Lesson Plan: Discuss 22-year-old Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb”
For a Google doc version of this lesson, click here. You will need to make a copy of the Google doc for a version you can edit.
In this lesson, students examine the poetry of Amanda Gorman, who was chosen to read her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021. Gorman’s poem will complement Biden’s message and themes of “unity.”
English, English Language Arts, Social Studies
One 50-to-60 minute class period
Objectives: Students will be able to:
- Understand the message and goals of poet Amanda Gorman as she prepares to speak to the nation at the presidential inauguration.
- Observe the message, meaning, tone or impact of “The Hill We Climb” and another poem by Gorman, “The Miracle of Morning.”
- Write in a reply or response to capture the spirit of Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb.”
- Create connections between the moment in history, the poet’s messages and their own lives.
Watch (5-10 mins): Introduce your students to 22-year-old Amanda Gorman (PBS NewsHour), who will read her poem at the inauguration. Amanda Gorman will read her poem “The Hill We Climb” during the inaugural events — after Lady Gaga sings the national anthem, and before Jennifer Lopez performs. Soon to be First Lady Dr. Jill Biden is a fan of Amanda’s poetry.
You can also watch Gorman delivering her inaugural poem below, and read a transcript here.
- As students watch, have them think about the following questions:
- What do you notice?
- What do you wonder?
- What stands out to you?
- Why might poets be tapped to read or speak at presidential inaugurations?
- Ask students to share their observations, and discuss their thoughts.
- Read: Watch/Listen/Read another one of Gorman’s poems, “The Miracle of Morning,” written in 2020. Instructional Note: In this Google Doc is a text of the poem, including a YouTube link of Gorman reading her poem (more info here), and another link to the PBS NewsHour interview with Gorman.
- Optional extension for remote students: Create copies or ask groups of students to make a copy of the Doc, and annotate, highlight or have a conversation with the text. Perfect way for groups of students to collaborate remotely on the poem.
- Free Write/Free Response: Choose one. (Instructional note: Have students respond to the poem in the way that best suits their needs, or use this Free Response as a warm up activity to get your students writing.)
- Write your own poem in reply to Gorman’s poem “The Miracle of Morning.” Choose a line, a vibe or a moment from the poem to inspire your response. What are you waking up to today? What is the miracle in your morning (or mourning)?
- Stream of consciousness: Write after reading and just capture your vibe or feeling from the poem or the article about Gorman.
- Tribute: Gorman wrote “The Miracle of Morning” poem in the spring of 2020. Write a tribute in honor of someone you know on this #CovidMemorial Day, either in memory of, in praise of, or in appreciation of.
Inauguration Day extension: Amanda Gorman will read “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration. Have students watch or read the poem after it is presented.
- What do you expect this poem to be about?
- What might the message be, and why?
- How might the audience impact the message of this poem? How might the moment in time frame it?
- What poem would you write with this title (“The Hill We Climb”)? Who is the “we” and what is the “hill”? Write your own poem to this message and metaphor.
- Have students share the lines that inspired them from “The Miracle of Morning” and share their own poems.
- Explore the mood and tone of the poem, and how Gorman equivocates on the dual meaning of “morning” and “mourning” — what are your students mourning? What are they grieving? How does the poem show juxtaposition (the existence of two things being placed closely together with contrasting effect) and dichotomy (a division between two things that are represented as being different)?
- Gorman highlights the everyday heroes — essential workers, health care teams and more — in her poem. Who are the everyday heroes in the lives of your students? Have students write tributes or odes to their everyday heroes through the pandemic and in their lives.
- In an interview with The New York Times, Gorman said, “Now more than ever, the United States needs an inaugural poem. Poetry is typically the touchstone that we go back to when we have to remind ourselves of the history that we stand on, and the future that we stand for.” What do you think she means? How does poetry capture our feelings or attitudes in a way that traditional speeches or prose does not?