Tag Archives: Denise Levertov

Lessons & “The Secret”

22 Jan
from tumblr

from tumblr

Another semester has begun and I can’t believe that I’m about to start my second week already!  This term I’m teaching two Comp II classes and one Comp I class (last semester I taught two Comp I classes and one Creative Writing class).  How do I get through the first week (aside from the requisite syllabus chat), you ask?  I have a wonderful little lesson that I begin my second class meetings with that not only introduces my students to poetry, but gets them thinking on a critical level.  Here is my favorite intro week lesson plan:

1) I start by assigning the students to read “The Secret” by Denise Levertov.  You can find the text here if it’s not in your textbook.

2) At class time, I begin by playing this You Tube clip of Levertov reading “The Secret” and having my students follow along in their books.  My students love hearing any author read their own work and from the feedback I’ve received, it really helps them to understand the work better.



3) I then break the students up into groups of three or four.  On the board, I pose the following questions: a) As a group, take turns reading “The Secret” aloud to one another.  b) Each student will list the personal qualities and/or personal experiences that are relevant to the poem on their own paper.  c) As a group, decide what you think this “secret” is.  How do you think can a poem reveal a “secret of life?” d)  As a group, answer the following:  “Based on our reading, we think the poem means __________ because ____________.”


4) I give the groups about fifteen or twenty minutes to complete the above questions/exercise.  After that time, we come back together as a class.


5)  I then have a few students read the poems, giving each student one stanza.


6)  After, we go around the room and each group discusses their answers to the questions.


7) Finally, we discuss as a class what we think “the secret” is and the poem’s overall importance to the process of learning, reading, and understanding poetry.


As I said, I love this little lesson for the first week of classes because it’s different and not boring.  It gets the students introduced to one another through brief group work and it gets them discussing poetry.  I feel that by teaching them a poem like “The Secret,” students who have little exposure to poetry (other than old white men) begin to understand the possibilities of poetry and that poetry itself is not difficult.  The beauty of literature, I tell them, is that there are no true “right” or “wrong” answers as in a subject such as math.  The beauty of literature is that it holds “the secret” of one thing to one person and another, completely different “secret” to another.  Poetry is the language we use to uncover the world, and more importantly, ourselves.