Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

The New Colossus

Determining Author's perspective

Susan McHale | Published: May 27th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 7th, 8th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course
  • Time Frame Time Frame 1 class period(s)
  • Duration More 50 minutes


Students will employ a variety of reading strategies to analyze the poem, "The New Colossus." Their analysis will determine the author's perspective. This lesson also offers technology options for teachers, who may choose to use a Kindle E-reader, Google Doc, or Google Expeditions. While this lesson is currently aligned only to 8th grade standards, it would be appropriate to teach in grades 7th through 8th, adjusting standards as needed.

Essential Question(s)

How does the text inform us of the author's perspective? What is the poem's message about the Statue of Liberty?



Students collectively brainstorm all they know about the Statue of Liberty.


Students listen to a reading of the poem, "The New Colossus." They read the poem a second time and write down words or phrases that are unfamiliar. Students work with a partner to determine the meaning of the unfamiliar words in the context of the poem.


The teacher reads the poem aloud and asks partners to share their contextually-derived definitions of words in the poem as each line is read. The student pairs then work together to highlight phrases they perceive as either positive or negative. They complete a T-Chart activity using the highlighted phrases and draw a conclusion about the author's perspective regarding the Statue of Liberty and immigration.


Several options are provided as an extension of the lesson. Students imagine themselves as newly arrived immigrants seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time. Students may complete a Google Expeditions activity by virtually "touring" the Statue of Liberty.


The vocabulary graphic organizer, the T-Chart activity, and the extension choices all serve as assessments of this lesson.


  • "The New Colossus" poem, by Emma Lazarus

  • Vocabulary Builder handout

  • T-Chart student handout

  • I Notice, I Wonder handout (optional)


Introduce the lesson, beginning with the title on slide two. Tell students that today we will discuss how to determine an author's viewpoint in a poem. Ask students if anyone might know the word "Colossus" from the title slide? If not, ask for volunteers to raise their hand if they know what the word "colossal" means? If they do, and they say "large" or "giant," then explain that a colossus is a gigantic statue or a person with giant size or power. The "Colossus" in the title of today's poem refers to the Statue of Liberty. After this discussion, show the essential questions for the lesson on slide three.

Assign students to pairs or groups of three. Each group should choose a member to serve as the recorder and write down the group's ideas. Display slide four explaining the directions for the Collective Brain Dump strategy. Set the embedded online timer for five minutes. The student pairs or groups are to brainstorm all they know about the Statue of Liberty.

Once the timer stops, randomly call on representatives from each group to share something they know about the Statue of Liberty. Add these ideas to a Google Document that is projected on the screen or on the chalkboard. Ask groups to only contribute new ideas to the list, without repeating what another group has previously said. Continue in this manner until all ideas about the Statue of Liberty are listed.


Hand out the attached student copy of The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus.

Tell students that they will learn more about the Statue of Liberty through a reading of the poem, The New Colossus, written in 1883 by Emma Lazarus. Slowly read the poem aloud, or present this YouTube video of the poem being read. (The full URL is listed in the Resources at the end of the lesson.)

After listening to the poem, ask for any volunteers to interpret the author's viewpoint of the Statue of Liberty. Use this brief discussion to allow the students to anticipate the results of their upcoming analysis of the poem.

Hand out the Vocabulary Builder handout and display slide five. Keep students in pairs or groups and ask students to identify at least seven words together in the poem with which they are totally unfamiliar. Ask them to write the words down on their individual vocabulary builder. Next, have students discuss with their partner or group how each word is used in the phrase of the poem. Based on the context of surrounding words, students should predict the meaning of the words and write their predictions in the second column. After they have defined the words contextually, students should use their phones, Chromebooks, class dictionaries, or other resources to discover sourced definitions of the words and record those to complete their Vocabulary Builder graphic organizer.

After completing the Vocabulary Builder, have students reread the poem together, substituting unfamiliar words with their meanings for a greater understanding of the poem. Next, call the class together and discusses or re-reads the poem, substituting the unfamiliar words with a synonym that has more meaning for students. The intent of this activity is for the students to better understand unfamiliar words by using context clues and apply word substitution skills to derive meaning.


After the Vocabulary Builder activity and discussion, ask students to read or listen to the first two lines of the poem again. Remind students that earlier the class had discussed the word Colossus as meaning, "a gigantic statue or person." Show slide six and explain the significance of the Colossus of Rhodes. Ask students, "What purpose did the Colossus of Rhodes serve in ancient Greece?"

Now ask students, "How is the author, Emma Lazarus, comparing (or contrasting) the Statue of Liberty to the Colossus of Rhodes?"

Hand out the T-Chart handout to the same pairs or groups of three. Ask students again to reread the poem, this time looking for words or phrases in the poem that have a positive or negative connotation or meaning. You may wish to model this activity to get them started. For example, in line one, the phrase "brazen giant" might be seen as having a negative connotation because of the word "brazen," while in line four, the phrase "a mighty woman" might be viewed more positively. Ask groups to discuss each line of the poem looking for as many positive or negative words and phrases as they can find.

Once groups have finished this part of the T-Chart, ask them to take turns sharing out different words or phrases and how they interpreted them as either positive or negative. Be sure groups explain their reasoning as they share out and discuss who or what are these positive or negative phrases are referring to. Because groups may have chosen similar phrases, you may want to allow all groups who have chosen a particular phrase to share out their reasoning before moving on to the next word or phrase. The poem handout is numbered so you also may wish to go line-by-line.

After this discussion, display slide eight. Ask groups to write a summary of how the author perceives the Statue of Liberty and the statue's role in immigration. Space is provided on the T-Chart handout for the students to write their summary.


Turn off the lights of the classroom, and display slide nine. Ask students to imagine themselves for a moment as new immigrants coming by boat from a foreign land to New York harbor. Begin the YouTube video. (The full URL is listed in the Resources at the end of the lesson.) You may even wish to mute the sound. As they watch the video, have students jot down their thoughts and feelings as if they are a new immigrant entering the harbor as the Statue of Liberty comes into view.

Without discussion, ask students to turn in their notepaper with their thoughts and feelings. Access your Statue of Liberty Wordle and type in all of the descriptive words (including repeated words) that the students jotted down during the video, and then click the "Go" button. The site will create a word cloud that represents how students expressed their thoughts and feelings for this activity, graphically highlighting by size the words were used most frequently.

OPTIONAL: After the Wordle activity or the Google Expedition, you may wish to have students write a short first-person essay as a new immigrant, as described on slide 10. Prompt the essay with the following question, "What are the sights, smells, sounds, and feelings one might experience as a new immigrant to U.S. shores?"

OPTIONAL: If you choose to use the Google Expeditions technology option, you may also ask students to fill out an I Notice, I Wonder strategy handout (see attachments) as they tour Ellis Island. Ask students to write in the "I Notice" column at least five interesting things they observe on their tour. In the "I Wonder" column, ask students to write at least three questions that they still have about Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, or the author Emma Lazarus.


The Vocabulary Builder handout, the T-Chart handout, the optional immigrant essay, and the optional I Notice, I Wonder handout can all be used as assessments of this lesson.