Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

The Power of Poetry

Perspectives in Poetry

Shelby Blackwood | Published: May 27th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course American Literature
  • Time Frame Time Frame 120-180 minutes
  • Duration More 2-3 class periods


In this lesson, students compare and contrast the poem, "The Hill We Climb," and an excerpt from the speech, "I Have a Dream," and analyze how the authors' messages are made clear through their word choices and rhetorical strategies. Students compose a poem, evaluate how poetry can be used to send a message, and consider how different perspectives bring different meanings to our writing. This is a multimodality lesson, which means it includes face-to-face, online, and hybrid versions of the lesson. The attachments also include a downloadable Common Cartridge file, which can be imported into a Learning Management System (LMS) such as Canvas or eKadence. The cartridge includes interactive student activities and teacher's notes.

Essential Question(s)

How can poetry be a vehicle for change?



Students watch and respond to a video of the poem "In This Place: An American Lyric."


Students read and compare "The Hill We Climb" with an excerpt from the "I Have a Dream" speech using Categorical Highlighting. Then, students answer the question "What makes a piece of writing poetry?"


Students watch and reflect on the Ted Talk, "Using your voice is a political choice."


Students create a Blackout Poem using an excerpt from a speech by Abraham Lincoln.


Students participate in a Gallery Walk and respond to classmates’ poems.

Instructional Formats

The term "Multimodality" refers to the ability of a lesson to be offered in more than one modality (i.e. face-to-face, online, blended). This lesson has been designed to be offered in multiple formats, while still meeting the same standards and learning objectives. Though fundamentally the same lesson, you will notice that the different modalities may require the lesson to be approached differently. Select the modality that you are interested in to be taken to the section of the course designed for that form of instruction.



  • "The Hill We Climb" handout (attached; one for each student)

  • "I Have a Dream" handout (attached; one for each student)

  • Abraham Lincoln Speech Excerpt handout (attached; one for each student)

  • Highlighters (multiple colors)

  • Pencils

  • Sticky notes

  • Black permanent markers



20 Minute(s)

Use the attached Lesson Slides to follow along with this lesson.

Display slide 3. Read aloud the essential question, "How can poetry be a vehicle for change?" Ask students to consider this question and to volunteer their responses.

Move to slide 4 and briefly review the lesson objectives. Explain to students that they will compare and contrast multiple texts and evaluate how a person’s perspective can change the meaning of something.

Display slide 5 and play the video below. Ask students to consider who the author’s audience is and what the author’s purpose is.

After students have watched the video, ask them to discuss in small groups these two questions:

  1. What is the poet’s/poem’s purpose?

  2. Who is the poet’s audience?

Ask for volunteers to share out what their groups discussed.



60 Minute(s)

Tell students they will now watch two more videos. One is of Amanda Gorman reading "The Hill We Climb" at President Joe Biden’s Inauguration on January 20, 2021. The second video is part of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s "I Have a Dream" speech.

Display slide 6 followed by slide 7.

Ask students to think about how the two readings are similar and how they are different. Ask them to consider how the authors use words and rhetorical strategies to give the text meaning and help it flow. Ask students to identify each audience and each purpose.

Display slide 8. Pass out a copy of "The Hill We Climb" and "I Have a Dream" excerpt to each student. After viewing the videos, review, if necessary, the Categorical Highlighting strategy. Explain to students that they will analyze these two pieces of writing by looking for rhetorical strategies used by the authors. As they are analyzing the two pieces, ask students to consider why the author chose the rhetorical strategies they have incorporated into their work.

When students have finished highlighting, ask students to discuss in small groups any parts of the texts that jumped out at them.

  • Have them identify any rhetorical strategies that both pieces used.

  • Ask them to surmise why they think the authors chose those strategies.

Display slide 9. Ask students to consider this question: "What makes a piece of writing poetry?" Have them discuss in small groups. Ask for volunteers to share out with the class.



20 Minute(s)

Display slide 10. Once students have read and analyzed the two pieces of writing, show the Ted Talk by Amanda Gorman. In the Ted Talk, Ms. Gorman proposes that all poetry/art is political. Ask students to pay attention to her claim and identify the reasons behind her claim as they watch the video.

Display slide 11. After students have watched the video, ask them to consider this question: "Is poetry/art political? Explain."

Give students sufficient time to consider and answer the question. Then, ask students to discuss their answers with a partner. Partners will then share out their thoughts to the whole class.



45 Minute(s)

Display slide 12. Pass out a copy of Abraham Lincoln’s speech excerpt to each student. Explain to students that in 1864, Abraham Lincoln gave the speech at the Baltimore Sanitary Fair. In this speech, President Lincoln made the claim that words do not necessarily have the same meaning for everybody.

Amanda Gorman referenced Lincoln’s speech in an interview. Here is a quote from that interview: "Abraham Lincoln where he basically says, ‘By freedom, we do not all mean the same thing. By feminism, we do not all mean the same thing. By intersectionality, we do not all mean the same thing’." Keeping these observations in mind, read the excerpt of President Lincoln’s speech.

Have students use the excerpt from President Lincoln’s speech to create a Blackout Poem. Ask students to take their pencil and lightly circle the most significant words in the speech or the words they believe convey the most meaning.

Tell them they may write these words down in the order they appear as they read from top to bottom and left to right. Ask them to make a box around the words they chose with a black permanent marker. Have them then black out the rest of the page, leaving only the words they chose untouched.



30 Minute(s)

Display slide 13. Review the Gallery Walk strategy with students. Ask students to post their Blackout poems along the walls or leave them at their desks. Then, ask students to walk around the room reading their classmates’ poems. Invite students to leave sticky notes with comments on the poems. Advise students to look for similarities and differences in the pieces.