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  • Writer's pictureZoe Branigan-Pipe

Enriching Language and Literacy with "The Hill We Climb"

Enriching Language and Literacy with "The Hill We Climb": A Blog Post by Zoe Branigan-Pipe


In the midst of the pandemic's challenges and the long winter days, a spark of inspiration came from an unexpected source. The profound impact of Amanda Gorman's spoken word poem, "The Hill We Climb," experienced by one of my students, Julianne, set in motion a journey to integrate this powerful piece into our Writer's Craft Program.

The Inspiration

Julianne's emotional response to Gorman's poem was a clear indication of its potential as a tool for language and literacy development. As a special education enrichment teacher, I recognized the need to carefully tailor this content to suit my diverse group of students, each with their own Individual Education Plans.

Collaborative Planning

Eager to harness the educational value of "The Hill We Climb," I first sought the insight of Tom Shea, a Secondary English Teacher and musician from Hamilton. His perspective, combined with the wealth of ideas from an 'all call' on my Twitter feed, provided a rich foundation for lesson development.

Lesson Focus: Vocabulary Enrichment

The central focus of our lessons with "The Hill We Climb" was on vocabulary enrichment. Gorman's poem is a treasure trove of rich language, vivid imagery, and complex themes, making it an ideal resource for expanding our students' linguistic horizons.

Key Elements of the Lesson:

  1. Analyzing the Poem:

  • We began by reading the poem aloud, focusing on its rhythm and flow.

  • Students were encouraged to highlight words or phrases that stood out to them, particularly those that were new or challenging.

  1. Vocabulary Expansion:

  • Each student selected specific words from the poem to research and understand in depth.

  • We explored synonyms, antonyms, and the contexts in which these words could be used.

  1. Creative Expression:

  • Students were tasked with creating their own short poems or prose, using the vocabulary they had learned.

  • This exercise not only reinforced their new vocabulary but also encouraged them to express their thoughts and emotions, mirroring Gorman's style.

  1. Discussion and Reflection:

  • We held group discussions about the themes of the poem, such as resilience, hope, and unity.

  • Students shared their interpretations and how the poem resonated with their personal experiences during these challenging times.

Integrating Technology

To enhance the lesson, we incorporated multimedia elements:

  • Students watched Gorman's performance to understand the power of spoken word.

  • They used online dictionaries and thesauruses for vocabulary research.

  • Some students even created digital art to accompany their written pieces.

Tailoring to Individual Needs

Given the varied needs of our students, adaptations were made:

  • For students with reading challenges, audio recordings of the poem were provided.

  • Visual aids and simplified summaries helped those who needed extra support in comprehension.

  • Advanced students were encouraged to delve deeper into poetic analysis and critique.

"The Hill We Climb" became more than just a poem for our class; it was a catalyst for growth, expression, and connection. This experience reinforced the power of words and the importance of providing diverse, enriching learning opportunities, especially during times of uncertainty. As educators, our goal is to climb our own hills, continually striving to elevate our teaching methods to inspire and empower every student.

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