Hardship and Hope: Teaching Amanda Gorman’s “New Day’s Lyric”

Last Updated: January 21, 2022

Amanda Gorman captured the nation's attention with her inaugural poem, "The Hill We Climb," and since then has published a children's book, penned a poem for the Super Bowl, and published an anthology of her poetry, Call Us What We Carry. To usher in the new year, she shared a new poem, “New Day’s Lyric,” which invites us to reflect on both the hardships and the hopes we are experiencing at the beginning of 2022. She begins the poem by writing:

May this be the day
We come together.
Mourning, we come to mend,
Withered, we come to weather,
Torn, we come to tend,
Battered, we come to better.

This Teaching Idea uses “New Day’s Lyric” to invite students to reflect on the challenges they and their communities have faced recently and how we can respond collectively to these challenges and create positive change.  

What follows are teacher-facing instructions for the activities. Find student-facing instructions in the Google Slides for this Teaching Idea.

  1. Listen to “New Day’s Lyric”

    Play the video of Amanda Gorman reciting her poem “New Day’s Lyric” twice for your students. The first time, ask your students to just listen and watch. Then, distribute copies of the text of the poem. Students should underline or star words, phrases, or lines that resonate with them as they listen to the poem a second time. 

    Then, ask students to use the Sketch to Stretch teaching strategy to reflect on the poem. 

    Have students choose one line that resonates with them for one of the reasons listed below. They should copy their line in their journals and represent it visually in a sketch, which can also include quotations from the poem or their own written ideas.

    I chose this line . . . 

    • . . . because of something about myself (my identity and experiences)
    • . . . because it teaches me something about the world (other people, other places, other times, other ways of being and feeling)
    • . . . because it of how it is written (how the author uses language)

    When students have finished reflecting, ask them to share the line they chose and their reason for choosing it with a partner.

  2. Reflect on Collective Action and Recent Challenges 

    Read the first stanza of the poem out loud to your students. Point out that Amanda Gorman juxtaposes recent challenges with collective actions we can take to “always pave a way forward.” For example, she writes: 

    Mourning, we come to mend 

    Ask your students to work in pairs or groups of three to find other lines in the poem with contrasts. They should discuss the questions below and then, if time allows, discuss the final question as a class:

    • What craft moves do you notice Gorman using in these lines? Consider how she plays with language, sound, images, rhyme, and more! Which line(s) do you think are most powerful? What makes you say that? 
    • How many times does Gorman repeat “we” and “our” in her poem? What do you think she is trying to accomplish by repeating these words? What might she be suggesting about the power of “we”?
    • What are some actions you think we can take to care for each other and create positive change together at our school? In our community? In the world?  

    Then, ask your students to reflect on one or both of the following prompts in a private journal entry:

    • What are some challenges you, your community, or the world have faced recently? How have you felt when these challenges occurred?
    • How have you or your community responded positively to recent challenges? How did hearing about or participating in these responses make you feel?
  3. Create a Class “New Day’s Lyric” Poem

    In this activity, students work in pairs to write a line for a class poem that will fit between Amanda Gorman’s first and last lines: 

    May this be the day
    We come together.
    . . . 

    Come over, join this day just begun.
    For wherever we come together,
    We will forever overcome.

    To help your students generate ideas for their line of poetry, tell them to write two lists of words. In the first list, they should write down emotions they feel during challenging times. They can use what they wrote in response to the journal prompt to help them think of words:  

    I feel . . .  

    (Note: Some students, especially English Learners, may find it challenging to find the right words. You may want to give them the choice to write in any language they feel comfortable expressing themselves in. You may also find it helpful to share a list of feeling words, such as Hoffman Institute’s Feelings List, to help your students brainstorm words).  

    In the second list, students should write down words that represent how we can respond collectively to challenges and create positive change:

    We can . . . 

    Once students have their lists, ask them to discuss with their partners how the words on the two lists might connect. They can think back to the craft moves Amanda Gorman uses in her poem, such as alliteration, assonance, or rhyme, to help them connect words. 

    Then, using the structures from “New Day’s Lyric” that inspire them and ideas from their lists, ask pairs to create 1–2 lines of poetry for a class version of the poem. For students who benefit from more structure, invite them to choose a line from the poem to use as a model for their own writing. For example:

    _____, we come to _____

    What was ____, we will ____

    Where we weren’t ___, we’re now ____ 

    Once students have finished writing their lines, read the first two lines of “New Day’s Lyric”:

    May this be the day
    We come together.

    Then, ask each pair to read their line in turn. Once they are done, read the final three lines of “New Day’s Lyric”: 

    Come over, join this day just begun.
    For wherever we come together,
    We will forever overcome. 

    (Note: You can also ask students to write their lines on sticky notes and post them on the wall, to create a record of the class poem.)

    Finally, ask your students:

    • Were there any patterns you noticed in the lines your classmates shared?
    • Which ideas or words in the class poem feel most inspiring to you?
    • Has your thinking about how we can act collectively during challenging times shifted at all after reading “New Day’s Lyric” and hearing the class poem? If so, how?

Download the Student-Facing Slides

Student Activities: Hardship and Hope: Teaching Amanda Gorman’s “New Day’s Lyric”

PDF
Student Activities: Hardship and Hope: Teaching Amanda Gorman’s “New Day’s Lyric”

These student-facing slides invite students to analyze Amanda Gorman’s poem “New Day’s Lyric” and create a class poem about hope and collective action during challenging times.

 

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