In preparation for National Poetry Month in April, I am working on a post for NCTE featuring Jericho Brown. This is based on an activity that I’ve done for the past several years with my students on the first day. I’m switching out poems though because I love the Jericho Brown poem “Crossing” and think it fits well.

Begin by projecting the first line on the poem for students and ask them to free write and brainstorm on paper their thoughts – both positive and negative – about rivers. After about five minutes, have students share their thoughts in small groups.

Make a list of positive and negative meanings for a river and discuss as a class.

Next provide small groups the remainder of the poem “Crossing” cut into lines. Direct students to work together to put the poem in order. They should consider line breaks, punctuation, and meaning when constructing the poem. When students have completed their task, show the poem in its entirety.

Ask students what they notice about the poem. Give students a hard copy of the poem to read and annotate. What stands out? Why do you think it’s important? Think about the imagery. How does specific imagery expand the meaning of the poem?

Finally, have students reflect through journaling on the following questions:

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