the poem?
6. What does Amanda mean by saying:
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright.
7. How do you understand the end of the poem?
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it
8. How does she marry the beginning of the poem with its end?
9. What part of the poem speaks to your heart? Why?
Get to know the poet
On YouTube there are a few interviews with Amanda Gorman, but I chose one which she gave two years ago and reveals her personality, poetry, and outlook on life.
Hand out the third worksheet and ask the students to read the questions. Explain that they're going to watch an interview with Amanda which was broadcast after she was pronounced as the National Youth Poet Laureate.
Then play the video so that they can answer the questions:
1. Where does her passion for social change come from?
2. What does poetry mean to her?
3. Why speaking on stage has not always been her force?
4. How does Amanda finish the line below?
The only thing that could impede me was ...........
5. What is "One pen, one page"?
6. What is the place of poetry in the modern world?
7. What does "breaking boundaries" mean to her?
8. What should we focus on?
1. Her heritage, this place which says I MUST SPEAK UP
2.It is an expression of who she is
3 She had a speech impediment
5. It’s an organization which inspires young writers to share their voices
6. It is the forefront of social change
7.To hold the door to let other people come through
8.Our purpose, our path and what makes us special
Ask your students to write a poem or an essay with the title “The Hill I Climb”.
You can download all the handouts from My FREE PRINTABLES page
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If you are looking for more inspirational lesson plans, check out my collection of "10 Empowering Lesson Plans".
It includes the following lesson plans:
1. It is Achievable
2. Shine your Light
3. Stop Chasing Happiness
4. Acts of Random Kindness
5. The Black Dot
6. The Power of Words
7. The Wonders of Water
8. Who am I?
9. Try Everything
10. Being Authentic
More information about the book here